“Have a Good Time with Your Friends:” A Granddaughter Milestone on the Brink

She’s two and a half and heading full speed toward three years old.

She’s on the brink of everything.

Just before Christmas, she helped put up lights and pine garland on her porch.

She couldn’t stop saying her favorite new word: “energy!”

By the time she arrived at our house for the Christmas holiday, Lydia was still talking about energy,

but she was also showing signs of the “terrible twos.”

It didn’t help that she was getting over a fever.

She wanted her mommy for every transition.

She also melted down a few times into a furious puddle on the floor.

Granddad and I wondered whether we would have what it takes to care for her alone at her house in just one month.

Would she welcome us?

Or would she cry all weekend, desperate for her parents?

In preparation for our visit,

her mommy and daddy explained that they were going to be with their friends far away,

and that grandma and granddad would be there with her for two nights.

When we arrived to pick her up at daycare, she immediately asked for mommy instead.

But no meltdown.

When we said the magic words “toy library,” she perked up immediately.

We took her to her favorite place and watched her play with her friends.

She climbed all the way to the top of the ladder and sat there, surveying her kingdom.

At the toy library, just about at the brink.

The next day, when we took her back to day care,

she was ready to say good-bye to her parents.

“Have a good time with your friends!” she said.

Were there some tears during the next two days? Sure.

Was she ever inconsolable?


She’s on the brink of becoming more independent,

of being able to trust that mommy and daddy will come back

and of climbing up, up, up, by herself

to age three, past potty training, surveying new challenges.

Meanwhile, I am re-reading Parker Palmer’s latest book, and checking in to the website Parker and another friend,

singer/song writer Carrie Newcomer, have collaborated on.

I’m getting ready to speak to a local group of seniors.

On the Brink of Everything

In the first chapter of this book, Parker explains how he got the inspiration for the book’s title

from our mutual friend Courtney Martin.

Courtney is a young author/blogger/activist whose lyric essay about her daughter Maya

inspired Parker to connect the toddler stage of life

to the entering-old-age stage, a brilliant juxtaposition,

especially if you happen to be a septuagenarian grandma of a toddler.

Here’s Parker in Chapter One of his book:

Courtney says that her daughter “approaches the word with only one, giant, indiscriminate expectation: delight me.” Like sixteen-month-old Maya, I want to approach the world with only one expectation as I close in on eighty. Because I am old enough to know that the world can delight me, my expectation is not of the world but of myself: delight in the gift of life and be grateful.

Thank you, Lydia, for being my teacher of the same, beautiful truth.

Thank you, Courtney and Parker, for connecting these two perilous and exhilarating stages of life to each other.

Let’s go over the brink together!

What brink are you on? Would love to hear a story, catch a glimpse of your world.

Shirley Showalter


  1. Phyllis on February 1, 2020 at 10:54 am

    Delightful to read of your many connections and adventures with Lydia. Also, I’m grateful for your words ‘grateful’ and ‘delight.’ Thanks, Shirley!

    • Shirley Showalter on February 1, 2020 at 11:22 am

      Thanks, Phyllis. I know you would be as amazed as I am at the ways Lydia resembles her mother at the same age. Delighted, even!

      I’m grateful for you companionship on the journey of life, here and in many other places and ways.

  2. Marlena Fiol on February 1, 2020 at 11:03 am

    Shirley, your message today really strikes a chord on so many levels. We are serendipitously on the same page! My blogs this week, prompted by a podcast interview with a woman who lost her son to brain cancer, are about goodbye. Why so many of us hate goodbyes…the ultimate brink.

    I love Parker Palmer’s latest book. As we age, and especially as someone dear to us dies, it becomes increasingly difficult to ignore the cliff that lies just over the edge, just beyond us.

    So YES, let’s delight in the gift of life and be grateful!

