You’re going to be a grandparent! The big announcement that, I’m sure, each of us reacts to differently. I, for one, had not given much thought to becoming a grandmother. So, I was caught off guard and not sure how I felt about this news.
I knew I was of that age. I had friends who were grandparents. According to them, grand parenting was the best thing that ever happened to them. Not only that, their grandchildren were the most amazing children on the face of the earth. Other friends wanted desperately to become grandparents, but their children were not cooperating. I on the other hand, just did not see the appeal. I had gotten use to the empty nest and was enjoying the quiet. Besides, it wasn’t something I had any control over. I understood the circle of life, that someday my children might have children. But that was some day, out there, in the future. I was still getting use to the title, Mother-in-law, I complained to my husband, who reminded me, they married four years ago. “The future has arrived!” he teased.
I guess I don’t adjust to change very well. If I like the moment I’m in, I would prefer to stay there awhile. I enjoyed being a mother. But the time went by too fast. Life became a series of events for which I was not prepared and passed too quickly. It frustrated me that there was never enough time to savor the moment. It seems our children were taking their first steps then, suddenly, our lives were filled with soccer games, cello lessons, hamsters, school assignments, driving lessons, prom, college applications, meeting future daughters-in-law and now, our son was telling us we’re going to be grandparents. Well – at least they gave me time to prepare for this one. But what was I preparing for? There’s no job description for grandparent. Then again, there was no mother manual either. Life is a lot like being thrown into the ocean and expected to learn how to swim while waves come crashing over you. You just get it figured out, the ocean calms and wham! You are hit by another wave and you find yourself in an unfamiliar part of the ocean, trying to get your bearings before the next wave hits.
I prefer the shallow part of the ocean. Life in the shallow end appears relatively safe. It is where children are allowed to play. The world is new, exciting and wondrous. Children have no perception of good versus bad, safe versus dangerous. Children have no reason to believe that anything they see is out of the ordinary. Why should they? As far as they know, the world is an amazing place where everything is to be embraced, touched, and tasted. And somehow, they just know how to float!
Parents are thrown into the deep, scary ocean where it is hard to navigate. The responsibility felt towards the children they bring into this world is enormous. This is the most important job on the face of this earth and there is no job description or consensus on how to parent. There used to be Dr. Spock. Everyone relied on him. He told us to use our common sense and assured us that any make mistakes we might make were repairable. Now there is the internet. Good luck finding common sense and consensus there.
I was still struggling with the grandmother title when our son called. He had just witnessed the miracle of his daughter’s birth, a life changing event that we now shared. I could hear the unconditional love that new parents experience as he described his new daughter to me. Then, with a new-found appreciation for how much his parents love him, our son says, “Mom?”
“I’m so afraid I’m going to screw this up.”
With tears in my eyes, I giggled. “Oh, honey. You will. We all do. There is no one right way to be a parent. All I can tell you is when you are tired and she is pushing your buttons hug her harder, love her even more and remember, you got me.”
I hung up the phone thinking that I had figured out my new role. Grandparents were there to support their children, or so I thought. I have since learned there is so much more.
Meeting our Grandchild
A week after her birth we flew out to meet our first granddaughter. The moment we set eyes on her I could not help but notice how alert and observant she was. Her eyes followed everything that came into her field of vision. I watched her observing me, her grandfather, a person walking by, her mother picking up a sandwich. I could not stop watching my granddaughter observing the world around her. Leaving was heart breaking. Fortunately, Christmas was just four months away.
By our next visit, our granddaughter had learned to roll over and was playing with an activity blanket on the floor. My daughter-in-law asked me to watch my granddaughter so she could take care of some laundry. I laid down beside my granddaughter and began mimicking her movements. She watched me for a moment and then gave me a look that said, “what are you doing on my blanket?” I started laughing. I picked her up and held her high over my head. She laughed and wiggled. It was in that moment I realized there is a second responsibility. My job was to build a relationship with this child.
This relationship was totally different from the one I had with my children. The laundry was not my problem anymore. My granddaughter’s physical care was not my responsibility. I was no longer mired in the minutia of life. I now had the luxury of perspective and time, to listen and not judge; to share and not teach; to inspire and play. As it turns out, I had been preparing for this my whole life, and to date, it is the best part of the ocean!