Buddhism has little to say (at least that I know of) about grandmothers. In fact, I can’t think of a religion that does. Why is that? Surely somewhere in human wisdom traditions, someone has considered grandmothers? Because it seems to me, newly annointed grandmother (this weekend!!), that I have been preparing all my life for this new life, this new adventure.
My grandson (and first grandchild) Trinidad David was born Friday. Healthy, beautiful, awaited and welcomed. I wish I could offer each child born all four of those attributes. While every baby has the beauty of its fragility and dependency, so few are welcomed, healthy, and anticipated w/ the expectant joy we all felt waiting for Trinidad.
I immediately bought a card to send. In case I haven’t mentioned it previously, I love to send cards. And write letters. Writers often do, you know. So I went out today to buy a card suitable for my son, daughter-in-law, and Trinidad. It had just the perfect metaphor: Enjoy learning this new language. Illustrated with a diaper, a bottle, a rocker, and other icons. Each bearing a word beneath (waaah).
And humour aside, I’m figuring that even though I speak fluent parent, I have a whole new language and culture ahead of me now. My own grandmothers — all my old ladies, actually all my female elders — were huge parts of my life. As integral in their own different ways as my parents. Perhaps because I KNEW that they loved me. And they didn’t have to. It never occurred to me that parents might not love you (how very lucky a child I was). They were your mom & dad: they HAD to love you. But grandmothers (I had no living grandfathers) and great-aunts? They could choose you. And when they did, what joy! They brought you presents (we bought several this weekend), too!
Somehow, I have to learn how to convey that to Trinidad. I have to remember an almost-forgotten language I once knew very well: the language of small boychild, a bit different (think of it as a regional dialect) from small girlchild. I’ve been practicing w/ my grand-nephew, whom I’ve written about. He applauds the ‘boy toys’ (a wooden spool, a copper spoon, two old Pinewood Derby models and a copper bowl of old coins). He approves the dog toys (balls & pull ropes) I let him play with. He loves the children’s books I’ve saved from my two sons’ childhood, and the ones I’ve collected since. So those I can contribute. What else?
As it turns out, someone HAS thought about what grandmothers contribute: baby-sitting. And not JUST baby-sitting, but baby-sitting that has — literally — changed our species. Science, that nouveau kid in the wisdom classroom, has examined why the Great Ape man has grandmothers, when the other primates do not.
Because no one babysits like a grandma. And baby-sitting, it appears, is mega-important.
Seeming digression: I can not WAIT to hold my new grandson. I adore babies. They entrance me — in that old, magickal meaning; to cause to fall into a kind of trance from enchantment. I can hold babies for hours — my own, certainly. I would hold Trinidad’s father & his uncle, when they were infants, and just make happy noises. Coo, babble, nuzzle. Sing old protest songs, hymns, lullabies, and jazz standards. As happy as bees in clover. I fully intend to rock Trinidad until the rocker wears out.
So this new life, this tiny joining of two families, will be safer than safe with me. It has always been so, I suspect, for the millennia of grandmothers. This is the secret to ‘why grandmothers,’ science proposes. Grandmothers make new babies possible. (and here you thought it was just sex…)
W/out a good babysitter, a new mother is beyond exhausted. Especially primate mothers — holding, feeding, tending, defending. How can she split her attention between two? Not to mention 3, or more! Enter Grandma. Who will hold, tend, feed, defend, and entertain. With joy. And in a mere 60,000 years? The species — all of humanity!! — have longer life spans. Significantly longer. And happy grandmas, moms, and babies. (And we all know that means happy dads & granddads & siblings, too!)
Moral of the story? Many. Mostly that love is beyond immediate quantification. Critical for far more than we can measure, possibly, in the moment. I didn’t think I could be any prouder. But that was before I realised: I’m a Darwinian vector! All because I love a tiny boychild I have yet to hold.