    • Shirley Showalter on February 1, 2020 at 11:28 am

      Marlena, I went to your site to check out the post you mention. Here is a link for the benefit of other readers. Congrats on setting up a podcast! https://marlenafiol.com/finding-the-courage-to-embrace-life-after-a-sons-death-my-interview-with-rita-berglund/

      I will listen to this as I take a walk and ponder how death is the ultimate brink. And how much we resist the wisdom that might come from facing it like a toddler. With both curiosity and trust. And occasional meltdowns. 🙂

      • Marlena Fiol on February 1, 2020 at 11:32 am

        Thank you, Shirley!
        Facing the ultimate brink like a toddler…a great reminder for me!

  3. Linda Hoye on February 1, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    Love the layers of this post, Shirley. Lydia’s reactions to being on the brink (oh, those precious grandparent moments!) and the reminder that, when we are mindful, we are always on the brink of something. Also love how those, younger and older, have wisdom to show us as we walk out or ordinary days.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 1, 2020 at 1:41 pm

      Linda, I am still smiling from conversation on FaceTime with Lydia this morning. She was into dancing and yoga and wanted me to dance with her. Of course, I did! I hope I can grow wise as rapidly and fluently as she grows tall! And as she expands her capacity for narrative. Quite amazing. Yes, so great to have companionship, old and young, as we face the brink.

  4. Tina Barbour on February 1, 2020 at 12:32 pm

    I enjoy your grandchildren stories! It looks like Lydia has loving support as she moves toward the brink of all life holds for her. I also liked Parker Palmer’s realization that it’s not the world that he’s looking at to delight him, but rather himself he’s looking at to be delighted by the world. Even in hard times, we can delight in the world.

    I feel on the brink of something—not sure of what! When I turned 56 last year, I started really seeing that I have much less time ahead of me than behind me. It weighs on me, but I’m trying to use that feeling to motivate me to “be here now” and do the things I need/love to do. One thing that gives me great delight lately is learning the names of the birds who visit our feeders and learning the names of the plants I see.

    Thank you as always for a lovely post!

    • Shirley Showalter on February 1, 2020 at 1:51 pm

      Tina, what a great goal. Learning the names of birds and plants. Lydia would love to trail you around and learn the names too. She loves going to “The Phipps” conservatory in her hometown of Pittsburgh.

      I’m glad you caught Parker’s distinction between passive delight and active delight, recognizing that we have agency in this process.

      I sense some of Lydia’s “energy” in your comment. Delighted to know that you are realizing the brink is now. Perhaps you will want to read Parker’s book. You aren’t too young. 🙂

  5. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on February 1, 2020 at 2:12 pm

    Oh my, Lydia is growing into herself. In a blink of an eye it seems! Oh the joy of the moment and then the memories! Memories that bless and burn. Life is so full and we are allowed to sip from a cup that is full and overflowing. Thanks be to God, and also to you, Shirley for reminding me of it today, a quiet day of reflection after having one granddaughter over for night (she’s between girl and womanhood) and two preteens joining her the next day. Hardy and I are so thankful for these beautiful grandchildren, and praying that their lives will be God honouring.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 1, 2020 at 2:32 pm

      I love your first sentence, Elfrieda. That’s exactly what Lydia is doing! And I read your words while sipping from a mug of delicious broccoli soup Stuart made and placed on the table next to my chair. “Emerald soup from the Emerald Isle,” said he, referring to the mug we bought in Ireland. So yes, let us sip from the overflowing cup of life.

      Your stories about your grandchildren have inspired me over the years. I love seeing you surrounded by your now-almost-grown grandchildren. I can see what lies ahead. They will be God honouring because their dear grandmother showed them how to be with her own life!

  6. Audrey Denecke on February 1, 2020 at 3:14 pm

    Children are so often our teachers; courageous, uncensored, vocal. I have Parker Palmer’s book On the Brink … on my to read for awhile now. It’s time to pick it up, read and reflect on his wisdom.

