It was a bathroom mirror moment–one of those instants where you stand between two mirrors and see yourself patterned to infinity.
Mindy, our neighborhood babysitter, sorted pennies by date, with my daughters, then three and five years old. I walked in from the dentist office, minus two wisdom teeth. I’ll admit I wasn’t at the top of my game.
“Here is a 1969,” Mindy said. “The year I was born.”
“But you aren’t old enough to be born in 1969,” I said. “That means I could have babysat you.”
Mindy, too polite to say “Duh!” smiled at me. “I really was born in 1969.”
The mirrors in my mind swung into place, and I glimpsed a pattern.
The children I babysat could be my children’s babysitters. In these reflected images I saw that my daughters could be Mindy’s children babysitters. And Mindy’s children could baby-sit my grandchildren. And my grandchildren could…
I had to sit down. My head hurt. I never realized babysitting had so many complicated inter-connections.
Flash forward to 1996. “It’s weird,” my eighth-grade daughter said at dinner one night. “I found out today that four of my teachers are 27 years old. Weird. Four teachers born in 1969.”
Once more a mirrored moment showed me another connection in the pattern. My daughter’s babysitters were now their junior-high teachers. My daughters would soon be babysitting their children.
I saw links going backwards. I followed connections forward.
The children I babysat in 1969 were now my children’s teachers. The 1969er’s children would soon be in my classroom. The three-year-olds that were in my classroom might baby-sit my yet-to-be born grandchildren. And be their teachers.
Yikes! Did I have some work to do.
At that moment, how I wished I had been a better babysitter. How I wished I’d coached my babysitters more. I hadn’t realized they would be teaching my children for years to come. Had I taught my daughters enough so they could do their parts as babysitters, students, teachers, parents…etc.? Was I keeping my eye on my goals and purposes?
Our connections go deep and long. Each of us creates a pattern that travels forward and backwards. All of us have an important role to play in the lives of many people, whether we realize it or not. We each form a vital link in the continuing drama of human beings. Our jobs as student and teacher, parent and child, employer and employee, forge generations of relationships. As we move from role to role, we can only do the best we know how, and endeavor to do our parts with love and respect for those people in our lives.
Because our children are our grandchildren’s parents. To infinity, and beyond.