The Third Third

Grandma Love

To be a grandparent is to enter into a netherworld of new, heretofore unexperienced emotions -- especially love. Not that we don’t know the deep abiding love of spouse. Nor that we haven’t realized the unconditional love we have for our own children.  Nor that we haven’t learned, over the years, how to extend our love to others, and especially to friends. Grandma Love is not necessarily better than any other; it’s just so much purer, so blessedly uncomplicated, so easy.  

It comes with the added bonus sometimes, too, of intensified love -- and awe -- for your child, the new parent, as his infinite capacity to love unfolds and as he delights in his child with tenderness, patience, and joy he didn’t (and you probably didn't) even know he had. 

When Sam, our first grandson was born, women who had become grandmothers before me -- to a person -- welcomed me into their exclusively extravagant Grandma/Nanna/Granna/Mimi/Whatever-you-will-be-called society with enthusiasm.  “Isn’t it just the best?” “Aren’t you soooo in love?”  “There’s nothing else like it, is there?”  “Don’t you just want to hug him forever and never let him go?”  “How often will you get to see him?”  “Enjoy every minute!”  They sent me cards and flowers, an envelope for photos, instructions to post grand-baby photos on Facebook, books, and gifts for the baby.  Already these relationships themselves were less complicated than most others with my peers -- probably because there’s nothing else at stake here. We’re simply grandmothers.  

We all know there’s no contest: every grandchild is beautiful and brilliant, indeed God’s gift to the world. We spot each other bragging rights.  Mothers of babies and young children, on the other hand,  will bond over their common experiences and the ability to support one another and the exchange of information that ensures they’re not the only ones with diaper rashes, sleepless nights and all the rest, but at the same time, they’re keeping score.   I know I was.  Do my parenting skills measure up?  Is my baby sitting up when she should?  How did she get her post-natal figure back so quickly?  Do I really have to spend $900 for the “it” stroller? 

And they’re worrying.  Is there anything wrong with my baby -- her burps, her poop, her vision, her disposition, her brain?  What if she gets hurt?  Can I protect her from scrapes and scratches, broken bones, a broken heart and the ugliness of the world? 

And they’re conflicted.  How will I ever make time for myself?  Do I have to go back to work?  Do I dare go back to work?  How do I balance my career, my marriage, my child?  What happened to my life? 

Grandmothers, you see, have none of this.  Been there, done that, to be sure.  But now we have arrived in Nirvana, where our love for this new little miracle is luxuriously simple.  We just have to be there; we simply have to be.  And there’s really no “have to.”  We get to be there; we get to be Grandma.  And we have the precious opportunity to love that way -- with no agenda, no expectations, no needs.  

After three months of loving Sam, I am convinced it is one of life’s ultimate privileges.  

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