Feeding a child is what grandmothers do best, even so when they’re adults. There is little that pleases a grandmother more than loving on (feeding) grandchildren. They’re in a unique position to revisit that special relationship without bearing any brunt of an upbringing. It’s the fun and play of making meals and treats that, through years, became a grandma’s family-loved signatures if not cherished traditions.
Grandmothers can take time to touch and feel all that is innocent, where one reach of the arms or a few simple words melts hearts. They see and hear and notice things about a child that no one else has time to. They absorb moments of a grandchild’s transformation with refreshing awe for the miracle it is, not the responsibility it was. Grandmother’s have room to understand new importances that they had little freedom to appreciate in rearing their own.
As grandchildren do, my first grandson came out with a toddler’s mispronunciation of my name, “Maka,” and it stuck. As they all grew up that’s what they called me and that’s what their friends called me into adulthood. That’s who I am. In becoming a great-grandmother I suggested now I was “Great Grand Maka.” My middle grandson sent a picture of his family with that lovingly etched into the frame, making it official. I suppose that is my only legacy, but I love all that went into it – from the toddler first trying to get my attention to its comfortable place throughout lifetimes to its regal-sounding playful place in family history.
Some grandmothers are not blessed with knowing their great-grandchildren nor taking an intimately personal place in their lives. By the time of great-grandmotherhood, many haven’t health to interact so they sit spellbound watching; and, through watching, they relive slews of memories that now span two-generations of kids growing up. Only great-grandmothers know so keenly how quickly lives pass into adulthood; the joys and mistakes and pains that will come to each new life; how fleeting life is, their own included; and the wonderment of what special gifts this next generation will take into their futures.
I’ve had the unique pleasure of being great-grandmother twice, both being grandsons as were their fathers before them. Something is lost to a grandmother in the next generation of great-grandparenting and not to say that’s bad, it’s a progression. By the time you’re a great-grandparent there is an overwhelming number of new extended family needing their own time and new experiences, so you’re forced into the back seat. That’s okay, too, because you have less energy for grand-mothering now than when their parents came along and you only think you know how much.
When you do get the opportunity for your own great-grandparent time you find it is not the free spirited reflex it was the first time around. You’re a little more feeble and you (as well as the child’s parents) question whether you could grandparent as they knew it; whether you’re capable of eagerly taking their little one’s hand for that saunter into what’s now an even more mystifying world. Today just the high-tech toys of a toddler can prove challenging for a great-grandma.
Parents who are two-generations removed have their own, now strange-to-you methods, determined to improve their child’s growth over what their parents gave to them – and what their parents gave to them are the only spin-off fragments of what’s left of you. Suddenly all you knew or delighted in, be it a simple treat or random reprimand, are skeptical, challenged if not forbidden, not the simple acts you knew them to be. You wonder what you could possibly give to make your place the special place you’d always made it for the generation before. You don’t even know if you should try.
When you are finally entrusted with a great-grandchild’s care it, too, becomes the questionable experience you least expected. My first hint came on a naïve climb up my grandson’s stairway. You trek up with your precious cargo in hand to give him that ritual bedtime bath only to realize it’s harder to climb stairs holding a child than it used to be. After the first few steps you wonder if you can make it all the way up and only the love of being a grandma drives you.
Bending over to pick up the child or in bathing them, to say nothing of the wiggling ruckus they so enjoy afterwards, is about all you can muster. Coming down the stairway is no easier, now needing to concentrate on each well-placed step and overcoming poor vision that’s fallen, almost unnoticed until then, by the wayside. At some point you wonder if you’re protectively holding the child or if he’s become more of a mental human handrail you’re grabbing to steady yourself, so you keep reminding yourself who has who.
You’re afraid to say anything because you’ve waited anxiously for these moments … surely giving a toddler a simple bath isn’t something you can’t do anymore. You’ve lovingly snickered and sometimes sneered at the grandchild’s new age parental ways, but life convinces you that maybe they’re a little more aware and informed than you gave credit. The awkward distance between you and that cherished great-grandchild, versus the one you ran everywhere and did everything with only a generation ago, begins to make sense. For safety sake you go with it, reflecting on that unforgettable awakening on the stairs.
You do wish the grandkid-parents would at least give you a break on the one thing you still know and so love to do: cook and feed. It’s not like a few of your old fashioned ingredients are going to kill the child, for crying out loud, you reared them and their parent on a steady diet of those things and so far everyone’s lived. You are good at that – you always will be. And, truth be told, those grandkid-parents sneak into your old fashioned food every chance they get when they think the other isn’t looking.
It’s the dishes you’ll need help with. Somehow they trust you to make it through all of those on your own, but you don’t mind because that’s just part of the love you so love to give. Still.
[Aside: I have a most gracious grandson & granddaughter-in-law who, within reason, let me pleasure in what comes naturally with my great-grandson. I respect as best I can their boundaries and they intuitively understand my natural instincts. God bless Stephen & Dani for that. They are beautifully tender spirits.]
In response to WordPress Daily Prompt, “Stairway.”