We welcomed the greatest gift of all into our world this holiday season – a newborn grandson.
Bonnie and I were able to gaze into the eyes of Evan James Lewis, offer a finger for him to grasp and smell the fine locks of his blond hair as proud parents Daniel and Tiffany beamed with delight. We will never forget the moment when the magic of bonding and the start of a lifelong relationship began. We were truly blessed to have that opportunity.
You’re never quite prepared for the feelings that your grandchild’s birth inspires. How much joy the arrival brings, and how quickly that often-heard refrain, “You won’t know how wonderful it is until it actually happens.” And it is wonderful. Suddenly you feel a rush of emotion, and you realize this grandchild is yours forever.
One of the most difficult aspects of COVID and its variants is that it is has forced families and friends to miss out on life events. The inability to spend time with grandchildren brings a particular kind of loss, however. Children change more quickly than our other relatives. Grandparents were unable to attend many older kids’ milestones over the last year — dance recitals, soccer games and graduations.
Perhaps no occasion is more painful to miss than the birth of a grandchild. Missing time with babies means they have passed through phases and stages we will never witness, except on video screens. You can’t imagine you won’t be there to experience those early days up close and personal.
The enforced separations of the pandemic have caused widespread sorrow for grandparents. Whether they live an ocean apart or around the corner, many have had to cancel visits, forgo holiday gatherings and give up the ordinary pleasures of reading stories and playing games. Even though distancing protects grandparents’ physical health and safety, it has been a painful time.
So many sons and daughters have had no choice but to introduce their newborn to grandparents through a computer screen or held to a window.
Early last year before I was able to be vaccinated, my granddaughter Catherine started to run up to give me a hug, only this time I had to tell her to stop. Imagine trying to explain to a 3-year-old without breaking down why she can’t get close to her Pop Pop.
A recent study put into perspective just how gut-wrenching this virus has been for American families. Researchers find it’s been more than seven and a half months since the average grandparent has seen all their grandchildren in person.
The survey, conducted by OnePoll, of 2,000 American grandparents, reveals because of the pandemic, 59 percent have spent less time with their grandchildren during the past year. Of those, four in five said the hardest part of the pandemic was not seeing their grandchildren as often as they usually would.
Moreover, 77 percent of those who’ve spent less time with their grandchildren said it was difficult not being able to watch their children’s kids grow up in person over the past year. Nor could they help their beleaguered children the way many wished to, as they faced uncommon economic and other pressures, often without childcare or in-person school.
Baby Web pages, parent blogs, and video cams have helped grandparents connect to long-distance newborns. But they’re no substitute for holding a child in your arms.
“Grief” isn’t too strong a word for those grandparents who have yearned all year for a small hand in theirs, for a hug without fear.
It’s why I hold on to my Catherine a bit longer, make sure those wet kisses I give her are really sloppy and why I get misty as I cradle Evan James. He takes my finger and I whisper "don't let go."
This article originally appeared on Times Herald-Record: Barry Lewis: The joys of grandparenthood have been tested during COVID