Monday, August 25, 2008
The secret "chill pill" for outrage: Grandkids
Aug. 22, 2008
Outrage is an opinion writer’s stock in trade. So at one level I’m grateful for having a deep vein of wide-ranging indignation inside me to mine as needed.
But just back from a holiday with the grandchildren, I’m also grateful for the things that allow me to let go for a while. Tending to the basic needs of young children is the best therapy I’ve found as a break from chronic outrage.
As any parent well knows, looking after young children is a full mind-body activity. I’m a superb multi-tasker in most areas of my life, but I can barely make it all the way through a single magazine article over the course of a long summer day if also charged with the care and feeding of three engaged and energetic little boys.
It’s a blessing that I didn’t appreciate the first time round, when I was a young woman fearful that my full-time life of raising children was turning me into the worst kind of bore.
In those days of endless skinned knees, playground visits and Kraft dinner lunches, I fantasized about having the time to think bigger thoughts. Now, I seek relief among my grandchildren from too much time spent doing that very thing, once again proving the old adage about grass looking greener from the other side.
We live in times that call for outrage, and I don’t much regret being born with lots of it at the ready for all the grand problems of the world. Still, I’m happy to have grown old enough to comprehend the world-changing potential of just looking out for the needs of young children, which obviously plays a key role anyway in the building of a better future.
When I’m in full grandmother mode - which is to say, returned temporarily to being a mother of young children, only with much more patience and sang-froid - I live happily in the moment. “Tomorrow” really means tomorrow, and the only thing about it that causes concern is how you’re going to keep the sandwiches cool enough to survive a hot couple hours at the beach.
Of course, even the best picnic lunch can never negate all of the woes of the world, particularly for a journalist couple who can’t resist buying at least the occasional newspaper in their grandparently travels.
So I won’t pretend we went indignation-free for the entire 10-day holiday. I won’t deny the occasional outburst over some bit of news that made its way to us (although not nearly so often as happens during our regular life, when we begin every morning with a coffee-and-newspaper routine that walks a fine line between beloved ritual and grim start to the day). Sad, bad and gloomy events continued to unfold around the globe regardless of whether we were on a road trip.
But the bad stuff just can’t take the same hold on you when you’re charged with looking after young children. Yes, things appear to be heating up worryingly between Russia and Georgia, but you’ve got three dripping popsicles to deal with right now and it’s just going to have to wait.
And should you manage against all odds to start into a rant anyway about some crazy development somewhere on this crazy planet, a young child will simply shut you down - either by falling headfirst from the monkey bars at that very moment or with a long, long anecdote about making it through to the sixth level of the new video game he’s trying to master.
Kids also knock the stuffing out of would-be outrage by cutting to the chase.
An example from this most recent trip: Having spotted one of those awful and arrogant “Best Place on Earth” licence plates that British Columbians have been saddled with, I was working up a head of steam on the subject when my five-year-old grandson interjected with a question. “Who’s second?” he asked. I couldn’t have made the point more effectively.
Re-entry into the workaday world is admittedly difficult after a holiday with the grandchildren. The descent is fierce and fast, usually starting with that first frightful peek into the e-mail inbox.
I’m always ready for the break from the rigours of full-time parenting when we get back, and curious to catch up on the news. But I still dread the first tingles of indignation returning (thanks, Tony Clements). I’d probably give the whole thing a miss if it weren’t for the fact that railing against the injustices of this world is another vital way we care for our grandchildren.
They give us the gift of living for today. I figure we owe it to them to worry about tomorrow.