An open letter to a grandmother
By Joanne Penney
An Open Letter to Grandmothers near and far, from one mother to another
Dear grandmothers all,
In two short months I’m joining your esteemed rank. No longer only a mother, but a grandmother, and I have so many questions about my new role.
When I became a mother, the greatest joy of my life, I did not believe it was possible for my heart to be filled with any more love than the love I had for my daughter, but one look at my daughter’s grandmothers taking turns holding her, this coming together of two women previously unknown to each other, told me there was a tender, patient, generous love that I was not yet able to access, but had been the recipient of in years gone by. They worked seamlessly, one making a christening gown, one the intricate knitted shawl to go with it, one baking the cake and the other decorating it. Cooperation and teamwork flowed without fuss. Such a lucky baby to be shared and nurtured by two amazing elders.
Now I step back and watch my friends becoming grandmothers, I think back to my own grandmothers, and I observe grandmothers quietly in public interacting with grandchildren in an attempt to see the parameters of this new role, and what is so grand about it. I feel the grandest part of it is this is a privilege that time bestows on us, we don’t have to do anything to make it happen, other than mother. Grand mothering simply is, and because of this there is no plethora of how-to books, no instruction manuals, but there are our own experiences.
As a change of life baby, I wasn’t privileged to have my grandmothers around for joining the ranks of the married and entry to the circle of motherhood so I’ve had to look to others to see what the role of grandmother will mean to me. The first great secret I have found is that grandmothers are the keepers of wisdom and in charge of the passing on of family lore.
It was through my maternal grandmother that I learned the pain of miscarriage. I was around fifteen when she finally spoke about it. How I longed to speak to her when I lost my first pregnancy, even though I knew I was not alone, and everything would work out because she had walked this road long before me, and I was unknowingly walking it in preparation for my own daughter in her time of grief.
Grandmothers are generous with their time, lending an ear, imparting wisdom that only comes with age and lived experience. I worry that I am still too young to impart wisdom to my grandchild, but I paid attention and I have the family lore, the stories that make up our family history, that acts as webbing tying us together regardless of blood or DNA or paperwork. These are the ties that bind with the special love only a grandmother can give. I thank my mother in law for weaving together her many grandchildren when my marriage fractured, for without her efforts I fear my daughter may not know her paternal heritage, and I would not have found a role model to cry and laugh with during hard times and good, my mother in law turned surrogate grandmother.
Grandmothers are the keepers of our history too, and so we must be storytellers at heart. This is another gift of time that allows the passing on of important information turned into a bedtime story or trip down memory lane. There is a history of writers on my mother’s side, and it is her I am thankful for this gift, this passion. She instilled a love of poetry in my daughter while she was still learning to walk, and I intend to continue this tradition.
Grand mothering seems to be a natural, more relaxed, extension of mothering, with stories and wisdom sprinkled on top of a heart filled with love. Gone are the formal requirements of mothering, replaced with more fun and the ability to mix up the routine a little, because as the saying goes, when Mum says no, ask Grandma.
Bio: Joanne Penney is a freelance writer and journalist. She has a Masters in Writing from Deakin University. Her most recent publications include Guardian Australia, Independent Australia and Mamamia. You can follow her on Twitter @PenneyWrites.
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