I became a grandparent three years ago.
I had no idea just how this would change my life. I had had my children and now, as the circle of life intended, it was their turn. As my daughter prepared herself for the birth of her first child, I imparted to her what wisdom I could.
But essentially I felt this was her journey. While I was excited for her and felt so honored to be such an integral and engaged part of her journey, I somehow imagined that my role would be somewhat passive. I was careful to remind myself that my daughter was now the parent and that my role would be fleeting at best.
I was wrong. Dead wrong.
Grandparents, I have come to realize, play an enormous role in the development of a child. And, oh my, what a gift that is.
Having a grandchild has taught me so much when I thought my education in the parenting/child arena was pretty much over. My children were all grown, I had thought, I had done my best, and now it was their turn.
Thankfully, this is not the case.
Here are five things being a grandparent has taught me:
1. Immortality exists.
I know that this may seem far fetched to some, but every time I look at my grandson’s face, I think to myself that there is a part of me coursing through his veins. His mother is my child, born of my loins. I realized that when we have grandchildren, a piece of us lives on through them, and since I lost my mom five years ago, it makes me especially happy. Of course this is true of our children, but it is reinforced with our grandchildren. He looks into my eyes and I see a part of myself and my mom. This I have found to be a tremendous gift and comfort.
2. Love is a never-ending resource.
When we have our children, our hearts expand more than we ever thought possible. Every fiber in our being knows there isn’t a thing we wouldn’t do for our child. We nurtured them during pregnancy, gave them life, and would lay down our own lives for them. I delightfully came to the realization that the same is true of our grandchildren. They are an extension of our children and are therefore afforded the same protections in our heart. I now completely and utterly understand the closeness my mother felt to my daughter. It is a wonderful thing, this ever-expanding love.
3. We are all born with an innate sense of wonder.
When we are parents, life is hectic. We move from one day to the next parenting, working, living. But when we have grandchildren, we can afford to take more notice, to stop and take time to savor moments that otherwise would normally whiz past. My grandson has shown me we are all born with a sense of glorious wonder. When I walk with him and he runs on ahead of me, he will pick things up—a stone, a flower, an insect—and run back to show me. Things that I take utterly for granted hold his attention so steadfastly, and he gasps with delight. We lose that somehow as we grow into adults, responsible for so much in this world. Grandchildren bring it back. And that is truly a gift.
4. Children do not care what you look like, only that you love them.
I wear a wig because I have Androgenetic Alopecia (female pattern baldness). I have a vacuum wig I wear when I go out, more for the benefit of other people, if I am honest, than for myself. My thinning hair distracts people, and it makes me feel uncomfortable when their eyes rest on my head instead of my face when I am talking to them. But when I am at home, I tend to just wear a beanie. My wig sits on a mannequin in my bathroom. My grandson, when he visits, will run through to the bathroom to check where my hair is. He will look at me, look at my wig and say, “This is your hair Gogo?” (Gogo is what he calls me—it is Zulu for “grandmother”). I will nod, and say it is. And he will reply, “You don’t have hair Gogo?” And I will reply that I don’t. And that will be that. He will then run into the living room where he will get his toys out to play. When we go out and I am wearing my hair, he will say nothing, because that is who I am to him. I am simply Gogo who loves him.
5. Telling our stories is so important
When I am babysitting my grandson, I will sometimes take out our photo albums to show him. They don’t hold his attention for long—he is only three after all—but I have been astounded at how quickly he has gained his sense of place. I will tell stories of the people who are in his life, and those that came before him and are no longer with us.
The other day we were traveling back home from an action packed day at an indoor play center. Out of the blue he said, “I want a party, Gogo.” He had just celebrated his third birthday and he had a party so I thought he was remembering that day. Then, after a pause, he said he wanted a party and he wanted everyone to come. He started reciting all the names of the family. First he started off with all the people he knows and sees in the goings on in his life, but then he named the people in those photos, his ancestors. He was establishing his sense of place and was, unconsciously no doubt, willing them to surround him, to bring them together, his family. I am a storyteller by nature, but he has reaffirmed to me just how important those stories are.
Being a grandparent has been a tremendous gift with many lessons being learned and what a joy that is.
Are you a grandparent? Do you have lessons of your own that you have learned?