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A Granddaddy Amazed By His Granddaughter and Doting Son

Guest Post by Doug Erwin

My son Jesse and I at the Picasso Museum in Paris, 1995

DCG Founder Allan Shedlin and I met at a mutual friend’s house a few months ago. After an email from him reminding me of our conversation there, I promised Allan I would write a Daddying guest blog post (my first) based on a picture I had shown him of my son and granddaughter.


One of the first things we did when we met was to show each other photographs of our grandchildren, of course. It's that coming of age for elders when we finally put our full attention on the sons and daughters of our sons and daughters without the struggles of raising a family and a prospering career.


Me and my granddaughter

I hadn't seen my son, Jesse, in two years or met my granddaughter, who was seven months old. There were times I wasn’t sure she really existed. Pictures, Zoom calls, gurgles on the phone – they just weren’t the same as holding that child, feeling the warmth of that tiny body, dodging little hands that wanted to eat my glasses.


Forty years ago my wife and I decided to have another child because our daughter was such a joyful and easy child to raise. That was a crazy notion.


From the get-go, when I put him on the table in his bucket (the dangerous pre-curser to car seats that could easily be overturned by active baby movements), he looked at me with tight fists and determined expression that seemed to say, “Boy are you in for a ride, Dad!” And I was.


As I look back on those days, I wonder what lessons my son could have learned that would make him a good father. It was all I could do to keep up with him physically, emotionally, and psychologically. I had poured my attention into my children and my students with a promise that I would do better than my father and teachers had done for me.


My father deserted our family when we were young. And my teachers? Perhaps fodder for another blog for another time on “perfection.”


I will give you a hint about my son, my boy. He is the only child I know who was kicked out of Montessori preschool.


When I open my computer this picture of my granddaughter greets me – it’s my home screen. I no longer wonder about whether she exists. Her little body, her smells, her fun gurgles, and her intense stare, remind me of the stare my son gave me with the same message: “Umpa (my nickname), you are in for a ride!”


I can hardly wait.


There she is, snuggled into her father’s neck (a priceless sensation), and there is my son – my boy – a full-grown man. A father. I look at those intense eyes as they both stare back at me.


When we were together, what I saw was a great father taking pride in his daughter. He followed me around as I pushed her stroller to make sure I didn’t lean too hard on the handle and tip her over. When I was feeding her, he made sure I held her just right so the milk wouldn’t have air bubbles from the bottle and cause her to be colicky. He honored her privacy by changing her diapers away from the crowd.

I had poured my attention into my children and my students with a promise that I would do better than my father and teachers had done for me.

And how those two click! He learned baby talk, and they thrill onlookers with babbling, funny gurgling noises. Toes being chewed on as only babies can do. He proudly shows her off to anyone who wants to see the most perfect, beautiful little girl who ever existed and was exhibited by daddy.


He is fully engaged in her every move as we watch her on the floor with her toys and books, enthralled. All the adults are treated to Academy Award-winning stuff with heart-swelling ability.


There is no 50/50 childcare with his equally-involved and engaged wife. There’s only 100 percent care of that precious jewel.


As I left to go back home, I was assured that my granddaughter, that little bundle of pure ecstasy, that being who is at least a quarter part of me, who is enveloped in love and wellbeing, was in capable hands.


Where did my son learn such skills?


 

Doug Erwin is a husband, father, grandfather, brother, teacher, and artist. He was raised in a time when children were to be "seen and not heard." Doug has dedicated his life to making sure children get the attention and love they deserve, and is a dedicated father for his children, unlike his own absent father. A boy who was told he would never be let in the doors of a college or university, Doug graduated on the dean's list, with three degrees and the distinction of being a “School Master.” With his life dedicated to children, particularly elementary school age, Doug created a nonprofit organization that literally circled the globe using art as the tool to teach diversity, tolerance, and peace through art. In retirement, he is focused on his own art, gardening, and volunteering at his local Folk Art Museum as a docent for children.