How Becoming a Reluctant Grandparent Helped Me Find Joy
What my Granddaughter Has Taught Me About Parenting and Life
The journey to grandmotherhood did not look the way I thought it would.
I envisioned planning a beautiful wedding and watching my daughter beaming at her soon-to-be husband as she walked down the aisle.
It never happened.
The news was painful when my daughter told my husband and me that she was pregnant. It was a shock, and while I supported her, I was scared. I didn’t know what the future would bring.
As a mother, you think you have some semblance of control, but things don’t always work out the way you think.
I can’t tell you exactly when it started to happen, but one day I realized when I thought about this precious life growing inside my daughter, I started loving it.
At Christmas, I bought my daughter several baby books, one of them titled, The Day You Were Born, about the child’s birth being a celebration. She cried as she opened the presents and read what I’d written inside.
But it wasn’t just the written words I wrote in this children’s book that brought tears to our eyes; it was so much deeper.
My daughter had her own fears, feelings, and challenges to work through. She was brave and courageous.
I longed for my words to speak to the depths of her heart, for her to hear what words couldn’t say, “Everything was going to be okay, and that no matter what, there was nothing that could ever separate my love for her; no hurt or disappointment or anything. I would always be there through thick and thin. She mattered more than anything. She wasn’t alone, and we were in this together. Nothing could ever change that.”
As the months got closer, we bought baby clothes and picked out a crib, and her close friend and her mother (a close friend of mine) threw her a baby shower.
Honestly, this wasn’t always easy. At times it was painful.
My mantra became surrender, and the message I kept hearing was, “the most important thing you can do is love.”
The greatest challenge of all was wrestling with what love looks like when you realize that no matter what you try to do, you have no control. There’s a shedding of self that must happen to move into this space.
From the moment she was born to fireworks going off outside, it was love at first sight.
Early in the morning on the 4th of July, I got the call that her water had broken. I took a quick shower, threw on some clothes, and brushed my teeth. When I arrived at the hospital, I waited with her and her boyfriend for over twelve hours.
We discover joy in the strangest of places – through circumstances and situations that don’t look the way we envisioned.
Joy doesn’t always come packaged the way we expect.
It sneaks up and startles you. You’re forever changed, and the better for it.
This is my granddaughter.
From the moment she was born to fireworks going off outside, it was love at first sight, from her black curly hair to her precious face.
Watching her head as it emerged was one of the most miraculous, joyous events of my life.
The love I felt was overwhelming. I cried.
It didn’t matter the circumstances of how she came into this world. She was here, and I was filled with wonder, awe, and joy.
She’s now 27 months, pure delight, like a tornado, and squealing laughter, yelling, “Grammie, come get me.” “Grammie, look…. jump…. skip to my lou…Hold me.”
She cries when I leave.
She’s given me the greatest gift. I don’t have to perform. I’m learning all I need to do is be.
I’m a recovering people pleaser. Historically, I’ve always believed that I’ve had to earn love.
My granddaughter’s love is free, and through her presence, I feel God’s love in a palpable way.
The love I feel when I look into her eyes and marvel at her unique spirit and being, I think to myself, “Could this be how God sees me? Can God possibly love me like I love her?”
Each of my children stole my heart, I love them with all my being. However, somehow I didn’t fully grasp unconditional love with my own kids.
I was too busy trying to earn my place as a good enough parent in the same way I thought I had to earn love.
Trying to do parenting “right” caused me so much stress and exhaustion.
With my granddaughter, all she wants is me. She doesn’t care about anything else.
I don’t need to perform or work so hard. As a result, I just enjoy her.
Lately, I’ve been pondering how life might be different if I would show up in this way with everyone I encounter, most of all myself.
The longer I’ve been a parent, the more I’ve begun to realize that nothing is really about me.
What I do know is; being a mother has taken on a different meaning since Leila came into my life. I see that I need to let go of my death grip and be willing to surrender my plan and my agenda. Instead, I want to allow whatever comes down the pike to change the way I love.
I don’t want to waste precious time trying to force my fantasy family photo into the image of what I thought it was supposed it be.
I am committed to savoring these days.
So much of my kid’s childhoods I would love to relive, just so I could remind myself to slow down. I was running so fast.
When I’m with her, I never want to be in a hurry. Take a nap, yes! But never rush. I don’t have to go anywhere when she’s around. I know before long, she will be five, ten, sixteen, and then twenty. I don’t want to miss these precious years. I know how fast they go.
I feel like a child again.
Laughter fills the air.
Have you ever noticed how much little kids laugh? Their joy just bubbles up. They are free and untethered. She makes me laugh at the simplest of things.
Life isn’t complicated when you’re a child.
Feelings just are. When they’re tired, they’re naughty. When they’re hungry, they cry. When they want something, they yell. I love her honesty.
I wish I could yell and throw a fit sometimes or say no with the same determination and ease.
She makes me want to be more honest too.
Leila’s entry into this world has taught me so many things. I have been forever changed by circumstances that came packaged so differently than I would have chosen.
But none of that really matters now. She’s shown me what does.
Dear Precious Mom,
Maybe your heart is aching right now. Maybe there’s something in your life that isn’t the way you wanted or pictured it would be.
It’s painful and hard. You wish you could just somehow fix it, tie it up with a bow or throw it away. You look at it and it’s just messy and ugly.
Perhaps there’s shame and embarrassment tied up in it. You feel alone.
It’s what we do with the messy circumstances in our lives that can actually bring healing, transform us and lead us to joy.
I want so much for us to unwrap it and be courageous enough to look inside. Who knows what we might find there.
Walking this crooked path with you.