I was 46 years old when I got the ridiculous news that I was going to be a Grandmother. Who the hell did my daughter think she was, aging me before my time? I knew one thing for certain, I was not going by the name grandma, that was pure crazy talk. When people said to me, “Oh you’re going to be a grandma!”, I would usually have to refrain myself from being the smart-ass shit talker I had been known to be. I would say things like, “No grandchild of mine will be calling me Grandma of all things, don’t be absurd!” I decided early on, that my grandchild could call me “MeMa” or Lisa because that was in fact my given name.
Something happens when you become a grandmother for the first time. People warned me, but like all of humanity, we don’t ever believe people who have actually been through it; we naturally think we know better and dismiss their information as fake news. However, I am here to tell you it’s true, believe it or not! Something changes inside of us, the minute we see this little creature, the next generation, that wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t had their mother or father.
I remember so vividly both of my daughters being born, and the wonderment I felt when I saw their cute little faces for the first time. It was amazing, but somehow someway, laying eyes are your grandchild is even better. I don’t really know how to explain it. All of my bad behavior surrounding me being a young grandma was gone, poof…out the window. Now, I thought to myself, thank god I am young, I can still play with her…
“What a bargain grandchildren are! I give them my loose change, and they give me a million dollars’ worth of pleasure.” — Gene Perret
To add insult to injury, my granddaughter looked exactly like me, acted like me, had my mannerisms, and a lot of the same likes, as well as dislikes. My own children never looked like me, it was insane, but in a good way.
All of this wonderment came to a screeching halt when I discovered that my daughter was a drug addict and my granddaughter was at risk. All of those worries that had hit me when I received the news I was going to be a grandma, were back 100%. Add, to that, you now love this child like you never knew was possible and something could happen to her at the hands of your own daughter, who you also love unconditionally.
Relationships between mothers and daughters are often complicated. We all need our mothers, but they can also drive us crazy. I didn’t think that I was one of those irritating moms until my girls were in High School, and then low and behold, I became embarrassing. Your daughters need you when they become new mothers themselves, but they also know much more than you ever did as a mother and don’t want to be told what to do, ever!
Add complicated mother/daughter relationship to the side effect of drugs, and the fact that you couldn’t bear if anything were to ever happen to your grandchild; you will have a glimpse of what I was dealing with, as well as what a ton of other grandparents in this country is experiencing.
My daughter and her boyfriend were addicted to drugs and living in a car with my grandchild. I never knew where they were or if my grandchild was safe. I would have to wait for their calls and try to gauge things and try to get a location. Sometimes, they would call me during a fight they were having and I would hear the screaming. Sometimes they would call me while driving, and fighting. I had many sleepless nights worrying about my granddaughter, that little light of my life. The only thing that brought me any solace was that for the first year of my granddaughter’s life, my daughter was an amazing mother to her. I had to believe her mother instincts would somehow come through, for my own sanity.
Through many crazy phone calls, many sleepless nights, many days filled with wonder and worry; I ultimately was able to get my granddaughter out of that situation.
Here is what some grandparents raising their grandchildren won’t tell you: We had our children and raised them ourselves. Many of us don’t want to raise our grandchildren because it is our time to get back to being just ourselves as an individual. We love our grandchildren whole heartily, with every cell of our being, and want to be just that…Grandparents!
Throughout this, I have lost my child and I have lost out on being a grandparent to my one and only grandchild. Luckily my granddaughter and I are thick as thieves. I would be lying if I said this was easy. It is a difficult position to have to protect your grandchild from her own mother, which is also your daughter. It is hard to try to make sure my granddaughter doesn’t internalize her mother’s shortcomings as some reflection of herself. My daughter has not seen her child in over a year now and I am faced with the reality that my daughter may not ever get her life together and be able to step back in as a mother. Of course, we hold out hope that raising our grandchild is only temporary, but what if it isn’t?
I hear grandparents that are in the same position say all of the time, “I wouldn’t have it any other way…”, I… call… bullshit! Of course, we don’t want our grandchildren in foster care fighting for our rights to see them. Of course, we don’t want our children to abandon their children for us to raise. Those two statements, in a nurtures heart, don’t make us feel guilty. However, it seems not okay to say, “I don’t want this”; Well I am here saying, right here, right now, that I don’t want this!
I don’t want my granddaughter to not have her two parents. I don’t want my granddaughter to call her Nana and Papa, Mom, and Dad. I don’t want my granddaughter to have to hear about her parent’s shortcomings all of the time. I don’t want to start over from scratch with a toddler, I already raised five children! What I do want is to be a grandmother, in every single sense of the word.
I have set forth an effort to support other grandparents in the same situation and offer solutions. As I started this journey there were very little resources or support and I am determined to change that. If you are a grandparent and you need support and options please visit my website at www.helpinggrandparents.com and let’s tackle re-parenting together to provide better lives and options for our grandkids.