I asked my Mum to write a guest post about anything she liked, in time for Mothers Day – here it is. I am so happy and privileged to share it, and her, with you.
My grandmothers died young, one was 63 and one a mere 53. One giggled a lot and one had beautiful long auburn hair. I adored them both and they died too soon.
I sort of knew what to aim for though, my mother-in-law was an ex 50s housewife through and through and my children loved her. My own Mum is still, to this day, the most cherished Grandmother, Great -Grandmother, Aunty, Sister and of course Mum in the world. A hard act to follow.
I wasn’t ready to be a Grandmother. Deep in the throes of a forty-something torment it was as if someone else had decided upon a course of action that would define ME without my consent or prior knowledge. They decided that I would now be a Grandmother. Predictably of course when my Grandson was born I was utterly smitten. Loving him was painful and it superseded every other feeling that was stabbing me from all angles. In light of my Welsh origins I became ‘Mam’ which suited me fine. Also, if it’s good enough for The Queen I guess it’s ok for me, we’re neighbours after all.
I knew that my Grandchildren would give me the gift of…my children. My own parents and I became incredibly close when I became a mother at the age of 21. My mum wasn’t ready for Grandmotherhood either, she was very young and had a lot going on. But I said sorry to her a lot in the years that followed. And as my daughter says to me sometimes ‘I’m so sorry Mum, I had no idea, but thought I knew everything at the time!’ You don’t have to hear that from your children but it does warm your heart and takes away some of the sting of guilt (or is that just me?).
People say to me ‘Grandchildren are great, you can give them back’ but I can honestly say I have never wanted to. ‘She’s MY baby Mum’ was the response once when trying to agree a pick up time!
That’s partly because I work full-time; I rarely have time to just devote to them. They understand that Mam is busy and thank goodness my children understand the vagaries of my fridge contents and have learned to bring lunch boxes – something I never ever had to do when I visited my own wonderful parents. Yes the guilt remains, especially when the ‘competition’ are gorgeous full-time career grandmothers, one of whom not only bakes and makes fancy dress costumes but was actually a proper pre-school teacher!
When they all visit I’m torn between cuddling, playing, building rituals with them and kicking back for a good chat with their parents and letting them run around. On the rare occasions when I have one of my children to myself we savour the finished sentences and general peace but inevitably talk solely about the little ones in the most unapologetically besotted way imaginable. I tell them how their babies are completely / not a bit like them when they were little. I had it much worse and they don’t know they’re born *insert ‘in-those-days’ cliché*
If we’re in sole charge, when pick-up time eventually arrives we attempt to play down what little angels they’ve been with us (they always are) – parents feel bad enough, right? We try to be understanding about how hard it is to raise small children but we don’t feel it. We remember different things, see things in a different light now. I will concede that we’re often exhausted though! My four grandchildren have the most amazing, loving, devoted parents. I wish I could take some credit but it’s all theirs.
I think my children do benefit a little from having someone with a grain of medical knowledge as a Mum but the downside is that I have seen too much. They call me for reassurance about childhood ailments and end up in A & E. Gripped by terrifying fear I struggle to hang on to the common sense and rationality that make me an ok midwife. My friends then have to tell me repeatedly that no she’s not going to die, no he doesn’t have a syndrome, no it doesn’t sound like a heart condition, of course they’re not neurologically impaired, get a grip woman. And so on. I’d like to blame my noble profession but some of my colleagues manage to stay sane and be a responsible rational midwife whilst their child gives birth. How the hell does that work?
Grandmothering isn’t a job description it’s just being. Becoming old is not so scary now, I’m beautiful to them and different things matter (like how fast you can run).
When you’re a parent it’s all about what you SHOULD do. Feed them vegetables, teach them their 10 times tables (do people still do that?), tuck them into bed on time and so on. Grandparents have no ‘shoulds’, we are the superheroes who step in to the arena (almost) fresh-faced, armed with chilled Prosecco and a home cooked dinner, maybe bearing gifts and definitely with all the enthusiasm in the world for make-believe and stories and bath time and fixing stuff. It’s not a thankless task anymore!
At work I’m a terrific baby-bore but it’s like a secret club. You can have the most prickly conversation in a meeting but at the slightest hint of the wee ones fellow grandparents (you can spot them by peeking at the wallpaper on their phones) are all gushing and smiles. Nothing else really matters actually, yes it’s ok, of course we’ll do that, no problem, anything else? She said what? So sweet. How old? You’ll never guess what he did…
People who work with me know that no matter how stressed I am, just one question about my babies and I suddenly become enthusiastic, all smiles, stories and photos. In fact I think for some of them it’s become a strategy!
I hope I don’t die young, I hope I live to see them have their own children (as my parents have done). But the truth is, they will grow up, I will die and that means we simply must make the most of it. They make the shittiest day ok, even their tantrums melt my heart because I can’t bear them to be sad for a second. They are beautiful and clever. I’ll even admit that they are probably not suffering from some strange disease.
And on balance, making me a Grandmother was a pretty cool decision. Incredible actually.