By Jeanine DeHoney
One thing I will admit. I am very opinionated when it comes to being a grandmother. I suppose throughout the years, this has been a thorn in my grown children’s lives. As sage as I might think I am, as adamant as I am about getting my grandmotherly points across, ultimately they are the ones who make the final decision about my grandchildren, a grandson, and two precious granddaughters.
At times, I have felt like a buoy trying to remain afloat in a sea of “This is my child,” mantras especially when my daughter was expecting.
The relationship with my daughter, my youngest child and only daughter, seemed to blossom during her pregnancy. We texted often whenever she had a break at work. I was constantly sending her e-mails with articles chock full of pregnancy advice, and funny jokes to help her laugh as she dealt with the physical and hormonal changes taking place in her once model like body. I totally delighted in the fact that her womanhood and impending motherhood had finally caused our melodies to be in mother/daughter synch.
But I am a creature of habit when it comes to my grandmotherly urgings. I knew that when my second granddaughter was born, that I would boldly step into territory I probably should tread lightly in. I couldn’t help but blunt out guttural suggestions whenever I was in her presence. Even before my granddaughter was born, I sometimes had restless nights worrying about her impending motherhood. “Did you take your prenatal vitamins? Are you gaining enough weight, etc.? My questions seemed boundless.
It wasn’t that she wasn’t taking care of herself because she was or that she wasn’t going to be a great mother because I knew that she would, I just worried about the elongated checklists that filled an expectant and a new mother’s day and whether it would overwhelm her or she would forget to do something if I wasn’t there to remind her.
When my granddaughter was born, I seemed to go into grandmotherly overdrive. I didn’t even allow my daughter the serene filled bliss of breastfeeding without me putting a thorn in their bonding by asking, “Are you sure she’s getting enough milk.” I didn’t allow her the time to calm my granddaughter when she was fretful through the soothing of her touch and her voice before offering to take her and swaddle her because that might work best.
I was letting my apprehensions run amok instead of letting my daughter find her own way with her newborn daughter, my granddaughter, and reassuring her. I’m sure during those first few weeks at home she needed to see the glint in my eye and not the furrows above my brow. She needed my voice to be a cushion for her own worries and to be molasses coated. Looking back, I wish I had told her “I am so proud of you and you are absolutely going to love this new chapter in her life.”
Years of maternal insecurity in my own right had made it difficult to offer her these words. Though my own mother had good intentions, though she was ninety-five percent right most of the time in the advice she gave me, her stepping in too much, instead of letting me find my way around this motherhood role often made me feel inept.
Remembering that, should have made me even more determined not to have this be a blueprint for her. But like I said, I was a creature of habit. Some offenses of the past were too intricate to tear up mentally and scatter in the wind even when I knew I should.
One day though when I heard that sound of insecurity in my daughter’s voice during a phone call, I knew that I had to change for her sake and the sake of our relationship. I had to allow her to mother on her own. She was akin to a long line of women who in spite of their flaws, their maternal tapestry was strong, including mine. We weren’t perfect mothers, but we all had glorious fibers weaved in our spirit that allowed us to nurture and love and safe keep our children that were too tightly woven to unravel. My daughter needed to embrace that truth, but she could only do this if I stepped back and allowed her to.
So I was forced to press a pause button when it came to offering advice. My daughter will have ordinary, sometimes discouraging, sometimes heavenly, and sometimes anxious along with countless other tender loving memorable moments with her daughter now twenty-two months old. I will have to trust that I have taught her everything that I know about mothering and that her learning curve as a mother is continuous as she discovers the nuances of parenting on her own.
Hopefully I will not lose my newfound balance and slip into my old ways again. Hopefully she will never have to ask me in livid frustration. “Mommy, whose child is this?” Hopefully I won’t have to morph away and say “Yours sweetheart,” recognizing defeat but loving the ramifications of it because I can step back into the incredible totally life-changing role I was destined to have as a grandmother.