Sunday, October 24, 2010
I was recently talking to a young mother about being a grandmother. I have five grandchildren at the moment, and I was telling her how sometimes unreal it all felt to have so many grandchildren, to love unconditionally so many children from my children. At that moment, I got all choked up and emotional.
I felt there had been no preparation for being a grandmother. Once my progeny left home, a declared all out freedom of movement, freedom of speech, freedom to do dumb things without children bearing down on me and co-opting my energy. It felt unbelievably liberating. It didn't feel unbearable - the empty nest and all of that. It didn't feel emotional disconnecting. No more meals to make, rules to make, beds to make, suitcases to pack and unpack, daily laundry to do, papers to write, prom dates to take pictures of, ski trips to pay for, cars to by, and the list goes on.
I am a parent who didn't feel depressed at sending my boys to college. I even encouraged the to choose a college back east. They went far away to meet new people and get new experiences and travel when then could do so. I saw them on the holidays or parent's day and finally graduation. Off to work, now, boys and get a good job, find a nice girl to marry.
And it stopped there. Stopped at find a nice girl and get married. Raising children was a memory, a dear memory sometimes and a nightmare memory other times. We've all been through it and we all know the drill.
Then one day, the oldest son, wants to get engaged. His intended is adorable, getting her PhD in psychology, stable, rather wonderful family, and all looks rosey for everyone. The wedding is large and beautiful, the parents are beyond happy, the guests are having a blast, and the honeymoon is a success.
And then one day two years later, my daughter-in-law is pregnant. And one day without warning, a baby boy appears and I am a grandmother. I don't know what to do, how to feel. Anxiety pervades my being and I am lost in another title. I thought I was done with titles. I was a wife and a mother and a significant other and those were enough titles. Sufficient! Basta! I wandered around being a grandmother for the first year. Just as I was getting the hang of it - diapering, feeding shifts, strolling, napping, crawling, talking the first steps, first words, building lego towers, dancing to music, picking up from pre-school - another grandchild is born. There were two grandsons now. I was going through it again. Different dynamic. Different little boy's personality. Same dance all over again. Lots of visits to Las Vegas to the family. Lots of flying. Lots more love and happiness and disconnect from grandmother title once I return home.
Son #2 gets finds his love, gets engaged, gets married in the meantime. Two years later, he has a boy. Now there are three. Are my arms big enough, strong enough? I still feel like I might not have the hang of being a grandmother. I'm single. My ex isn't the grandfatherly type and shows up every once in awhile. One day my oldest grandson asks me why Papa and I aren't living together. His idea of grandparents are that they live together in the same house. Papa and I do not live together, haven't so for decades.
Then another boy. And then several months ago, a girl. A girl! A real girl! Joy, joy! And I am in love with all of them and I finally find myself believing I am a grandmother.
I told the young girl that it sometimes felt surreal being a grandmother, but now mostly it feels real. Being a grandmother is another state of being. That's what I didn't get at the beginning of my grandmother journey. I'm operating on other cylinders as a grandmother. I'm not a mother. But I am responsible as a mother would be for the care and nurturing of my grandchildren when I am present with them. But then I am not there everyday so I have to be extra, extra conscious when I am with them. My job is to stay present with them in their real time and not worry about anything else.
My son said to me at breakfast this morning as we were about to drive to Los Angeles from Las Vegas for a photo shoot for his son because my grandson was signed by an agent to be a kid's model that if anything would happen to his wife and to him, I wouldn't be able to raise his kids.
"You wouldn't be able to do with other grandparents do," he said casually.
"You'd better believe I could take care of the kids!" I shot back. "I still have it in me to raise a few of my grandkids!"
"No, you wouldn't," he said.
"Yes, I would and don't you think otherwise," I proudly responded. "I still have the skills and fortitude to do it."
"Well, you are organized," he remembered.
And I'm still a mother lioness, I wanted to say, but stopped my protestations because I had made my point. My son wanted the reassurance that I would always be there to be a grandmother, and I believe I gave him every reassurance.
The photo shoot of his son went splendidly. It was amazing to watch a two and a half year old understand the camera. The photographer said he's get a lot of work with his look. He's the picture of all American apple pie with dreadlocks. Edgy, huh?
I've got bragging rights today.