I sink exhausted in my chair at lunch, my 4-year-old grandson sitting across from me, and hit the play button on the VCR so that the next episode of Thomas The Tank Engine rolls through while we eat. The morning has been endless moves from inside to outside, upstairs and down, a hunt for a fleetingly glimpsed toad under every leaf, stalk and flower in the garden (it got away). I am grateful for these few moments of immobility.
His Mom and Dad had called early that morning. “Could you . . .?”
“Yes, of course . . . I’d love too.”
“We won’t be too long.”
“Oh, take as long as you like. We’ll be fine.”
And so we will. I am a living, breathing, female specimen, neatly defined in the Grandmother Hypothesis as the mom/gran combo who is needed to assure successful child rearing for future procreation, not just of my son, but of my son’s kids as well! (See nautil.us/issue/36/aging/what-good-is-grandma)
True, we Homo sapiens grans have used up our eggs—a protection against continued child bearing—so we are fit and still coherent (our CD33 gene shielding us against early Alzheimer’s) to continue child nurturing while our sons and daughters go out to do daily battle on the frontiers of survival. Did you think we were just aged out, done in, no longer functional and therefore irrelevant? Think again. We have been groomed it appears through the thoughtful arrangements of natural selection to pop out the babies and then see them and their progeny through to successful participation in the procreation of our species. So there.
I stare at my grandson gazing at the screen, both of us gnawing hungrily on our toasted cheese sandwiches. I’ll be good to go again by the time lunch is over.
Thanks, good to know the science.