My oldest child is 38 weeks pregnant. When I tell people this, I get the question that friends and family have been asking for the past eight months, “So how do you feel about being a Grandmother?” I rarely have a ready answer for this question. On one level the answer is irrelevant. This birth will happen no matter how I feel about it. I am confident in my ability to love a child once he is here. (Yes, a boy). But before I can take on the task of forming a Grandmother relationship, I need to tackle the ongoing mothering task of helping my daughter with her pregnancy. I’m support crew for labor and delivery as well. Then there will be helping a pair of new parents during the first weeks of baby. These mothering tasks are more imminent than the grandmothering ones. The mothering tasks will not stop. I will continue to be a mother to my daughter even as I begin forming a grandmothering relationship to her son.
I remember a time when my mother listened to me managing a pre-teen crisis for one of my kids. After everything was settled my mother said to me,
“I’m so glad all of that is your job. I just get to enjoy them.”
Later that same day I listened to my mother make a series of calls to doctors and pharmacists to manage medical care for my Grandma and I felt the exact same thought. I just got to enjoy my Grandma without having to manage her.
So the grandparent and grandchild relationship is about enjoyment, finding joy in each other. I like that thought. I’ve thought about it as I’ve moved through the world these past few months. I’ve paid more attention to the children I pass in grocery stores and in neighborhoods. I see the stages of development and know that those are coming for this baby. The baby who isn’t here yet, but will be. I will get to read to a child snuggled on my lap. And I will get to help manage tantrums over broken crackers. I will blow bubbles and take a child to parks. I will baby sit. I’ll probably spend some hours walking and jouncing a colicky baby. Sometimes I will gleefully hand the baby back to his parents when his diaper is stinky. Other times I will collect the stinky baby from an overwhelmed parent and say “let me do that for you.”
I’ve pictured all of this, held the possibilities in my head. The reality of it will be different I’m sure. And reality will show up sometime in the next two weeks. Baby will have a face I can see and a name I can call him.
Some of my friends when they ask me how I feel about being a grandmother are looking for the small talk answer. They want me to say “excited” so that the conversation can move on. Others are leaving a deliberate space. They know, possibly because they’ve also crossed the grandmother threshold, that feelings can be complex and deep. That it is possible to be excited, ambivalent, and wary all at once. There is an oddness to picking up the title of grandmother at a mere 50 years old. I had my kids young, so I am young for grandmotherhood. I rather like that. I can begin this role with some energy and let it wear on me until it is as comfortable as my skin.