by Frank Pauc
This first appeared in Frank’s blog on December 8, 2022. It is republished here with the author’s permission.
On Monday I took my little grandson, Asher, for his semi-annual checkup. The pediatrician determined that Asher was in good health while stating the obvious, “He’s a big boy!”
Indeed, he is. At the age of two years, Asher far outstrips most of his contemporaries with regard to height and weight. As a friend of mine once noted about the lad, “A serious fellow and a force to be reckoned with.”
The doctor ordered blood tests for Asher. One was to check for anemia. I don’t remember what the other tests were for. I took Asher to the lab, and two ladies took a tiny sample of Asher’s blood. One of them told me, “Okay, sit him on your lap. Yeah, like that. Hold this hand down. Good. Oh, and avert your head. Don’t have it directly behind him. Toddlers like to head-butt when we take a sample.”
I’m familiar with that. A few days ago, I had Asher on my lap. For whatever reason, he slammed his head backward and nailed me in the middle of my face. I put him down quickly and grabbed a Kleenex to staunch the flow of blood from my nose. That hurt. I haven’t been hit in the nose that hard since I was in plebe boxing at West Point. I managed to stop the bleeding while teaching Asher a few more words that he probably shouldn’t know.
Asher has been teaching me things too, especially during the last couple of weeks. My wife, Karin, is currently in Texas. She is there helping our daughter-in-law, who just gave birth to our newest grandson, Wyatt (You can get away with naming your kid “Wyatt” if you live in Texas. At least, the boy wasn’t named “Bubba”). In any case, Karin is down south, and I am up here in Wisconsin as the sole caregiver for little Asher.
I have a Buddhist friend who has told me that everything can be my teacher. I think that’s correct. I have found that small children are often excellent teachers. Asher certainly is. Usually, we have the notion that adults are supposed to teach the little folks. That is in fact true, but instruction is a two-way street. An adult can learn an awful lot if they are open to the lessons offered by children.
So, what does Asher teach me?
The number one lesson is patience. Asher is generally low maintenance for a two-year-old, but he’s still a toddler. Asher makes loud and persistent demands on me (e.g., feed me, change my diaper, bathe me, hold me when I am upset, etc.). Caring for Asher is the priority. Anything that I want or need to do takes second place. I have to be willing to postpone my desires until Asher has been satisfied. I have to be patient, and I’m not good at that.
The second lesson is to accept change. Asher is a work in progress. He changes and grows each and every day. Every morning Asher is somebody new. This week he learned how to play the harmonica by himself. He can climb up on chairs now. He can speak in sentences sometimes. The kid is growing and developing before my very eyes.
There are other things that Asher has taught me, but I haven’t found the time to put them into words. I’ve been busy. I guess I’ve learned to accept whatever happens each minute while I am with him. There is no point in judging whether something is good or bad, and there is in fact no time to do so. I have to be totally in the moment with him. Asher requires constant vigilance. I don’t think much when I am caring for Asher. I just do.
Asher is asleep. Thank God. He is taking a well-deserved nap. The boy has a head cold, and he is not looking and feeling his best. Neither am I. It is one thing to care for a healthy child. Caring for a sick toddler is a whole other level.
I love Asher. I bitch about caring for him, but there is nothing else that I would rather do. In some ways, I am closer to him than I am to my own children.