My daughter is having a baby which means that I am having a grandchild.
Grandparenthood is once removed. This is a birth you did not conceive. You did not have any choice in this matter. Often parents have to “try” to have a child. They decide that now is a good time to allow it to happen. Not so with grandparents. This child comes when it comes. You can nudge your kids and suggest it’s time for them to deliver you with a grandchild, but this only delays things. All you can do is wait.
For this reason, when the announcement comes to a grandparent—a baby is on the way—it comes as pure gift and joy. For parents who had to try for months or years to conceive (or to convince a reluctant spouse or partner to agree to this effort), the good news arrives as “success.” We did it! It worked!
Grandparents don’t feel this way at all. It’s simply a gift. I think this is why grandparents struggle to tell you why being a grandparent is so incredibly good. What pierces their hearts is the beauty and treasure of a life that simply appears, lands in your lap. If we had the wisdom, we would feel this way when we became parents—no matter how hard we had “tried” to make this happen—because of course every conception is an astonishment and every birth a marvel, not of your doing. But usually there is too much chaos and adrenaline and how are we going to take care of this thing and still make it to work? That fever of life is mostly over by the time we become grandparents, and the sense of pure gift can overtake us.
Perhaps this explains why Advent means something different to me this year. Over the years in this season I have written and preached and counseled about “waiting,” and “preparing an inner space” to receive this divine life. I have repeated those Marian words, “let it be.” But actually there was a lot of chaos and adrenaline and how am I going to get my shopping done and make the miracle happen for thousands on Christmas Eve? I think I mostly missed the advent.
There’s still plenty of chaos these days, and Christmas sermons still come only after hard labor, in fits and starts through sleepless nights. But now, amid all the bright turmoil, there is a quieter sense of grace. This forming child—a boy, I know—is coming. I did nothing to make him happen, and I have no control over his arrival. Yet he will change my life.