There’s nothing quite like the first time you hold a grandchild, experiencing the miracle of your son or daughter now having his or her own child. The baby looking back at you seems like a divine gift. And it is, but as time goes on and you settle into being a grandmother, the relationship gets more complicated.
You watch your adult child and his or her spouse engage in parenting that can feel at odds with your beliefs. You bite your tongue or you wait for the right moment when you sense your views might be heard to voice your opinions. Stating my objections to matters like a sugar-heavy diet or late bedtime didn’t go over well. New parents are very sensitive—how could I have forgotten?
I’ve learned that unsolicited suggestions are not welcomed. Sometimes my anxiety gets the better of me. I forget my pledge ‘to not interfere.’ Then I watch the exchange of raised eyebrows or stage whispers. Being a grandmother can feel like walking on eggshells. The lesson here is to practice acceptance.
On the plus side, the gifts my grandchildren (Jane, 12 and Max 101/2) have bestowed on me are far greater than I ever anticipated.
I get to see them grow up in a way where I can fully appreciate their development. I’m not distracted the way I was as a parent trying to juggle work, household chores and parenting.
Being fully present to Jane and Max offers them a cheering squad that can balance their parents’ capacity to be as attentive. I delight in praising Jane’s clever drawings, Max’s soccer prowess, and their quick responses, allowing them to beat me in virtually every board game we play.
I love the opportunity to be child-like once more. My son accuses me of being “immature” when I become as silly as his kids. He may not realize that laughing with my grandchildren is about as good as it gets.
On the other hand, I take my grand parenting very seriously. My heart aches for the world Jane and Max will inherit. I do all I can to protest global warming, our country’s war mania along with income and racial inequality. I talk to them about these issues when teachable moments arise.
For the past three summers when Jane and Max have visited me in Maine, they’ve helped out at the Brunswick Peace Fair. They’ve also joined me in peace protests. Jane complains that it’s “boring” to stand for a long time with a peace sign. She’s learning that change is slow and we all have to do our part. At just 12, she’s become interested in Bernie Sander’s efforts to address inequality. Max is a keen observer, noticing homeless people on our walks, and sharing his concern for their welfare.
I recognize my privileged grandmother status. I don’t have the backbreaking, exhausting role of those grandmothers who are raising their grandchildren full time. Nor do I have to face the horrid conditions of grandmothers in war-torn countries, who worry whether or not their grandchildren will live to have a future. Human life is precious. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a part of two young lives for whom my love grows exponentially.
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