As someone who chose not to have children for a myriad of reasons, it is always an interesting perspective for me on the road not taken. By opting out of that path, I chose to develop certain aspects of myself over others, exploring one self at the expense of another. When we immerse ourselves in my stepdaughter's family life, I begin to see glimpses of that alternate self.
I have always watched both of my stepdaughters with admiration. They seem to take the challenges of child rearing in stride and enjoy the time they share as a family. They each have a true partnership with their respective spouse and each is very engaged in all aspects of child rearing. I, on the other hand, never felt old enough to have children nor envisioned that life.
When we visit I am struck by the natural affection that the children express and in turn arouse in me. We help them with their homework and hear of their latest passions, be it magic or juggling or artwork. In turn I introduce my interests as we draw on the iPad or play word games in which I try to define each word as we go. Might as well make it educational. We snuggle close as we interact in a way I don't recall as a child, building connection with touch.
One morning the three year old crawls into bed between us for a snuggle and I am pleased that she feels that level of comfort. My husband who usually can be found cradling our cat now substitutes his two week old grandson. He has a natural calm that seems to lull both cat and baby. By contrast I move quickly and can't stay still so am not as comfortable a perch.
What I find fascinating is that I recognize parts of myself in my stepdaughters and their children. It doesn't require a blood tie to identify with qualities I share or admire qualities that are very different from me. It is in that act of empathy or appreciation that we begin to build connection.
I am grateful that I have this opportunity to connect across generations, to watch children develop their confidence and talents and to enjoy the communication with my husband's adult children. Even when we choose one path, we sometimes are fortunate to get a chance to revisit those roads not taken.