Why I Love Being a Grandmother
We all remember our grandmothers. They are often part of the loving, kind and gentle memories of childhood. But what about becoming a grandmother? Barbara Graham gathered the wisdom of 27 top writers who talk about the joys as well as the complications of grandmotherhood.
Adapted From Eye of My Heart, edited by Barbara Graham, HarperCollins Publishers, April 2009.
Stepping Into the Shoes
For me, stepping into the shoes of a grandmother was sobering and thrilling, scary yet comforting. Although the coming of Isabelle Eva secured the continuity of some fragment of the ancestral essence I carry from my own Russian-Polish-German-Jewish stew—sparking in me an unexpected but palpable sense of relief—I was also acutely aware that her arrival moved me up a notch in the life cycle.
On Becoming an Ancestor
The day my first grandchild was born I looked at him and knew that I would never die. All my life I had searched for first causes, tried to reconcile mortality with the goodness of life, tried to comprehend infinity, to undestand how I fit into such incomprehensible vastness. I had studied philosophy, read thousands of books, contemplated particle physics, meditated, done yoga, sat zazen. And here was the answer: a little boy carrying my DNA, looking up at me with huge dark eyes. My lifelong dread of death fell from my shoulders like a worn-out cloak.
I’ve discovered that you become a woman the way you become human—over and over again—and that both processes are rooted in surrendering to more pain than you may feel is fair, but pain woven into our earthly existence. There’s something else I’ve come to realize. Just as my son’s birth was a kind of baptism, cracking me open in so many ways—a phenomenon sometimes referred to as the “double birth” of mother and child—the circumstances of Vaun’s birth unexpectedly cracked me open again; but this time it was a “triple birth” of mother, son, and grandmother.
Only by growing old can we witness our grandchildren growing older. It’s an existential trade-off. We lose years, they gain them.
—Letty Cottin Pogrebin
Ten Straight Days
I lay down, listening to my grandson’s breathing, thinking about God and humility. I was not perfect; it was arrogant and self-centered to think I should be. I thought about how God loves me just the way I am—so maybe I should, too? I remembered how as a teenager I’d condemned myself for my poor mothering, for never knowing the right thing to do. I was almost forty years older now, and I still didn’t know. But I was trying as I’d always been trying—with one big difference. I believed in God now and could ask for help.
Everything That Goes Up Must Come Down
In the eyes of our grandchildren, we are the past come to meet them, a living link ready to connect them to a larger lineage—their own history, ours, the history of the planet. We are the doorway to the vast continents of time that existed before they were born, and that will exist after they too die.
Gained in Translation
We gathered to hold a naming ceremony for my granddaughter, a fourteen-month-old girl born in China and adopted by a father who is half-Bengali, a quarter Anglo-Dutch, a quarter French-Canadian; and a mother who is part German and Irish. There was no direction from priests, pastors, swamis, or monks. We were celebrating mixture, not purity; improvisation, not uncompromised ritual.
Now You See Me, Now You Don't
Indeed, the kind of love this new one resembles is that most universal and best-documented of genres, teen love: the same giddy absorption, the same loss of all sense of proportion, the same transcendent idiocy, when a mere glance from the beloved in the school cafeteria could send us into fluttery spasms.
—Lynne Sharon Schwartz
It’s a deep connection between mother and daughter. So when all my friends told me that being a grandmother was “the best,” I wondered. What could be better than this? My friends shook their heads. “Whatever you expect, it will be better.” I was curious and eager to find out for myself, but this is a job you can’t apply for.
If You Knew Harry...
Years ago, when I was in college, I met a mother of three grown children, an artist, unusually independent–minded among the women of my mother’s generation. “I want to be a mother,” I told her when she asked about my plans for the future. “Good idea,” she said, “as long as you know that from the moment a baby is put in your arms, his wings are growing and it’s the wings you’re in charge of protecting.”
Sitting Here In Limbo
Until my grandson was born, unconditional love was an abstract concept, a phrase I read in self-help books or heard from the mouths of the studiously spiritual on my way somewhere more immediate and tangible than pondering the nature of love. But when my grandson arrived, I immediately loved him unconditionally and with abandon. Oddly, through discovering this new kind of love for him I have come to understand that the love I offered my daughter was no less profound or sincere for being thick with responsibility.
They Make Me Happy
My grandchildren are my antidepressants. When I am with them, I laugh and I look. When we see a hummingbird or pick raspberries, I am as happy as they are. Our mutual affection has taught me about pure and nearly perfect love.
Tumbling Across Time
In the end we grandmothers have always wanted the same things. We want our grandchildren to grow up happy and safe and to live good, long lives. We want our spiral helix of talents and quirks, bones and wit, to tumble on across time.
How I Got to Be Queen of England
I think I’ve been ready to be a grandmother since I knew what grandmothers were. Mostly what I liked about my grandmother was that she was revered. So far as I could tell, it was like being queen of England, minus the inconvenience of having to wear a crown.