For the past two weeks I have been out of my familiar space. Instead of my usual farmland vista, I look out at a Toronto skyline. Instead of deer and coyotes, the wildlife consists of black squirrels and squirrelly grandchildren. By city standards, this part of town and this apartment building are remarkably quiet. Still, I am lonesome for home and hubby. I know that in two days, when I leave here, I will be lonesome for the little ones instead, even while relishing silence.
Sometimes I feel like I’m not a very good grandmother. My patience is short. I had two very different grandmother experiences. We lived with my paternal grandmother. Her patience was short too. I think I understand her better now. She was 67 when I was born. I know she loved us, but I remember her as stern. She taught me a lot, but she was definitely stern. I think I am like her in my grandparenting.
My mother’s mother lived an hour away. We would visit on Sunday afternoons, between morning church and evening milking. I also saw her Saturday mornings at the market. When I was five, I was allowed to stay for a week at her house. A week between Sundays.
Her house was full of cousins. I was the youngest. Cousins from two of my mother’s sisters were visiting at the same time. There were boxes of dress up clothes, and a neighbourhood of extended family. We were outside a lot, wandering and playing in a world very different from today’s Toronto. It was a very different world than my grandmother’s neighbourhood, today, for that matter. My cousins and I could safely troop up the middle of the road in 1962. I wouldn’t do that today as an adult. Such is progress.
I had so much fun that I begged to stay a second week, and Grammie said yes! I don’t remember her ever raising her voice. When I think of my Mom’s grandparenting style, I don’t remember her raising her voice either. Mom and Dad allowed us to live with them for a year while we built our house – four extra people for a year. Our house is next door to the farmhouse, so my kids could run over through the orchard any time at all. That’s patience. I need extended periods of solitude, something my mother never had. It amazes me.
So this morning I was thinking about how we have been taught to think of God, whatever God is, as Parent. If I think of God as Parent, I think of the level of patience required, and the sadness of watching Human Children make choices with uncomfortable consequences.
I also think of God inside each of us, of seeing the Biggest Big, that we call God, in each other’s eyes, including the eyes of squirrelly grandchildren. We sometimes think of God as being free to do whatever God wants. Yet God in the form of grandchildren is not free. I, as grandmother, have to curb their freedom to squeal in delight, out of deference to neighbours just through the wall, or their napping mother. I have to ensure that their bodies grow strong with real food, not marshmallows. Et cetera.
Each of us has to learn to self-limit. No one has full freedom, because we live in families and neighbourhoods. My grandgirls resist limitations. All of us do, whether it surfaces as impatience in traffic, or the normal struggles of getting little people into bed. So I was thinking of the Biggest-Big-as-Parent self-limiting to allow Human Children freedom to live and learn, while we push against the rules of biology, for example. None of us can stay awake forever.
But what about God as Grandchild? Perhaps God as Grandchild is about love. No matter how stern I have to be, my girlies still want cuddles and story time. They forgive my impatience and somewhat arbitrary rules again and again. In myself and my granddaughters I see exasperation, and wonder at the infinite exasperation of the Biggest-Big that we call God. Infinite exasperation. Infinite love. Infinite patience. And I am amazed.