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Gentle Grandmothering

As I approach my first completed year as a Nana, I have some thoughts about what it’s meant to me to be a hands-off grandmother. I was initially surprised when Meghann invited me to her birth and early postpartum period, thinking she would think I might meddle, but really glad she knew I wouldn’t. I ended up at her home for one week before the birth and five weeks after; it was perfect.

Meghann had some nursing challenges, some of which I was able to help with, others of which we needed others’ knowledge to solve. I didn’t feel any territorialism at all when she reached out to the Lactation Consultant or Pediatrician when the limits of my expertise had been exceeded, although I could see how other mothers, especially midwife/doula mothers could feel that way. I believe it takes a great deal of maturity that comes with years (and I have puh-lenty of years!) to be able to set aside that know-it-all belief and allow others in to help when their help is needed. If you as grandparent are able to do so at a younger age than I am, good on you, but I honestly believe I would not have been able to do so much younger than I am now.

When I was at Meghann’s those early weeks, I had my own room on my own side of the house and was careful not to overstep my boundaries, being where I was needed, going where I was asked. When things got harried, Meghann was texting me in the middle of the night and I was going to her to help her get latched on and make sure things were the way they were supposed to be, but otherwise, she and Brian were on their own, nursing, changing diapers, all the new parenting things… unless they needed extra help. I was there and more than glad to assist, but didn’t want to interrupt their parenting time; I know how precious it is.

What I did do was all the stuff that falls through the cracks. I changed the bed every day. I cleaned the bathroom twice a day. I made sure the trash was empty several times a day. I did the laundry continuously. When Meghann went to the bathroom, I straightened the area she was sitting/sleeping in in the living room. I made sure there were diapers for the baby in the area where she was. Brian was more in charge of food for her, but I would clean the dishes and kitchen when necessary.

By the time I left, they were pretty self-sufficient with everything I had been doing and I felt comfortable going. Of course, I wish I could have stayed longer, but I was glad Meghann and Brian were doing so well. They had transitioned to parenthood so beautifully.

While home, I would still get questions every once in awhile, but more likely, I would hear about how the new family was doing things. I remember hearing how they had read “Baby-Led Weaning” and were going to feed Gabriella that way instead of the La Leche League one food at a time way my kids had. It took a few minutes of “What?! You’re not doing it my way?” But, I listened to Meghann and read online about the method and was proud that I could grow and change even after all these years of something so new and different. When Gabby began eating the newfangled way and there were no untoward effects, I could breathe easy and chuckle inside that Meghann was, in fact, doing everything right. Still. Still doing everything right. She really is such a good mom. And I tell her as much as often as I can. I am so proud of her, listening to her instincts, learning new ways the way I did back when I was a new mom.

Recently, Meghann started Juicing and as I questioned her, we did this dance of my asking questions and she answering. I work hard to be respectful, not shoving her against the wall, forcing her to be defensive and angry, but giving her the space to explain what she is thinking and allowing her the time to let the story unfold. I could be snotty and judgmental and create a place of discomfort between us, but what would that serve? I want to keep things between us close and friendly. I have a vested interest in having things good so I can see my granddaughter often and in a positive environment. I don’t want my relationship with my daughter or my son-in-law to be negative or uncomfortable ever; I love them! And don’t I want to be nice and kind to those I love? Of course I do.

I’m about to visit again in a couple of weeks to be there for Gabriella’s first birthday and I want to make sure I don’t step on Meghann or Brian’s toes as far as parenting goes. I always want to defer to their wishes while sharing my ideas and thoughts along the way if they’re interested. One way I ask if they want to know my opinion is to say, “Oh, that’s new to me. We did it such-and-such a way” and leave it open to them to discuss it if they want to. If they don’t want to talk about it, we don’t. I don’t say, “Why don’t you do this?” or even, “Why don’t you try this?” because this is their baby and they get to raise Gabriella their way. I got to raise Meghann my way; now it’s their turn with their baby, no matter how much I might want to do it my way or might disagree with what they are doing. (Which I am not disagreeing with at all.)

There have been a couple of topics that needed to be discussed (usually mother/daughter topics) and I decided to email Meghann instead of talking over the phone and that worked great. Both of us being writers, it is a method of communication we’re comfortable with. Others might feel better talking on the phone, but email works for us.

What if I did ever step over the boundaries of being a too nosy grandma? Poking my business into theirs too much? I would hope Brian and Meghann would feel comfortable telling me, without hesitation, that I am offering advice where I wasn’t asked for any. Both my daughter and son-in-law are so kind and gentle they would never be rude, so I know they would do their best not to hurt my feelings, but I want them to know their family comes first, not my feelings. I’ve told them they can tell me anything at any time and I would be open to listening to what they had to say. I would hope they’d like to hear what a voice of experience has to say, too, but that ultimately, the choice is theirs and I am to understand that.

I think that this understanding right from the start makes things easier. There aren’t any hidden agendas or manipulative schemes between us. The clearer the communication, the better the relationship.

As I move towards the second year as Nana, I hope it goes just as smoothly as this first year did. I hope that Meghann feels as comfortable asking me questions about childrearing as she has and at the same time exhibiting her independence as a new mom as she does. She and Brian are amazing parents. They make great decisions together and I support them whenever I can. I’m just glad they support my place as maternal grandma. It’s a unique and wonderful place I wouldn’t trade for anything. 

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Reader Comments (2)

What a beautiful post. You're an amazing mama and grandma!

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

Awwww! You sound like an AWESOME grandma! Meghann is lucky to have you and you them as well. What a great relationship. I wish my mother was like you, haha. :)

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJessica Wakefield

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