Why does it feel so different?
If I am candid, I didn’t love being a mother. Initially, when my children were born, I was in wonder and love with them, of course; but the truth is that no one tells you how difficult parenting is. I had two children of my own from my first marriage, and when I remarried, I became the step-mom to three more children. Our respective ex’s were not engaged with raising any of our five children, so it fell on my husband and me. Another dose of truth serum is that not all husbands participate as much as mothers need too.
When I met and fell in love with my 2nd husband, neither of his kids had been diagnosed with disabilities; two of his three children we special needs. One had severe autism (which didn’t show up until he was a bit older than two years old), and his daughter had behavior issues that showed up once she started school. I had noticed something was off one day with my husband’s youngest son; he fell and got a goose egg on his forehead and had no reaction what so ever, not one tear. Of course, seeing that he didn’t seem to notice that he was injured was alarming and set me on a mission to figure out what was going on.
Now to be clear, my children were not easy either. I married very poorly the first time around, and some of the complex traits my first husband had been inevitably passed on to my children. Also, to add another layer, my children were bi-racial, my first husband is black, and my new husband was white. Statistically, 50% of all marriages fail, 50% of marriages that combine a family fails, and 75% of marriages with an autistic child fail, so the odds of my new husband and I succeeding were slim to none. However, I loved my 2nd husband and was determined to make it work. I have never been one to take an easy road, unfortunately.
My oldest was very smart and always advanced but had more attitude in one finger than most people have in a lifetime. My youngest daughter was a daredevil, afraid of nothing and virtually tried to give me a heart attack on the daily. Our oldest son, although not special needs, did not like this combined family and did not enjoy having special needs siblings. All of our children were also dealing with the fact that they did not have active biological parents; our family was it. Nothing about our family was painless, which is why I have to admit that being a mother was not my favorite thing.
However, my husband and I survived; we raised all five of our children to adulthood successfully. All of our children moved out and went to college or trade school, accept for our youngest, who is now in assisted living. My husband and I were looking forward to having an empty nest and finally experiencing what it would be like to be he and I; we had never had that due to combining a family.
During all of this, my oldest daughter had had some issues after she moved out and away with drug use. She cleaned her act up and finished trade school and then gave us a grandchild. The week our last child moved out was the same week we ended up taking in our granddaughter. We officially had three days of an empty nest.
I was there for my granddaughter’s birth, and all though I was not excited to be a grandparent initially, because I knew my daughter wasn’t ready to be a mother, and I was only 46 years old; when she was born, I was delighted and madly in love. I was actively involved with my granddaughter; every other week, I made the three-hour drive to visit her.
I started to see signs that my daughter was going down a destructive path, and ultimately my grandchild ended up with us, and again my husband and I were parents. Certainly, he and I make a good team, and this scenario was no different.
What I am finding is that having one child is vastly different than having five, and she is an absolute joy. I am also older and wiser from all that I had to face with our kids. Things roll off of my back so much easier now. Because she is my granddaughter, the dynamic that a mother and daughter have is not there. Everything my granddaughter does is adorable, yes, I am raising her, and I have all of the responsibilities of a parent, but I also have the attitude of a grandma. Grandmas embrace their grandkids for who they are, and are just happy to be a part of their life; that is precisely how I feel.
Every day I am glad that my granddaughter is safe and that I can watch her grow up and love her.
I do have a new set of issues that come along with raising a grandchild. Most issues affect me indirectly but will impact my grandchild. One example, I was taking her to her gymnastics class, and I was the old lady with all of the young moms. The gymnastics teacher said, “ok, Mom’s, let’s start check-in.” I don’t want my granddaughter ever to feel bad that she is living with her grandma. I don’t want the other kids to ask her where her mom is, and I don’t ever want her to feel like her mother and father’s choices to live a dysfunctional life is any reflection of her. I can’t protect my granddaughter from those things, but I hope that people understand that families can look many different ways and not judge her.
My life has taught me many things, but I know for sure, this amazing girl that I am blessed to call my granddaughter will teach me much more, and I am eager to learn.