Grandmothering

by Kim on March 29, 2012

I wonder what kind of grandmother I’ll be known as to my grandchildren.  I had 2 grandmothers, but our relationship was not the typical relationship. I hardly knew my grandmothers. One grandmother left her family when my mother was 6 months old, leaving also 3 boys under the age of 6, and her husband. She took off with another man and joined him in his quest to rob trains. Seriously. After 4 years in prison, and another marriage and 2 children, she was estranged from her first family. I only saw her 2 times in my life. Once when I was in 8th grade, and then one last time when I was pregnant with my second child. (See previous blog post “Meeting my Grandmother”).

The other grandmother had 50 grandchildren, then 50 great-grandchildren, and finally 4 great-great-grandchildren by the time she died (See previous blog post “The Expression on Grandma’s Face”). I don’t remember sitting on her lap or her visits to our home or really any personal conversation with her. I only remember one time where I was in a room with just her (I was a cheerleader for Pee-Wee Football when I was six and my corduroy pants – part of my uniform – ripped during a game. My grandmother lived across the street from the park and my Dad took me there at half-time and asked her to repair my pants.) I think she was a nice lady, and some of my other cousins had a closer relationship with her. But other than the name Grandma, she was just another adult woman to me.

My son and daughter-in-law just had their first baby in October. I love the Grandmother experience – and Baby Olive is pure joy. And so I start the grandmother journey with little Olive. I have watched my mother and mother-in-law be extraordinary grandmothers. They somehow have managed to make each grandchild feel extra special and deeply loved. So I take what I have observed, though not experienced, and try it on myself with Olive’s help.

I imagine the best way to be a loving grandmother is to let Olive show me how in the most simple experiences. When singing and playing. Or echoing back her simple sounds. I imagine us baking cookies and having picnics UNDER the kitchen table, talking about God, and letting her teach me who God really is. I want to just be there in every day, having all the time in the world for what transpires, taking slow walks, being in wonder at bugs, and colored leaves, and squishy stuff. I see us cuddling up with a book, reading stories, or just making them up. I could teach her to skip or let Olive teach me. It doesn’t matter what we do, just that we do it and I allow myself to be in the moment with her.

And then there are the big picture things. Important things like marveling how wonderful her Mommy and Daddy are. And having special dates and special trips together. I want to show her good values like gratitude, respect, and patience. I want to smother her with praise just because. I especially want to tell her family stories, about her father when he was a boy and his favorite activities. My role is to be continuity between the past, present, and future. That she knows that her family was always waiting for her to be born and to be a part of the family. She is the continuation of that story.

I’ve always said that my children taught me more than I ever taught them. And I’m open for lessons from Olive as well. Levy says “When a child is born, so are grandmothers.”. Olive, let’s make this a wild ride together.

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Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jane Kiracofe March 30, 2012 at 6:25 am

Kimmy,
What a sweet love letter to your granddaughter! I know our own experiences with grandmas were either with the adopted kind or how our mother and mother in laws bonded with our own kids. Since I’m not there yet, (no kids- I’m not nagging) I have a beautiful picture of how I would like to be if given the opportunity. I haven’t met your little junebug but when you see her give her an extra special hug from her great aunt.

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