My son Jeffrey and I were at the zoo yesterday. One of the docents (volunteers) at the zoo had a snake to show the kids and Jeffrey went right up to talk to her. As he was petting the snake, he said “My grandma used to volunteer here and she used to work with the snakes too.”
I could have cried when I heard him say that. I know it seems like such a small thing, but to me it was a big deal. It showed just how much Jeffrey knows about Mom because he lives with her every day. I also heard in his voice that he was quite proud of his grandma who used to handle a snake at the zoo.
By living with Mom and Dad, Jeffrey really gets to know who they are. He hears random stories about them from when they were little. A few days ago at school Jeffrey told me he had some bubblegum for Papa (my dad) and he started laughing. He was joking that he was going to pick some tar off of the playground because my dad had told him a story about how during World War II, when there was no bubble gum, Dad used to chew tar instead.
In many Unitarian Universalist child dedications, we say we give children roots and wings. The roots are their family background, tradition, where they come from; and the wings are the encouragement and acceptance that set the child free to be their own person.
I feel like Jeffrey living with his grandparents helps him know and understand those roots in a very different way. The roots really are a part of his life, he is proud of his grandparents, thinks they are fun, and he loves to hear stories about them. He also knows more about me and his aunts and uncles because Mom and Dad can tell him stories about us that even we don’t remember. He gets to hear what we were like when we were kids and the funny things we did. Jeffrey feels a connection to something larger than himself since he knows these roots so well. He will comment on things he does or traits he has and say, “I think I got that from Mommy” or someone else in the family.
The gifts Mom and Dad give Jeffrey just by living with him and sharing who they are with him are priceless.