By now, the news that the elder son of Diana and Charles, Prince William, has become a father of a son has captured the attention of the entire world. It has gripped me too, of course, but my interest in the announcement goes far beyond idle voyeurism into the lives of royal celebs. I’m listening and digesting intently for three reasons: my abiding resonance with the grandmother who’s no longer with us, the fact that I have a son William’s age, and my own voracious hunger for a grandchild.
Although I had nothing in common with Diana before ’82, that year I started to feel strangely connected to her as we both gave birth to our first sons and were faced with that daunting yet amazing newbie-parenting role. I continued to feel that maternal bond to the princess when I had a second son and then, like her, became a single mom after a rocky marital ride.
Later on, my sense of connection to the princess veered off in an eerie direction. The same year my marriage ended, 1997, her life came to a tragic halt in an automobile accident. And seven years later, I was also in a horrific crash in a car service vehicle steered by a professional driver who did not have his wits about him.
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Even though my chances of surviving the rollover into the lane of oncoming traffic and the subsequent crushing impact seemed slim to none, I did make it out. How? I’ve come to believe that it was because I flashed on a deeply buried bit of info as I climbed into the car that night. I recalled something I’d heard experts say after Diana’s death: that the princess, also a backseat passenger, might have lived had she only buckled up. And so I reflexively clicked my seat belt. Tapping into the lesson from Diana’s death led me to do something completely out of character — and lifesaving.
Diana wasn’t around long enough to usher her kids into adulthood, yet I firmly believe that what I learned from her experience — obviously unintended on her part — helped me reach that milepost. I was able to guide and support my own children as they matured, and I continue to watch them move through the world in wonderfully responsible ways.
Clearly, William and Harry’s upstanding characters are, in large part, testaments to the early love and wise rearing they received from their mother. There’s a sad irony that today the entire world is watching Prince William and Kate Middleton at the gateway of his parenting journey — everyone except his doting mother. To me, that’s heart-wrenching.
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If Diana were alive today, I'd be rejoicing with her. To be totally honest, I’d also probably feel a mild jolt of jealousy — the sort that comes from wanting what another person has because you recognize the majesty of their feat. Her son now has a child, and mine has not yet gone down that path.
Since, as far as I can see, neither of my sons is ready for the baby journey, I’m trying to draw on my longstanding resonance with Diana to chase my grandchild envy with the wisdom I think she would have dispensed. If the princess were still here, I bet we would have heard her instructing her boys to start a family only if and when they were ready to love, support and learn from their kids without limit. William and Kate are now, no doubt, up to the awesome task.
Diana also might have said — show the loved ones who are around that you care, as much as possible, for as long as possible.