July 7th 2014 – Reluctant Real Grandparent – The Sequel to Invisible Grandparenting
My “daughter-in-law,” whose beautiful wedding to my firstborn son was the epilogue to my first book: Invisible Grandparenting, is now six months pregnant … with a girl! One would think that after all the pain of separation I’d worked so hard to heal since eight years ago when I was blocked from seeing my first grand-daughter, who is now almost 13 (!) I’d be thrilled. Excited. As in “can’t wait.” As in all those pre-grandparenting stories you see in mass media.
But truth be told, I’m in a dazed state that wanders between confusion, denial and anxiety about finally at 69.5 becoming a real grandmother, and having to develop a ‘healthy relationship’ with my son and his bride, and then of course my grandkid(s). My second born is engaged and it’s likely to soon be happening again.
Yesterday at the YWCA in Santee I swam laps next to an Olympic size kiddie pool the size of my entire 810 sq. ft. apartment. It had a fountain spurting up the center platform that was a climbing zoo. I watched all the children scream and yell in delight, but I found myself shaking my head in disbelief that in a few short years I would become one of the seniors beaming and handing towels to their toddler charges.
In the shallow end of the lap pool, a circle of dads and moms holding infants under two in “family swim” sang out loud. “Put your right foot in, pull your right foot out, do the hokey-pokey and turn yourself about.” Cute right? However, my inner voice whispered to me that this gym was “breeder city,” with a tone resembling disgust. I had to pray to bless these brave young men and women, and mask my horror at the surprises these enterprising humans may encounter as their kids grow up and out beyond them.
Parenting, the scope of which is infinite, is the hardest thing you’ll ever do intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. Or that I ever did at least. My husband and I have been to hell and back with things we’d never anticipated when loving our babies in those early days of our previous marriages. Three out of the four kids between us have not spent a day in college, have been in and out of various addictions, and have cost us and the social services system thousands of dollars and years of hopes dashed and misery. Two of them have gifted us with unplanned grandkids that we hardly see. Yes, we realize we did the best we could at the time. But it is difficult to ‘rise above’ and not beat oneself up with guilt: the gift that keeps on giving. I fervently pray the innocent young parents at the pool, do not have to suffer as we did.
These days as I notice the stressed out multi-tasking pace with which parents handle work and the details of making a home; as I see toddlers using smart phones and i-pads from seats in supermarket carts, I’m overwhelmed at the speed with which pre-schoolers absorb information. Do the electronic games these tiny children are absorbed in, teach anything educational at all? I shudder at ads on television for violent video battles full of explosions and destruction. Thirty years ago I used to occupy my kids at my feet with building blocks, and puzzles. Do they exist any more?
In the locker room as I watch mothers and grandmothers interact with children that look like little people, cookie-cutters of themselves, I force myself to smile, and realize in not too long this could be me. Not could, would, … will. OMG!
So my peers, it is with humility and yes “hope,” that I will journal this sequel that describes my path from invisible grandparenting to the real thing. I hope I can squelch these fears and stop them by using every affirmation, visualization and prayer technique I’ve learned in the three decades since I had little ones.
And maybe, just maybe, part of the in-person grandparenting I get to do will be not be as frightening as it feels today, but fun!