I stare at my grandchild in wonder.
Wonder at this little person who, at eleven months old, already has a personality of her own. She stands up from a sitting position, starts to wobble, but regains her balance. When she falls, she lifts herself up and stands again, beaming.
Her mother and I applaud.
“What a sweet child,” I tell my daughter. “I can’t believe how fast she’s growing.”
She smiles in agreement.
I hope my granddaughter will grow up healthy and well. That she will always feel loved. That she will care for others, not just herself. That she will do well in school and work. That one day she will find a good partner and have children of her own. I hope for all this.
But anxiety sometimes creeps in as I watch her trying to walk, holding on to the furniture or standing on her own. Anxiety that she will fall. And an even bigger worry.
What will have happened to humanity by the time my granddaughter has children of her own? What kind of world will they inherit?
Will nations continue to split along ideological lines? Will we humans continue to express hatred for each other across those lines? Will the US, where many of my own relatives live, fight a civil war, complete with guns?
In my own networks, I’ve seen what happens when people choose power over reconciliation. When they attack, instead of talking. When they choose to bully others, instead of seeking a way forward together.
And what will have happened to the planet by the time my granddaughter has her own grandchildren? Will humans, while squabbling with each other, have also killed off the wildlife, irretrievably damaged the air we breathe, the water we drink and the soil that grows our food?
“Ah, Cynthia,” I stop and chide myself. “You’re a bunch of chuckles today. Give it a rest.”
My daughter catches the strange look on my face and asks, “What are you thinking?”
I tell her a softened-up truth. I say: “I’m hoping my granddaughter will have a good life. And that the Earth will be in good shape for her and her children.”
She looks at me, thoughtful, then lunges to stop her baby from grabbing an object from a shelf. “Another part of the house to baby-proof,” we both say knowingly.
Becoming a grandparent is similar and different to parenting. A friend, grandmother of seven children, tells me, laughing: “The great thing is that you can send them home to their parents!”
But priorities change. Though I’m not the parent, the tasks that took priority – even writing – are now in second or third place when my daughter and son-in-law need my help.
Having grandchildren also makes me think about longevity. Will I be around when she’s an adult? Will I get to meet her children – or is that too much to ask?
The longevity and well-being of the planet are also on my mind. What do my privileged aspirations matter if high temperatures, flooding, hurricanes and wildfires make life impossible for much of humanity?
“Give it a rest,” I repeat, silently, and return to playing with my granddaughter, pledging to stay with her in the moment.
She lives entirely in the present: turning the pages of a favourite book, banging a wooden spoon against a box.
She crawls up the stairs more swiftly and confidently each day, and races me across the floor, laughing as I tease: “No fair! You’re an expert at crawling, and I’m not!”
She pulls items from her toy basket, throwing them on the floor around her. I refill the basket. She throws them out again and beams with achievement. “The sorting phase,” I’m told.
I stare at her in wonder and allow myself to banish the worry – at least for today.