On Dec. 28, 2017, my life changed forever and for the better — I became a grandmother.
Layla Noel, my daughter’s daughter, was born at 2:25 a.m. She weighed 7 punds., 6 ounces, and was 20 inches long. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that she is the sweetest, smartest, most beautiful baby born since her mother in 1983, at least to my biased eye.
Baby, mother, father, grandparents, and uncle are all doing well. Especially my husband, the proud new grandfather who cries every time he looks at his granddaughter.
As I sat rocking Layla to sleep less than three hours after her birth, I thought about the world into which she was born and what it will be like as she grows up. I realized how lucky she is to have so many people to love and care for her. Because of the hard work of her parents and grandparents she will have a stable home that is financially secure. She will never be without what she needs, and will probably have too much of what she wants. She will not have to worry about how to pay for a visit to the doctor or whether she can afford college.
Layla will have so much more than the majority of children in the world and many in our own country, 25 percent of whom live in poverty and do without things they need everyday. Looking at my granddaughter’s sweet face made me think of all the precious children who deserve everything our Layla will have, but who will not be as fortunate as she is.
It also made me think about the kind of world I want my granddaughter and all children to grow up in — very different than the way things are now.
I want Layla to grow up in a world where every child has enough to eat and a safe place to live, surrounded by people who love them. A global society where every child is treated equally without regard to race, religion, or socioeconomic status. A place where every child can get the care they need to have a long, healthy life, and receive an education that allows them to find work so they will be self supporting, proud of what they do, and a contributor to others in the world.
As I look at Layla, I pray for a world where everyone is safe from physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. I hope for a time when little girls can grow up to be anything they want without the limitations that society places on them, and where every female will be treated with respect and equality. I want her and every child to grow up safe from bullying, violence and drugs. A world where abortion is safe and legal, but is never needed, and every child is wanted and loved.
I want all the other big things too: peace in a world with no wars, a clean Earth with protections for the environment, cures for all diseases and injuries, and an end to discrimination, violence, and abuse of all kinds.
While I realize that I don’t have the power to make the world that kind of place, I do know that I can affect the way Layla views the world and her role as a human being.
Layla will grow up in a small town in North Carolina, but she will be a frequent traveler to visit her other grandparents and relatives in New York. She will be doted on by her uncle who frequently travels the world and is eager to share it with her. She will grow up visiting a farm that has been in her family for about 300 years and will learn to love and respect the land like I do. One day it will belong to her.
Layla will be taught not to judge people based on what they look like on the outside, but what they are on the inside. She will be raised to follow the teachings of Christ himself, not those who claim to speak for him, and to follow the Golden Rule. Layla will be the center of our world, but she will be encouraged to think of others before herself. She will learn the difference between caution and fear.
As her grandmother, I will give Layla my time, attention, and love. Just as importantly, I will help her learn to be strong, independent, and to think for herself. I will do everything I can to instill in her a faith in God, kindness, generosity, and respect for herself and everyone else as well.
Layla has been born into an imperfect world full of problems and challenges. It seems overwhelming at times as I look at this tiny baby and think about helping her maneuver through life to grow up in the midst of so much turmoil. The responsibility seems daunting at times.
But when I look at Layla’s mother, my own beautiful daughter, I realize that I did a pretty good job of helping her grow up to be just what I want Layla to be — a strong woman with a kind, generous spirit who makes the world a better place through her choice of career, her activism, and her faith.
It is easy to be discouraged about the state of our world, our country, and even our community. Some days I just have to turn off the television and avoid the newspaper. But there is something about holding a new baby that makes you feel very encouraged and hopeful that everything is going to be OK. Maybe someday it will even seem as perfect as my new granddaughter.
Patsy Sheppard, a St. Pauls resident, is a retired educator and active locally in the Democratic Party.