This morning, as I stood at the kitchen counter watching our 20-month-old granddaughter spoon-feed herself milk-softened cereal, I couldn’t help but feel proud. But at the same time, I felt a little empty. Not too many days ago, she needed me to feed her. Not too many days ago, she needed me to sit by her so that she felt secure.
Not too many days ago . . . I felt needed.
But this morning, our grandaughter demonstrated the skill of using both her left and right hand to feed herself without spilling the bowl’s contents. This morning, she never whimpered when I rose from my seat to fix my own breakfast and coffee.
We all need to be needed, to feel that we are important to someone else in this world. Perhaps that’s one reason we marry and have children. When our children are small, the degree to which they depend upon us sometimes overwhelms us. Yet the fulfillment of knowing that we are essential in insuring another person’s health and happiness supersedes the overwhelming load of responsibility.
We take great pride when our children learn new skills which demonstrate that they are maturing. We snap photos and send out snapchats of our children practicing their newly developed abilities. Yet each attained milestone produces a certain amount of sadness because it grants the child more independence. In our minds, we are no longer needed; at least to a degree.
I have felt this pride and this emptiness several times throughout the years. I felt them the first time that our oldest daughter bravely walked into daycare by herself. I felt them the first time our son motionlessly sat alone in the barber’s chair. I felt them the day my wife told me that she had enrolled our youngest daughter in the county’s head-start program.
These same feelings sent shivers throughout my body each time we added a new licensed driver to our insurance, each time a new university was chosen, each time an off-campus housing contract was signed, and each time our end of a phone call began with, “Where are you, who are you with, and how long will you be there?”
This morning, as I watched our granddaughter feed herself, those old feelings of pride and emptiness sent shivers through my body once more. But this time, the emptiness didn’t stay with me nearly so long. Why? Because experience has taught me that each new level of independence simply brings new levels of dependence.
Our children never outgrow their need for us. They will simply need us in a different way.
Today, our children are all mature, responsible, and educated. Each has established his/her own family. Each has at least one child that heavily depends upon him/her. Yet each of our children still need us.
This morning’s opportunities and observations proved that to me. May we be given many more chances to experience these warm feelings of pride and brief pangs of emptiness.
“Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.” (Proverbs 17:6) ESV
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