On being a grandma

30 April 2013
Thank you for the love, thoughts and prayers sent to us yesterday.

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I never thought of myself as being a grandmother until it was almost upon me. I didn't think too far into my future, I just planned for the coming year and left it at that. I didn't think much about my sons' futures. I could see they were well adjusted, ambitious and sensible and I was content to stand back and wait to see what developed. Grandmothering came slowly sneaking into my thoughts when I met Sarndra and Sunny. I liked them both immediately and it wasn't long before I grew to love them. I knew they were right for my boys and maybe, one day, anything could happen .......  :- )

Jamie was born in March 2011. We'd been hopping around all morning rushing to answer the phone  and when we got the news, we took off like two rockets, driving 200 kms to see him. My world changed forever when I saw him for the first time. Sunny was holding him close and when she asked me: "do you want to hold him, mum?" I held out my arms and opened my heart as wide as it had ever been. I had to fit Jamie in there and I needed a much bigger space for Sunny. This was an entirely different feeling to holding my own sons. There was no pain involved for me with this precious delivery, this was all pleasure and pride. The pride I felt when I looked at him and the pride and love I felt for Kerry and Sunny. 

A few months later, in July 2011, Alex was born, to Sarndra and Shane, in the same hospital. We drove down again, crazy with excitement, full of anticipation and wonder about this new cherished member of our family. Again my heart was pounding when I saw him for the first time and again my already full heart made room for another part of it to be permanently and profoundly altered by this tiny baby. I thought it was impossible, but I loved Shane and Sarndra more on that day. Nothing has changed now. We see much less of Alex because they live so far away but I think of him every day and look forward to the time when we spend time with him, learn more about him and share some of our world with him.

Two more links in our family chain.

We looked after Jamie yesterday while Kerry and Sunny went out for lunch and a movie. They went to see the new Ironman movie and during the morning there was a Facebook update from Sarndra, with a photo of her and Shane, also going out to see Ironman, while Alex was being cared for. Precious alone time for both couples. That is what grandparents are good at - being the on-standby carers that help when they can with babysitting or whatever is needed. If Shane and Sarndra lived closer we'd happily look after both boys. We have a safe and interesting yard they can run around in, a sandpit and clean fresh air to fill their young lungs. I'm looking forward to those days when we look after both boys and they get to know each other, and us.

I love seeing sippy cups and brightly coloured plates and bowls in my kitchen again. Peeling apples and bananas isn't the same anymore. It's more than it used to be. Sure, there are times when I want the running or loud noises to stop, or I don't want to read that same book again or change a nappy, but they're fleeting moments. Not everything is perfect. Everything has a downside and this is no different. But when you see small arms outstretched before you, when you hear one, two, ten, run!, when you see a contented face asleep, or watering the plants, or smiling at you, it's all worthwhile.

Parenting is tough. It is, without a doubt, the hardest thing I've ever done. There are the difficult first few months, the weaning, toilet training, getting ready for school, getting used to the friends, the powerful protective feelings that mothers and fathers feel. There are the difficult talks, wanting to give them enough freedom and the courage to see the beauty and the evil in the world and then two minutes later wanting to keep them protected, away from everything that might harm them. There is that important balancing act of giving them all they need but not all they want, and trying to stay on speaking terms while you do it. And at every stage there are the sometimes overwhelming feelings of responsibility and the ongoing task of developing trust - on both sides. And sometimes having to do it all over again.

Then everything you tried to put into your children starts to pay off. You stand back, proud of your efforts, but you know in your heart that it's as much to do with luck than with anything else - the good fortune to meet the right friends or ditch the dangerous ones, the ability to give them the time they need when they need it, the good sense to show them they were loved unconditionally. Being able to forgive and be forgiven. There is so much you have no control over.

But time passes, they find someone, love develops, babies are born and grandparents are created. It's all part of your circle of life. No one can ever explain to you what it feels like being a grandparent and I guess it's different for all of us. For me it is similar to being a parent in that I feel all the love, but I have a very small share of the work and responsibility. And while parenting was as tough as it gets, grandparenting is easier. Much easier. I feel important in this role, that what I have to share, while different to what Jamie and Alex will learn from their parents, is significant and valuable nonetheless. But to tell you the truth, most of it is just plain fun.