A Lala (Grandma) Is Born. Welcoming My First Grandchild, Cadence James. September 30, 2006.
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Prior to the birth of my first grandchild, I hadn’t thought much about what it meant to be a grandmother. I hadn’t thought much about what kind of relationship my grandson and I would have. I mean, we all know what grandmas do, right? We bake cookies and provide soft laps and applaud loudly at school plays. I hadn’t considered how his arrival would influence my relationship with his mother, my daughter. Thanks to a lifetime’s experience as a child, grandchild, and mom, I knew the drill: She would bring him to our home. I would cook ridiculously large meals. We would sit at the table for a long, long time, discussing the endless ephemera that tie a family together.
Discussing the Endless Ephemera, ca. 1970. Clockwise from Top: Uncle Hugh, Me, Grandma Downs, ‘Pa Downs, My Sister (back to camera), Great-Uncle Don, My Mother.
Not quite a year later, I married Rich, and the grandlittle count jumped from one to five: My new husband came with four grandchildren. Since then, our children have given birth to four more babies, bringing the count up to nine.
The miracle of blended families has blessed me with many grandchildren. It’s also shown me how differently people can approach a role like “father” or “mother” or “stepparent” or “grandma.” Grandparenting alongside other grandparents has shown me, time and time again, that my understandings of what gets done in the normal course of family life is as idiosyncratic as, well, as prayer. Set two people down and ask them to pray to the same God about the same thing–I bet you’ll hear two remarkably different prayers.
Grandchildren hold the promise of richly blessing the final decades of our lives, but it isn’t always sweet and straightforward. Do you know someone who has been banished from his grandchildren’s lives? How about someone who never spent time with her own grandparents? It happens.
And it’s tragic. Families are intended to mitigate loneliness, not inflict it.
I’m thinking that successful grandparenting doesn’t just happen. It calls for a sensitive understanding of family relationships and a genuine desire to be a force for good in the lives of your children and their children.
It calls for making room for other families’ traditions and expectations. Lots of room.
Can we talk about that? Here? I’m so eager to hear of your experiences (as grandchild, child/parent, or grandparent) and see what we can learn together.
I’ll go first.
A few years ago, one of our grandchildren committed a significant breach of the rules at his school. And as it happened, he executed the serious infraction just a week or two before his birthday. His mom told us: “He forfeits his birthday this year. No presents!”
As the grandparent, what would you have done? As the parent, what would you have done? In the next post, I’ll share what we did, and why–and the invaluable lesson we learned in the process. (Hint: it has to do with knowing why a certain course is selected.)
My hope is that we can make this little corner of the interwebs a safe place to talk about family relationships across generations. The constitution and landscape of “family” is more varied and permeable than ever before, and these circumstances influence our role as child, parent, or grandparent. These situations also free us to stake out a relationship and build it into a uniquely beautiful communion.
So how about you? What’s on your mind?
God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
Psalm 68:6 (NIV)