Friday, August 5, 2011

From Mom to Grandma

I have come to appreciate my mother so deeply in the months since Leah's birth. And only partly because she has a granddaughter who absolutely adores her. 

As I look back on my childhood, I understand that so much of who my mother was was sacraficial and hardworking.  She was a single mom for most of my childhood, and a working one at that.  She kept a fairly immaculate house - something I have failed to recreate for Leah despite my best efforts - and somehow managed to get more done in a day than I can do in a week. 

And still we had time for trips to a horse ranch in Durango, summer afternoons at the pool, dance lessons and softball games, camping trips and Christmases that I recall being something out of a Norman Rockwell.

Yes, that woman is pretty awesome.

I came across an article recently on (can I just throw out my completely unsolicited recommendation for this website?  If you're not reading, you should be!) about making the transition from Mom to Grandma.  (If you're interested, the complete article can be found here.)

It's a transition that I can tell already I'll loathe.  To think that I should not be in charge of Leah's every decision?  That she can come to her own conclusions and manage her own life?  That she could possibly exist without my input and assistance???  The very idea! (Honey: I say this with complete - okay, mostly complete - sarcasm.  My greatest challenge and joy is to mother you to become your own woman, and make decisions on their merrit as you see them, not just because it's what I want.  But if you're 15 and reminding me I said all of this, you're grounded.)

It must be challenging to come to grips with the fact that your baby is an adult.  Awesome as she is, my own mother and I don't always see eye to eye on this topic.  (There was a particularly nasty episode in which she referred to Leah as "my baby," and not in the endearing way.  I find it irritating and inappropriate, she finds it hurtful that I can't see where she was coming from.)

It is an issue that speaks to the very identity of motherhood.  Is it possible to mother well if you yourself are still being mothered?  Are you fulfilling your parental duties if you adhere to the idea that your own mother knows best?  And from the grandparent side, when is it time to take a step back and play the supporting - rather than leading - role?  How does one who has been central for so long even go about doing that?

I often find with Leah that she is capable of so much more than I think she is.  I am continually amazed by her.  The girl ate a peanut a few days ago.  How on Earth you do that with no teeth, I have no clue, but she mashed it into peanut butter and asked for another.  My job is to protect her - because heaven knows she is still in a phase where she needs protecting - but in a way that doesn't also limit her vast potential.  That takes tailored, conscious effort on my part.  And when you're a parent, you do what is right for you children, even - perhaps especially - when it's not easy for you.

I think being a new grandmother must be a little like that.  I'd like to think and hope that when my own mother watches me taking on this huge challenge called motherhood, she is taken aback by just how much I'm capable of.  I sincerely hope that she is as awed and amazed by me as I am by my daughter (even when I don't keep an immaculate house...).

Otherwise, really... what's the point?

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