When I first became a grandmother ten years ago, I had absolutely no idea how much fun it would be, or how much it would change my life. I had had little involvement with my own grandmothers when I was a child and neither had my children when they were young (one grandmother lived too far away and one had died). There was therefore no model on which to base my expectations. I thought vaguely that most grandmothers were old, grey, dull and spent their time knitting and playing bridge. I didn’t identify with that.
It did not take me long to change my views. I was completely overtaken by the emotions engendered by that first grandchild and the second, a cousin, who followed three years later. During that period, being a writer, I decided it would be the perfect focus of a book and I set to work to write it. Celebrating Grandmothers is the result, a compendium of thoughts of a range of different women about the many aspects of being a grandmother.
In the course of researching my book, I learned that being a grandmother can be simply wonderful, but it is not always so. There are so many complexities and challenges, often arising from difficult family relationships. There are the women who simply live too far away to see their grandchildren, with all the heartache that can bring. Probably worse, there are those whose family choose to exclude them from any close involvement with their grandchildren, so they pine for the ability to participate in their lives. There are grandmothers who do not get on with their sons- or daughters-in-law and, sometimes, with their own grown-up children. There are women who are saddened by the way their grandchildren are bring brought up, and much more.
Yet despite all the problems, there are many wonderful stories out there. There is the woman who, from the beginning, called her daughter-in-law her ‘daughter-in-love’ with all the good relations that such a name implied. There are the two grandmothers (one from each ‘side’) who carefully planned to look after their joint grandchildren for a night or two, so that their own children could have time to sort out their marriage. There are the many grandmothers giving their time on a regular basis so that daughters or daughter-in-law can continue to work. There are stories, but there are also simple reflections, often the sort of thing they wouldn’t tell anyone they knew but could discuss in confidence with the certainty of anonymity. All provide a small peek into others’ lives and relationships – and they are fascinating.
And, finally, I have learned that becoming a grandmother means looking inward at your new role and place in the world. Sometimes, it means looking back at your own childrearing and how you would do it differently if you had your time all over again. It means thinking about the future and worrying about how the new little lives will work out in increasingly difficult times. It is a time of new love, of new activity and a great deal of reflection. Let me quote from one grandmother in the book:
“Being a grandmother is very maturing – and it’s also a tremendous challenge. There is this beautiful love relationship unencumbered by excessive responsibility. And you see all the family strands playing through. It’s like a form of weaving, the fabric of families coming together and you start to write another story together. Suddenly we’re making this new fabric. It is quite amazing – it’s wonderful, very enriching – this other stage of life. ”
This was originally published on the website of Wisdom and Innocence: http://www.wisdomandinnocence.com/celebrating-grandmothers/