I have two nurturing, empathetic daughters. Both went away to overnight camps this summer and came back with appropriately maternal nicknames. One daughter was affectionately nicknamed “Nancy,” a name her camp friends said sounded like someone’s mom, because she greeted her friends each morning with “did you sleep well?” The other daughter, equipped with a bag of crocheting, another bag of butterscotches, and sipping a can of ginger ale, felt called to wake her friends in time for class in the morning; they called her Grandma.
I glowed with pride when they told me.
Because their loving natures make them muse regularly about what it will be like to have their own children, I feel full approval to imagine myself as a grandmother, someday. My grandparents were not a part of my life, but my daughters have been lucky to have two grandmothers and a grandfather, giving me a window into all the choices I might have someday about how to conduct myself in those magical, far-off years. I have thought often about the way I want to behave. After all, becoming a grandmother does not end my tenure as a mother, nor as a wife. How to proceed? Who will I be?
I present the following self-imposed rules:
- I will never forget that my children still need me to be their mom. Grandchildren are new and shiny; children are — especially once they become mothers — sweaty and tired and worn out. That’s all the more reason to care for them as much as for the babies they bring me to cuddle. I will cuddle my daughters, too — and sometimes, I’ll have to make soothing cups of tea for all of us.
- I will never forget that my children are the parents of my grandchildren. I had ridiculous, stubborn ideas about parenting that made absolutely no sense to my parents. For the most part, they kept their mouths shut about it, even though I could see them roll their eyes at our elaborate swaddling routine for my oldest daughter. I’ll try to keep even the eye rolls invisible.
- I will help my daughters trust their instincts. No one believed me when I told them something was wrong with my daughter. No one backed me up, empowered me to push harder, gave my voice a megaphone. I’ll stand behind my daughters with an enthusiastic megaphone. “What she said!” I’ll shout.
- I will ask my daughters about something else besides their children. I felt — and often still feel — that my own soul disappeared into the vast, bottomless well of interesting information about my children. Few people asked about me, in those early years. In response, I melted into an extension of my children. Partially, this was because of the health issues that surrounded my youngest daughter, but partially, it was because there was no space anywhere — not in my schedule, and not in my conversations — for me.
- I will keep my promises. If I promise to help with childcare, I will help. If I say that I will hold the baby during the cocktail party, I’ll hold the baby during the cocktail party. If I promise to help financially, I’ll do so with clarity and regularity.
- I will give my grandchildren experiences and material gifts without ever once referring to it as “spoiling.” Even with treats and adventures, limits are reasonable. What my daughters and their partners set as the rules will be the rules. Manners, consideration, and gratitude don’t have to be absent from an indulgent grandparent relationship.
- I will share my grandchildren with my husband and their other grandparents. I know I’ll want them all to myself. I also know that’s not fair.
- I will set traditions with my daughters as a team. Once they’re adults, my authority will disappear. I’ll never be in charge, I’ll never give gifts with strings, and I’ll never assume any holiday or celebration belongs to me unless we talk about it first.
I’m ready to have a big family with lots of grandchildren someday, should my daughters want lots of children. I’m excited to have little ones again after what, by then, will be decades without them. Now, though, I want to set the intention that, when that day comes, I’ll be holding the hands of those little ones and the hands of my daughters, who will always be my babies and will always need me, no matter what.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week, co-hosted by Kristi of Finding Ninee and Kenya Johnson of Sporadically Yours, we write a five-minute stream-of-consciousness piece with the prompt “Grandparents.”