Thoroughly Modern Grandmother – A Guest Post by Becca Rowan   5 comments

My two-week-old grandson gazes at me, his dark blue eyes focused intently on my face.  I smile at him, singing one of several songs I’ve made up to soothe him when he cries, and maintaining eye contact for as long as he allows.

I hope he’s memorizing my face, associating it with the sound of my voice and filing it away in the data bank of his rapidly expanding brain so he’ll recognize me when we’ve been apart for weeks or months at a time.

I’ve been waiting a long time for this child, the first member of a new generation in our family. Over these years of waiting I’ve developed a lot of expectations about being a grandparent, mostly because my own grandparents were such an integral part of my life. They came to live with us when I was three years old, and their constant presence was an astounding gift.  My grandfather was a gentle, soft-spoken man who taught me to ride a bike and play poker all in the same summer. My grandmother was perpetually busy, flitting from one project to the next, but she always made time to read me a story or play a song on the piano so I could dance and sing along.

My son had nearly the same benefits of grandparental connection as I had, because my own parents lived only a short bike ride away. So I took it for granted that when I became a grandmother I would duplicate the role made famous by my own grandmother and mother. I would be a constant, daily presence in my grandchild’s life, always available to play games, read stories, host overnights, and drive the carpool.  I’d be the lifesaver when mom and dad needed a night out or a weekend away.

I would be There with a capitol “T”.

But it won’t be that simple. My grandson lives over 1,000 miles away – not down the hall, not down the street.  Even if I can manage a visit every month or two, it isn’t the same as dropping by after nap time to go to the park, or running over to babysit at a moment’s notice, or coming along to doctor appointments and shopping trips to provide an extra pair of hands.

How do I reconcile this picture in my mind with the reality of the kind of grandmother I must be in the 21st century?  The kind who reads stories on Skype instead of snuggled in the rocking chair, or the kind who comes to stay for a few days every once in a while, bringing gifts and disrupting the daily routine.  The kind who is an interesting, welcome presence but not really part of one’s life.

Not the way my grandmother was for me.

Not the way I wanted it to be.

Life is all about reinvention. We have to use creativity and imagination to find new ways of making relationships work in the modern world. Although I don’t have a model for the kind of grandmother I need to be, the abundance of love in my heart for this little boy will surely inspire me to create my own model of modern day grandparenting. I’ll learn to make the most of every precious moment we spend together, moments like this one as we sit in front of the Christmas tree singing made up songs and gazing into each others eyes.

And I’ll hope he remembers each one of them as much as I will.

How about you? Were your grandparents an important part of your life? If you have grandchildren, how do you maintain a close relationship with them?

Becca Rowan is a writer, musician, and now a proud grandmother to Connor Alexander, born November 14, 2011. She blogs regularly at Becca’s BylineBookstack, and Write on Wednesday. She is also a Contributing Editor at All Things Girl magazine. If she’s not reading, writing, playing the piano, or cuddling with Connor, you’ll probably find her out walking her two ShihTzu’s or riding her bike.

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5 responses to “Thoroughly Modern Grandmother – A Guest Post by Becca Rowan

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  1. Pingback: The Perfect Subject « Becca's Byline

  2. Becca, it is indeed a real challenge to know what and how to do the long distance Grandmother thing, difficult to say the least. I hardly knew my grandparents at all growing up, they lived many states away and we rarely visited. I did know my great grandmother on my Mom’s side as well as my Mom’s Aunt and cousins as they were all local. I would have liked to have known them all better, but, they also died early before I was able to get out on my own to see them.

    I don’t have any grandchildren yet, my daughter says her dogs and cats as well as the pre-K kids she teaches are more than enough for her. We’ll see… I do see my brothers’ kids about 3 times a year and they range in age from brand new (grand nephews and nieces) to 35 years old. That is pretty much the extent of my grand parenting experience….pretty slight for sure.

    At least you have Skype and that isn’t too bad.

  3. A challenge indeed – life presents so many of those, doesn’t it? Modern technology does make it easier to stay in touch with people. I’ve been posting pictures and little videos of the baby on Facebook everyday so my Mom back in Michigan can watch his progress on a daily basis.

    I hope you get an opportunity to be a grandparent one day, because I think you’d be awesome 🙂

  4. Becca, I’m so glad you can share your thoughts with a new audience — not that you don’t already have lots of fans like me! (Is this Andilit, I wonder? I see that name everywhere!) Your thoughts on your life with — or apart from Connor — are so heartfelt, so genuine. But then so, too, are you. Part of crafting the relationship is wanting it. And you do — that’s half the battle.

    I missed out on the joy of my maternal grandmother, who died before I was born. From what my mother and her best friend, who remembered my grandmother, told me, we were kindred spirits. But I was very close to my dad’s mom and I treasure those memories, holding them in my heart.

    • My paternal grandmother died before I was born, but everyone in my dad’s family tells me I look exactly like her. My aunt always cries when she sees me, saying “you look just like Mama did!” I don’t know anything about her, though, other than that we look alike 🙂

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