    I am 6 months into my 70th year. These first months were slow going. But, at the end of January, I felt a breakthrough within (only a loosening not a crack through a wall type of breakthrough). I credit my focus on “being open” and “letting come” with this gentle loosening. I have embraced a few big goals including re-launching my coaching business. My ideal clients will be self-described ChangeMakers. I know I am at the zenith of my coaching capacities and capabilities and I want to partner with my clients as they embrace their vital work.
    Personally, I am focusing more on giving greater priority to my physical well-being. I now have a new internist and eye doctor (O.P.) … they’ve put me through my paces (very thorough exams) and reports are good. I have few issues to take care of, the usual culprits.

    I am energized and ready for this next wave of my life. We each and all each day are on the brink of something! May we enjoy the moments.
    Thanks Shirley!

    • Shirley Showalter on February 1, 2020 at 3:25 pm

      Audrey, so good to hear from you and to know you have recently broken through to new clarity about what you want the next phase of your life to hold. I know you will find Parker’s book inspiring as you move forward, offering your coaching skills to new clients and taking good care of your health.

      “Energies.” I wish you could hear Lydia running around the house saying that word. 🙂

  7. Sherrey Meyer on February 1, 2020 at 4:11 pm

    Shirley, the beautiful package I unfolded as I read your post reminded me that every day for the last year I’ve been on the brink of something new almost every day. This recovery has been very different from others for me. And the word “brink” still applies and will for another year or so. I’m like Lydia, a toddler exploring and climbing and stretching my limitations bit-by-bit. Thanks for sharing your time with Lydia. These children are our teachers and our treasures.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 1, 2020 at 4:34 pm

      Sherrey, it takes persistence and courage to spend so much time on the brink as you have. God bless you. I’m glad Lydia can help give you a visual image of what you need. May you continue to find strength and encouragement here.

  8. Marian Beaman on February 1, 2020 at 6:24 pm

    Carrie Newcomer’s voice is so very soothing. I’m listening to the comforting tune as I type this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7eUuNCddCFg
    How thrilling it is how one artist inspires another, Courtney Martin inspiring Parker Palmer inspiring Carrie Newcomer, a magical chain. (I hope I got that right!)

    This post points out your willingness to let the wisdom of children like Lydia guide you and what an exuberant guide she is! I am learning that children of all ages can feel anxiety. One of our grandchildren is benefitting from Max Lucado’s Anxious for Nothing, a biblical guide to stress relief.

    What am I on the brink of? Well, I have been thinking about coming to the end of something. publishing and promoting my memoir. Now, my readers are asking what I will write next.

    Oh, my word!

    • Shirley Showalter on February 1, 2020 at 6:50 pm

      I love Carrie’s voice too, Marian. And thank you for offering the link to her version of The Brink of Everything. Yes, I think you got the right order of the inspiration.

      I hope the book you got for your grandchild has helped with anxiety. We are living in an age of anxiety, and one of the best things we can do is be a calming presence for each other. As we get older, our own anxieties don’t go away, but we can tame them, in part, by helping others, especially children, to allay their fears.

      I hope you take time just to enjoy the completion of your memoir. Readers will ask about the next project, but you will know when you are actually being called to it!

  9. susan scott on February 2, 2020 at 12:57 pm

    such a lovely post Shirley fairly bursting with all that life has to offer – from youth to age and everything in between! I can see the delight in Lydia’s eyes and her grandfather’s too!

    • Shirley Showalter on February 3, 2020 at 7:14 am

      You are a good reader of body language, Susan. I imagine that you have had many years of practice of that fine art. Good to see you here again. Time for me to pay a visit to you, too.

  10. Sharon Showalter on February 3, 2020 at 7:38 am

    Looking forward to the discussion on Thursday. Also, enjoyed your children’s story yesterday. I especially loved the expression on the children’s faces as they returned to their seats. When worship includes the “littles” it sends a message that they matter and are special…what a beautiful thing!

