I wrote this many years ago…and it is still so true.
It comes down to the difference between parenting and grandparenting.
Without blaming myself as a parent, I understand the difficulties of parenting: showing love versus giving guidance; giving direction without giving orders; teaching values without imposing ideology.
When you were born I recognized you as gifts and knew there were strings attached. When my grandchildren were born I recognized the gifts as goodwill offerings. I was the recipient of a future that held love and joy through no effort of my own.
In raising you I felt that it was my JOB to make you perfect. When my grandchildren were born I easily recognized that they were already perfect.
I’m not crazy. I know that my grandchildren sometimes have problems and sometimes are problems. But I also know that they are perfect beings as who they are in this world. (They helped me recognize this in you, my children, too.) Who they are is not a reflection on me. How I feel reflects back to them. This isn’t always true with you. Somehow my love foe you is filtered through the past in which i made lots of mistakes.
The pure beam of love that I feel for my grandchildren is uncomplicated by the necessity of creating responsible citizens. They are blessed with great parents. I’m not needed in that role.
I like that. I like watching them grow without my wanting or needing an agenda. I live each moment with them in anticipation of further fullness of life including both joy and sorrow. From the thrill of holding each newborn hand to hearing a deep male voice calling me, “Grammy”, the excitement of the future continues to unfold. The love between us doesn’t exclude my children, but it lives independently of them.
The relationship between grandparents and grandchildren will be impossible to understand until you are a part of it. It isn’t noted as special by the grandchildren, it is accepted as the norm. They don’t comprehend what lies beneath the acceptance and appreciation they feel from their grandparents. They only know that even if they are chastised, there is no long-term disapproval. They are free to comment on my crankiness, make light of my outdated ideas and bask in the warmth of my unconditional love.
There is a difference. I am a step removed from the day-to-day struggle but am still in the heart of every family. I have a much clearer view of problems since I’m not in on the solutions. I can be a friend with this new generation.
I love every child and grandchild each as much as the other. Parenting was and is a great challenge and a great reward. Grandparenting is easier!
June 19, 2010
I was talking with someone just the other day; I was telling them that we had GREAT neighbors when we lived on E Main St; and their kids & grandkids lived far away; and how NICE they were to us kids.
We had no TV; they had us over almost DAILY to watch Woody Woodpecker, give us milk and cookies. And they had a dog that did great tricks, including catching balls, etc.
So: in the 2nd or 3rd grade, when the teacher went around the room asking everyone what they wanted to be when they grew up: I said I want to be a grandmother!
Everyone laughed: and my face turned red.
BUT: it is the BEST THING to be in the WORLD! Instead of teaching life lessons, etc, we just ENJOY!
Another wonderful post!
And from the other generational end: my mother and grandmother both died a little over two years ago, within a few weeks of each other. Mourning my mother has been complicated, in all the ways that relationships between mothers and daughters can be complicated, and there’s been lots of journaling and therapy to help me through it. Mourning my grandmother, on the other hand, has been simple: I just miss her. She didn’t always endorse my choices, but I always always always knew that she was on my side (my mother was too, of course, but it was always…complicated).
I didn’t really get to know my grandmothers. They were both pretty old (since I was the next youngest of six) and back in Indiana when we moved west when I was two years old. But I watched my husband’s mother with my children. She couldn’t get enough of them. And she would defend them to the death.