Children determine to a large extent the quality of your life. Often people are prepared to go at great lengths or to spend enormous amounts of money in their desperate attempts to have children themselves or to adopt them. Those who are familiar with the Bible may feel that they have the duty to produce offspring, since the first human beings were told by their Creator ‘to go and multiply’ (although He did not say with what factor. . .). The Creator was good enough to equip his human creatures in such a way that this would not be an unpleasant chore, but, on the contrary, provide a great deal of pleasure. Those who defend the idea of evolution are convinced that natural selection made it possible for attributes to develop in order to ensure that the various forms of life would multiply with sufficient enthusiasm.
But all of us who have children know that getting and raising children is more than a sum total of a series of biological factors and involves more than some natural and social laws. For most people who have witnessed the birth of their child (or children), this remains an event they will never forget. Of course, this does not imply that a person who, either voluntary or involuntary, does not have any children, must live an incomplete life. Nonetheless, getting and raising children changes a person’s life.
Getting and enjoying grandchildren is somewhat similar, but there are differences. Whereas, often one has to patiently wait until the first child arrives on the scene, this is even more often the case with regard to grandchildren. A lot of displeasure (to put it mildly) has been caused when mother or mothers-in-law kept asking when they would at last have the pleasure of becoming grandma.
The arrival of a grandchild is usually a reason for intense joy. I remember how, just a little over five years ago, our son called us from Sweden (where he lives with his family) to tell us that we would soon become grandpa and grandma. That was great news. Recently I read a statement (from someone whose name I have forgotten): ‘Getting grandchildren is God’s way to compensate us for the fact that we begin to grow old!’ There seems to be a lot of truth in that.
This seems to describe the feeling I have, now that my wife and I are back in Sweden for some ten days to enjoy our two grandchildren. I am amazed how rapidly the oldest of the two, who is now almost five years of age, is accustomed again to being with ‘opa’ and ‘oma’. The youngest is a little over a year and is also not afraid of faces she does not see everyday. But being with the grandchildren also reminds me of another quotation that I had subconsciously stored somewhere in the back of my mind: ‘An hour with your grandchildren makes you feel young again, but after that, you become older quite rapidly.’ I just went with five-year old Leah to a playground. I had to push her tricycle up a long hill. And I had to push the swing and also move other things around. And, of course, on the way back home, Leah knew exactly where I could buy her an ice-cream. Altogether, a lot of agreeable but hard work. It did not take long before Leah knew how to find YouTube films of Donald Duck and Micky Mouse on grandpa’s laptop. And opa’s services are regularly wanted for reading from the pile of Dutch books that is regularly replenished when we visit. Since the children are raised bilingually, Leah has no problem in understanding the Dutch stories.
How can it be that children that you see at most twice a year mean so much to you? And that they can be so quickly at ease with two elderly people who can only be seen from time to time on Skype and only visit a few times a year? ‘Family’ is and remains a mysterious phenomenon. I cannot explain what it is, but I surely would not want to miss it.