    • Shirley Showalter on February 3, 2020 at 7:54 am

      Thanks, Sharon. I agree that the “littles” have a large role to play, and that we elders have a special bond with them. I see you playing that role! See you on Thursday.

  11. Linda Gartz2 on February 3, 2020 at 10:09 am

    I remember that age so well. Sometimes I marveled at how a two/three-year-old could be so furious with me one moment, and not too much longer later, be smiling and happy again. They are just little bundles of emotion that need time, care, and understanding to learn go control and channel these emotions. Sadly, some people don’t get that guidance and never learn to control their emotions.
    Meanwhile, I’m on the brink of donating my 30+ bankers’ boxes of family archives to the venerable Newberry Library for future researchers or anyone interested in the perspective of a family from immigration to death – throughout the 20th century. It’s hard to let it go, but I must. Thanks, for another beautiful post, Shirley.

    • Shirley on February 3, 2020 at 10:29 am

      What a great description of two-year-old behavior and perceptive understanding of the causes, Linda. A child needs as many understanding adults as possible to hold boundaries without alienating the child herself. We are trying to learn about “time in” rather than “time out.” The terminology changes, but the wisdom doesn’t.

      I hope you know what a great gift you are making to the world and to future historians through these carefully preserved materials, Linda. May we feel deep satisfaction before, during, and after you climb over the brink of this decision.

  12. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on February 3, 2020 at 12:28 pm

    Shirley, I went back to your blog post once more, and just want to tell you that as I was looking at the photo of Lydia with her grandpa, it struck me as so very symbolic. Lydia is climbing the ladder of life, looking over the edge in curiosity, wonder and anticipation, one foot already on the next rung. Behind her stands grandpa, smiling, enjoying watching her, but also saying to himself and just by his presence letting her know, “I’ve got your back. Trust me.” Such a wonderful legacy for Lydia!

    • Shirley Showalter on February 3, 2020 at 12:46 pm

      You have a keen grandma eye, Elfrieda. Yes, Stuart literally has Lydia’s back, and yes, that ladder is so much like the ladders we are all climbing to our respective brinks. We all flourish when we can do things by ourselves, the way every toddler tries to do them, and also know that there is a safety net ready to give us a soft landing should we fall. Lydia is lucky that so many others see their own precious ones in her story.

  13. Elaine Mansfield on February 7, 2020 at 12:03 pm

    I’m glad it went so well with your granddaughter. Grandparents provided so much joy in my young life. I’m delighted by being snowed in today. I’m on the brink of stepping away from the brink–of giving up the idea that I NEED to publish a new book or do anything that pushes hard and doesn’t feed my body and soul. I’m on the brink of saying a quiet life is enough with gratitude that one son lives 3 miles away, I’ll spend a week with my older son in North Carolina in March, and my hospice volunteer work continues on in a meaningful way. I don’t have grandchildren, but needed a dose of joy, so adopted an SPCA puppy–a nutty thing to do for a woman who will be 75 this year, but my son who has 3 rescue dogs will rescue Disco if/when I can’t take care of her. My older dog loves the pup and puts up with having her ears chewed. We take hikes together every day–today I’ll get out my snow shoes for the first time this winter. This pup is a little more timid than the Labs I’ve had most of my life and needs more cuddling and reassurance and less excitement. She and I are a good match.

    • Shirley on February 7, 2020 at 3:43 pm

      As you are snowed in, we are having high winds, but the fields out my window are starting to turn bright green, and the daffodils are almost ten inches high. Lovely weather. Disturbing weather.

      Let me endorse the idea that you don’t NEED to write a book. Sometimes the best thing to do with a brink is to park on a bench and enjoy the view!

      I am so glad you have Disco, and I love the name. Playing with a puppy has to be a great way to experience the brink. I would imagine it’s much like playing with a toddler!

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