Ann Cannon: Grandchildren, and the benefits of looking at the past

First Published      Last Updated Oct 15 2014 02:18 pm

When you're young, you think a lot about the future.

Where will you live? Whom will you marry? How many kids will you have? What will you be when you grow up? (I wanted to be something practical. Like a spy. Or an astronaut. And when I was in the second grade, I wanted to be Miss Arizona in the Miss America Beauty Pageant, even though I was from Utah. I just thought Arizona was awesome because everybody had a swimming pool there.)

When you're not young, you think a lot about the past.

This can be pleasant sometimes — especially when you remember the good times you had with family and friends. But thinking about the past can be troubling, too. Lately I've been examining my years as a young mother. Who knows why? It's not as if I can crawl into Christopher Lloyd's DeLorean and change the things that have already happened.

Still. I find myself wondering about the things I did and didn't do.

Why didn't I read to them every night, for example?

And why did I let them quit the piano and violin?

Why wasn't I better about making them take their fluoride pills each morning?

And why did we eat so much macaroni and cheese? The kind you make from a box?

OK. I'll stop because this kind of thinking is so pointless, not to mention boring. My kids are all grown up now, and in spite of my many failings as a parent, they're doing just fine on their own. But seriously? Why did I let so many things — important things even — fall through the cracks?

And this, my friends, is why you should have grandchildren.

Case in point. My granddaughter is playing soccer for the first time this fall, and she isn't loving it. In fact, when I watched her play on Saturday, she spent a lot of time sitting on the sidelines, crying.

I thought she looked pretty cute, actually, in her cute little uniform and her cute little pink cleats with cute little tears streaming down her cute little face. She was so cute, in fact, that I started to laugh. Hahahahahahaha! Which only made her cry some more.

Her parents, on the other hand, were a little frustrated, and who can blame them? Who knew there was crying in soccer?

Here's the deal. Everything about raising kids looks so manageable on paper, right? You sign up for soccer. Check! You buy shin guards and cleats. Check! You show your kid how to kick a ball. Check! You go to the game and everybody has fun. Double check! And also scoooooooore!

But what you never see on paper is the part where you can't find the shin guards on Saturday morning because the dog carried them off. Or the part where your kid would rather stay home to watch cartoons than kick a ball. Or the part where he or she sits on the sidelines and cries because someone got up on the wrong side of the bed.

Watching your grandchildren grow up reminds you of all that. It also increases the respect you feel for their young parents and helps you cut yourself a little bit of slack.

Whenever you start looking backward.

Ann Cannon can be reached at acannon@sltrib.com.