The joy of seeing children as parents

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“Remember always that you have not only the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one. You cannot make any useful contribution in life unless you do this.”

— Eleanor Roosevelt

Over their lifetime, it has been a great joy to watch the individuals emerge from the children I carried in to this world.

As children

As little ones, Cort was the out-going, ornery one. Caroline was all sweetness and light. Cort didn’t know a stranger, and would reach out to total strangers in the grocery store to ask “how ya doin’ today?” Caroline was shy around anyone new, though she would give her adorable smile to anyone as long as she was holding on to mom with one tight grip.

Cort was a born negotiator, trying to find a new way to do things. Caroline quietly played by the rules. Cort questioned enormous things way ahead of his chronological age, asking for a telescope to view the stars when he was only 7. He asked in great detail about the concept of “light years” when he was 8-years-old, and I had no idea how to answer him.

Caroline would awaken each morning with a sleepy smile, often asking for more quiet time to play with her doll babies and stuffed animals before she greeted the real world. I would often hear her jabbering with her menagerie of little imaginary friends long before she emerged from her bedroom.

Cort loved Sesame Street and action cartoons, at times loudly participating or recreating it all. Caroline could have quite easily lived without all of that. She would pick up a book and pretend to read long before she ever could. She would often bring a book to me, curl up on my lap, ready for storytime.

Cort loved fishing with his “Papa Brooks” Ringler, telling me that digging for bait was “just the most fun!” Caroline tagged along a time or two, and while she enjoyed the day, she didn’t beg to do this again anytime soon.

Cort set up his own aquarium as a youngster, and built a small business of cleaning fish tanks at various business establishments, saving every dime. Caroline earned money by babysitting and cleaning, and was generous with gifts for those she loved.

As adults

It has been interesting to watch these individual personalities continue to grow, expand, and evolve in their personal and professional lives, both landing good jobs with a solid work ethic, and then become parents themselves.

Caroline, who named her oldest after Papa Brooks Ringler, is quietly organized, calmly efficient and sweet with her own toddler son and baby daughter. She is warm and welcoming and loved by her large circle of friends, both old and new. I have been told numerous times by friends and co-workers that Caroline is the kindest, most thoughtful person they have ever known.

Cort, joyous with his 1-year-old son named after my dad, is very much a hands-on father. He is quick to take on any daily chore a baby requires, and the father-son bond is strong, sweet and rambunctious when it is play time.

Cort has also maintained friendships with lifelong friends while welcoming new of all ages and walks of life, and will boldly speak the truth even if it stings. He has not let health challenges hold him back nor define him, earning a master’s degree while working a demanding, full-time job. Without fanfare, he administers his weekly treatments at home, which he will require for life. It is a reminder of the gifts of individuality that we are given in this life.

I enjoy every unique nuance of the two children, their spouses and three grandchildren I have been blessed to have in my life. I realize now that part of the true joy of grandparenting is not only loving deeply the new life, but witnessing with awe your own children take on the miraculous gift and enormous responsibility of a lifetime.

If we are to measure our own accomplishment as a parent in how our children take on that same role, I feel a great reassurance, reinforced daily and sprinkled with joy, laughter and lots of love.

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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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