Who’s Going to Do the Dishes?

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. ggmother4It’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 ggmother6called 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.

ggmother3I’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. oldfash2The 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.”


15 thoughts on “Who’s Going to Do the Dishes?

  1. SITR, this was such a beautiful read. Heartwarming, and yet there’s this underlying sadness stemming from the distance great-grandparents experience. I’ve never really known my grandmothers, sadly, and I am so grateful that my daughter has such a strong bond with my mother – even if this is the single positive outcome of my life crisis. I hope they’ll be able to spend many more years together. I also see myself being that annoying child-parent (if not yet grandchild-parent) who wants to control grandma’s parenting style, what the child does, eats, how she behaves… and it makes me realise how ‘too much’ I get at times. Thank you for opening my eyes to this, especially today, on the eve of Mother’s Day 🙂 Hugs dear SITR

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy Mother’s Day, shattered! To you & your Mother! Thanks so much for your reflection & honest take on this post. I guess the transition was a sad realization on my end, but by my age you learn to roll with the punches & accept what you need to accept about yourself :). Yeh, that balance of parenting is important for those you love – young parents as well as gparents – and it’s what I so love & admire about my grand-DIL. I think understanding that is easier by the great-g’mother stage, because to your own mother You are always her ‘little girl’ who she’ll always need to teach & protect :). Thanks so much, shattered. I really appreciate your comment.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you! It is a miraculous thing to look back into generations of my own g-g’mother and forward into those of my g-grandsons. Indeed a blessing. hope you are, too, shattered!

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    2. P.S., I wasn’t terribly close to my grandmothers, either, though I did know them. One g-grandmother I was blessed to know, born circa 1860s, still wore bonnets & long skirts as you’d see in westerns – ha. I have vivid memory of being with her, she was so unassumingly impressive. It is a blessing that your daughter has opportunity to be spoiled by hers now. Your Mother would probably love, and it’d be great history, for you & your daughter to sit down with her some day and look through pictures & talk about who your grandmothers were. Sometimes it’s too late to do that and when we’re older we’re more curious & wish we would’ve. Grandmothers’ lives & times are interesting and they can give us real insight into who we are.

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