Yesterday we had a baby shower for my oldest, #1 granddaughter, Courtney, who will be presenting me with my first great grandchild in September (although after yesterday there is now a betting pool going as to whether she will make it to September ... we don't do "little" babies in this family). As part of the celebration, each guest was given a card and asked to write down some advise about being a parent to help the new Mom. I took one look at the card and decided that it was just too small for what I wanted to say. So I thought I would jot down a few thoughts here for her, and for any other new parents-to-be out there.
My nickname for Courtney is "Munchkin" after the little people in the Wizard of Oz. That was because I always thought she was a very old spirit in such a little girl. We shared a love of gardening and nature, and it is this vein that I want to pass on what wisdom I have received over the years:
What I know about babies is alot like what I know about gardening. You remember that, don't you, because you were there with me every step of the way. It all starts with giving the new little plant the best possible environment to grow in. That means not only good nutrients and water, but plenty of sunshine, protection, warmth and love. Babies need the same things: healthy food, a safe and happy home, lots of sunshine(not just actual sunshine - although they can use the Vitamin D - but a home without the sounds of arguing or anger), and love. Tell them every day how much you love them; even if they don't understand the words, they understand the look on your face and the tone of your voice. They feel it in the way you hold them in your arms and cuddle them.
I remembered when I first started gardening, I read that talking to your plants was healthy for them and encouraged them to grow, so I would tell them all the time how beautiful they were, how they were going to grow up to be the most beautiful flower in the whole garden, and that I was very proud of them. Children need the same encouragement. Remind them every day that they are loved, wanted, beautiful, talented and simply the most wonderful thing that ever came into your life. Encourage their curiosity, their explorations, and their adventures into this sometimes scary new world, always reminding them that you are right there to protect and guide them when they lose their way.
I think the biggest thing I've learned about raising children, and raising a garden, is that this is a huge commitment. It's not something to be taken lightly, or to do better than someone else as if that were the reason for doing it in the first place. It takes time, patience, lots of hard work, days when you are so tired you don't know how you can take one more step, and nights when you question your sanity at ever having thought you could do this, let along do it right. This is where the analogy between a garden and children parts company: if a plant does not thrive where it is planted, you can pull it out and start over. Babies do not come with a "do over" button.
So that's about it, Munchkin. That's what I know about babies, and being a parent, and a grandparent for that matter, except for this little piece of advice: I hope when little your little one gets older, you will tell him what I told you all those years ago, that there is nothing he can say or do that would ever make you stop loving him, and that he will always have first place in your heart (just like you have in mine).
And so it is.