The great gift of grandchildren

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girl on swingset

“To me, there is no picture so beautiful as smiling, bright-eyed, happy children; no music so sweet as their clear and ringing laughter.”

— P.T. Barnum

While outdoors playing on a sunny morning last week, I heard the sweetly high-pitched voice of my 2-year-old granddaughter calling out to me, asking for a boost to get on the swing.

After a lift onto the curved seat followed by a gentle push, I took a moment to tie my shoe. This sweet, spunky little blondie wasted no time in letting me know my job was not done.

“If you don’t push, I go nowhere!” she said with sincerity.

I couldn’t help but think that’s a statement that can surely apply to much more than a child’s swing.

Giving a nudge

The people who help nurture us and support the many prompts we need from childhood to grave surely number in the thousands, and each one, often unknowingly, gives us a tiny push in any number of directions. Without each one, there would be a whole lot of spinning in the wind, going no place at all.

I think back on Sunday School teachers, 4-H advisers, grade school teachers and camp counselors who played a role of nudging us forward in our lives, but very early in the mix there were the ultra-important siblings and cousins, aunts and uncles, friends and neighbors and the valuable blessing of loving grandparents.

I was still pretty darn young when I decided I wanted to ask for a promotion from calf feeder to milking parlor. I had to swallow the fear of doing something wrong, or being kicked by a cow that outweighed me by a ton. The same sister who had been put in charge of my safe passage on the first day of school helped me gather my courage. Sher assured me that with a calm presence, and some guidance from her in the beginning, she had no doubt I could do it.

Courage evolves from a tiny speck of an idea wrapped in hope to a thunderous bolt of self-assurance, and that is what carries a child to the next challenge, and the next, into adulthood and beyond.

Nurture

As I watched my tiny granddaughter, her unique baby voice assuring me she was holding on tight, leaning back on that swing and squealing with fearless delight, I revel in the fact that I play a big role in her little life. She runs, arms up, smile bright enough to melt ice, when she sees me. As she throws her arms around my neck, I feel like the luckiest woman in the world.

My sister said that our great-grandfather, grieving the sudden death of his beloved wife a few months before I was born, was drawn to me like a magnet. He ate nearly every meal at our home, trying to stay busy by helping my father on the farm, and a happy-hearted toddler was good medicine.

“You loved him every bit as much as he loved you, so it worked out,” Sher said.

When our mom would lift me from the high chair, my arms would reach for this white-haired man who warmly welcomed the hugs. I appreciate knowing the gift I gave him, so happily unaware. And he gave me so much over the nine years I was lucky to be his sidekick.

My granddaughter is a tiny chatterbox, filled with questions and stories, a happy little spark of joy on the most mundane of days. My oldest sister, after spending an hour with this little one recently said to me, “She is exactly like you were at this age!”

Never one to hold back, she was walking at 10 months, and talking in complete sentences by 18 months. Her vocabulary, and her expressive questions, tend to stun those who meet her for the first time.

Little Landry lifts us up and keeps us laughing, and doesn’t mind telling us she’s holding on tight, ready for another big push. May her flights ­— and her landings — always be extraordinary.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.

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