It’s not easy to be a child. With all that life has to dish out it is hard work to be a human being of any age or station. 1 Corinthians 13:11 reads, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things”. When I was a child I sometimes thought like an adult. I was often serious and sometimes I worried. I loved school but was not good at sports. I had girlfriends and chased after boys. I spent a lot of time with my grandmothers and aunts. There was no television in my life until I was ten years old. Activities were roller skating on ball bearing skates that fit with a key. Teachers gave me ‘jobs’ to do. I believe they saw potential in me but also saw my need to stay focused. I went to the movies each Saturday and bought penny candy every day. I sang in the choir of the Catholic Church. I lived in the city. I was the child.
Then I was the mom who had children. To tweak the scripture, “when I became a mom, I did not put away childish things”. I was an art teacher to my children. Play-doh and paints and clothespin people. I was a chef. We baked and cooked, gardened and preserved. I was the cheerleader; ‘Come on, you can do it’. I would encourage at the monkey bars or on the baseball field or in the swimming pool. I was blessed with intuition as to when a child needed a push, a pull or just some space. I was tuned in because inside I was still able to live the life of a child. My volunteer work catered to children. My own children became partners of inner city children at a day camp and our family hosted visitors who had never before rode on a bicycle, seen a tent or owned a vacuum cleaner. I became a Campfire leader and a Sunday school teacher. My husband and kids helped me with these projects. Our family was the kind that invited kids in, from toddler to teen to college student.
Then my children left home one by one to live in apartments or go to college, to get jobs, to flap those wings. My son was in the biggest hurry to live in Florida. A daughter went away to college, then farther away. A daughter married and moved mid-state. A beloved daughter died in a tragedy. A daughter went to grad school. The youngest of them all was still at home and not happy to see her family moving on. Her life became one of ‘taking a friend’ everyplace we went until she herself ventured across the miles. What is a mother to do? I can smile now when I read about the angst of sending a child to pre-school because now I know. It never ends. I went through separation anxiety in many forms from kindergarten through college to marriages and the excruciating pain of bereavement. Who was I? What could I do? I didn’t know. And then there were grandchildren. Not a lot and not so fast. Tony was the first; born when I was a mere forty five years old. He was the ‘only’ for ten years. Trevor was next and then his brother Evan in 1999. Things were picking up. James in 2000, Erin and Kendra in 2002. Ava came along in 2005 and Karmen was born in spring of 2008. Nicholas was the Christmas present of that year. Karmen is looking forward to being a big sister this October.
I loved my new life. I was a grandma. When my youngest child was eleven my grandson and his mom came to live with us. So my youngest daughter acquired a ‘sibling’ she could help to care for and tease. I have been involved in every grandchild’s life. I have done short and longer term babysitting. I have written many stories about my adventures. There has been a lot of laughter, some tears and time outs and plenty of photographs. I can spend hours pondering toys, games and puzzles in a store or now online. What exactly would each child enjoy? I am good at making tents and cleaning out toy boxes to put the pieces where they go. I believe in outdoor activity, playgrounds, parks, splash pads. And I have a personal inner child. I love to go bowling. I want to buy new roller skates, for me. I like to paint and do jigsaw puzzles. My granddaughter just stayed with me for a week so she could attend a dinghy sailing class. We did a puzzle and painted. She and her brother painted rocks for the garden. We went for a cruise on the Chautauqua Belle and attended a concert on the Dunkirk pier.
‘They say’ that you live what you learn. My dad was my mentor. My siblings and I learned well. He would show up to visit his grandchildren with the latest gadget or toy. A gyroscope or crazy car. When we visited him and my mom our kids bolted for the attic. They would drag down the table hockey, the paddle pool, the shuffleboard. Every summer we would picnic at a local park and open dad’s trunk while the ladies set out the food. Out tumbled the volleyball and badminton net, the baseballs, bats, horseshoes and footballs. Decades later there is lacrosse and soccer, rollerblading and ice hockey for the newest generation. I am grateful that I am still able to live the life of a child. n
Pat Webdale is a freelance writer who lives in Fredonia N.Y. where she raised six children. She is now known to nine grandchildren as MaPatty. Pat has retired after twenty years as a payroll clerk at Brooks Memorial. Pat won a Woman’s Day and American Library Association writing award in 2003. She has had numerous articles published and has appeared as a public speaker on a range of issues.
After her daughter Kendra was killed in 1999, Pat and her family were instrumental in passing an Assisted Outpatient Treatment law in New York State designed to bring treatment to those who suffer from a mental illness. She is a former board member of NAMI New York State. Email: email@example.com.