It was a fabulous Thanksgiving. Our seven-year-old–let’s call him Scooter–was giddy with glee that he had a whole week off from school, the first since August. I was similarly giddy with glee to be able to hang out with him all day every day instead of humping away in the office, and also giddy to be getting up to my elbows in from-scratch, old-school cooking, Sancerre in hand and Spotify playing. My husband, The Silver Fox, was giddy with glee as well, clearly because we were hanging out at home, of course, but also because we were spending the holiday with two very special visitors–his daughter and our grandson.
I am a grandma. I’m 43, my only biological child is seven and a half, and I have two grandchildren. This is a classic demonstration of the modern family in action. When older boy meets younger girl (in my case, way younger girl), the fruits of their union include some lesser-known but equally sweet morsels. We’re the dragonfruit of the family tree, and we’re proud of it. It works. Love is love, and it’s all good.
This construction really is easy for anyone to get accustomed to, if I’m honest, and a pleasure to operate within, but it does require that we break down the strict fenceposts of what defines the grandparent profile. First off, let’s be real–I could theoretically have been a biological grandma by now had both I and my progeny started adding to the population really, really young. Even so, the very young parent phenomenon is not the norm, and it’s incidence continues to decrease across the developed world. A grandmother per modern standards is the sixty-something veteran, the post-career ladder, midlife living-it-up expert who can dole out the wisdom the younger generation so sorely needs.
That ain’t me, my friends. Yes, I’ve been around the block once or twice by now and have taken my lumps like the rest of the fortysomething fray. I’m now even stylishly sporting some grays created from the glut of wisdom oozing from my brain (roll your eyes with me here, people). And I understand, I truly do, if but a few of the particularities of living through the common grandparent peer set of the 60s and now 70s, as seen through the eyes of my seventy-year-old husband.
But I’m very different too. I’m still locked into corporate America, still clutching queasily at an operational career that will ensure Scooter a good college education. I also haven’t been to a lot of the life neighborhoods that my fellow grandmothers now are able to cruise through with the top down, no map necessary. In sum, I haven’t yet earned all of my grandma stripes.
Regardless of how I measure up to the traditional definition of the part, however, I do have unique gifts to share as a young grandmother. After this weekend, three of these qualities come to mind that I’ve been happy to witness in myself:
1. Stamina. When The Silver Fox is ready to throw in the hatchet, park the stroller and smoke a cigar, I’m game to wield a bottle against a nap-resistant infant, then clean the living room, load the dishwasher for the 47th time, and still have some juice left in the engine for a glass of wine and a good chat with Junior’s mom. Now let me be crystal clear here–there are women way older than I am who could royally kick my ass when it comes to physical stamina. That is not my point. I am merely stating here that the gas tank has enough energy in it for me to power through a kid and grandkid day relatively unscathed.
2. Know-how. I had an infant myself a short six years ago, and I remember how I did it. Bottles and onesies, bath time and teething toys–it’s still in the front of the hard drive. As an added bonus, I have retained “Mommy Nose”, that elusive of all maternal gifts bestowed during pregnancy, which allows one to smell a dish of day-old salmon from across town. I can tell the diaper is dirty as soon as it is, and can whip on a shiny new nappy in a matter of seconds, but I find I have advice to give too–actual good advice that isn’t nagging overshare–on a variety of subjects from diaper rash to motor skills. On the first day of the visit, I even got a very fussy Junior to fall asleep in my arms for a nap, though he was in a brand-new place with someone he wasn’t too familiar with. I was proud of that. I’ve still got it.
3. Connection. Ever since The Silver Fox and I first got together over ten years ago, I have been in ardent admiration of his daughter’s grace in not only accepting me, but allowing me an ever-deeper role in her life. We talk openly, we enjoy one another, and now she is sharing her son with me and encouraging him to call me Aba (that’s the nickname we’ve come up with). I’m truly blessed in this. What’s cool too is that we are able to cross generational lines here. In these three days of visiting, our conversations have covered not only family and baby business, but also career concerns and even hip-hop. We’re on a different track than a lot of stepmother-stepdaughter combos, but we’re arguably on a closer level as women.
The larger lesson that I’m learning from grandmotherhood is that there is not one recipe that results in success. Scooter is technically Junior’s uncle, but he’s also a seven-year-old helping to take care of a sweet little baby. My husband’s daughter is my stepdaughter, but she’s also a girlfriend within my own generation as a parent. And I, I am a grandma. A grandma with a spectacular rack, a mid-stream career and a running dinner date with the other second-grade moms in Scooter’s class. And like our Thanksgiving dinner, it’s all very, very good.
Image 1 Credit: “Granny Mysteries.” Courtesy of looneytunes.wikia.com
Image 2 Credit: Scooter and me. Courtesy of The Silver Fox’s iPhone.