When my husband and I were expecting our first child, he used to joke with friends by saying that we wanted to have grandchildren, but we soon realized we couldn’t do that without having children first. The line always got a laugh or two, but there is something about that idea that still strikes me. If we could have younger children now, we would have such a great perspective on what is important and what doesn’t matter at all. We would not worry as much about the bedtime or the pacifier, but might linger a little longer with the stories and the first words. Grandparents always seem to have the ability to sit back and focus on the important things, while parents are still worrying about daily schedules and play dates and shoe sizes or any other quantifiable measure of comparison.
It is easier to bring the larger truths of parenting into focus now that those early years are in the distance. What will we say in ten more years about parenting our children through the teenage years? Will we wish we had talked to our daughter more about her tests, grades, and GPA, or more about her thoughts and feelings? Will we wish we had kept up more with how other parents were parenting or will we wish we had the courage to do it the way we thought best? Will we still think about a college acceptance, deferral, or denial, or will we think of the way our daughter now approaches the inevitable highs and lows of adult life?
Almost two weeks ago, physicists detected the ripples of gravitational waves across the universe. It was a huge discovery in the field of physics, as it was seen as confirmation of Einstein’s general theory of relativity made 100 years prior. Turns out Einstein was on to something with his work proposing the “warping” of space and time. Scientists detected these waves after the collision of two black holes an estimated 1.3 billion light years from earth.
This scientific discovery of gravitational waves is so large and at the same time so far away, that it is difficult for us to comprehend what it means for our individual world, our zip code, or our small life. It is at once, hugely momentous in the world of science and seemingly insignificant to our particular day to day existence. But as we are brushing it off and moving on, should we worry that we are moving back too swiftly to the mundane? Are we zooming in too closely? Even focusing on the wrong thing altogether? No one can argue that the average person cannot fathom the significance of something that occurred over a billion light years away. Perhaps the only meaningful residue in our lives is that it should serve as a great reminder of the need for a “zoom out” feature. We have zoomed in so closely to the minutia of our lives and the lives of our children and students that it is sometimes hard to consider the other side of town, much less the other end of the universe.
I would love to have that wonderful zoom in and zoom out capability. With it, we could see the significance or insignificance of the objects of our attention. Our girls and young women need us to be the ones with the perspective and the long view. In many cases, they have zoomed in too much on themselves, which creates an inflated view of the consequences of each mistake made. We are called to see the bigger picture and bring it into focus for them. It is impossible for us to have the perspective of a grandparent when we are doing this parenting thing for the first time, but it is not impossible to zoom out at least a little bit. Remember to ask yourself if you are focusing on the right thing. Ten or twenty years from now, what will we wish we had tended to instead of these things that consume our thoughts today?