My daughters, myself
I sat at a baby shower for my oldest daughter and husband on Sunday pondering my own days of being large with child, and the recipient of the largess of people who were not my relatives or even long term friends. At both baby showers held for my husband and I, the guests were people who were in my life at that stage: work and church colleagues mostly, since I lived 600+ miles from most of my family and friends from high school or earlier. In our mobile society, this is the norm.
At our daughter’s shower/potluck by her church in northern Virginia (Northern Virginia Mennonite), there was even a couple who had just arrived the night before from Congo.
I had to wonder what they thought of the baby shower customs and rituals (thankfully, there were no shower games played–no little diapers with fake poo (mushed brown candy bars) in them passed for everyone to sniff and guess the type of candy bar, as I’ve played at least one shower).
I thought about how the tables were turning, my daughters becoming mothers. This kind of development is maybe the opposite of the reversal explored in Nancy Friday’s 1970s’ classic book, My Mother, Myself, but just as interesting.
Regarding Nancy Friday’s timeless observations, my sisters and I notice, sometimes with laughter, sometimes with fright, how we are becoming our mother and even our grandmother, especially on mother’s side, who was with us well into adulthood.
(My other grandma died when we were adolescents.) I’m even becoming my sisters: little mannerisms, my looks, people say.
In case the 70s and Friday’s generational “aha” passed you by, see here for a thumbnail description of her book. But my takeaway from that summary is this:
“The greatest gift a good mother can give remains unquestioning love planted deep in the first year of life, so deep and unassailable that the tiny child grown to womanhood is never held back by the fear of losing that love.” —Nancy Friday
I would modify that to say “grown to adulthood” to apply it to boys, too.
Watching my daughters become mothers (one baby is due in 2 weeks, the other is already almost six weeks old) is a gift, (earlier post on Grandma x 2 here) one I wasn’t sure I would be privileged to experience. I am deeply grateful. Those of us who were older mothers or whose pregnancies did not come easily, or ever at all, and found motherhood another way (adoption, foster, or even in vitro) are maybe less likely to take our offspring becoming parents for granted than, for instance, my one aunt who was famous for quipping “all my husband had to do was hang his pajamas on the bed post.” Thank you, Aunt Arlene. (Or was she talking about cousin Arleta??)
All three of my daughters at an earlier double baby shower; in the middle, youngest sister Doreen gets stuck passing out gifts.
I have loved hearing my daughters (mostly by email, Facebook post, or text) discussing varicose veins, having to pee a lot, ultrasound visits, what they’re finding to wear (love the maternity “belly band” which allows you to leave the zipper open on any pants or slacks and still hold them up. Wow, what a great innovation!), comparing weight gains, size of baby, various screenings like for diabetes, products for the nursery, wanting to avoid SUV-type strollers, the emotion of touring the hospital birthing center and realizing and hoping “Oh my, the next time I’m here, I will bring home a real baby! Our baby!”
Their enthusiasm for becoming mothers, even while struggling to sleep with a 15-pound or so basketball attached to their fronts, is gratifying, perhaps a reflection that somehow I and we as parents were able to plant that “unquestioning love deep in the first year of life.”
It is an amazing journey, whether as mother, father, grandmother, grandfather or beyond, and no matter how you follow it. The circle of life.
Top: Dog Ike gets introduced to baby brother Sam, 2013. Bottom: Dog Wendy gets introduced to little sister Michelle, with Aunt Barbara and Uncle Richard, 1981.
Some grandparents talk about payback, meaning that they enjoy grandkids returning the mischief and mayhem they endured as parents. But the payback of watching your kids prepare to become parents and give back the love and care you taught them through long sleepless nights, fussy, tedious days, and sacrificing your own comfort and priorities for theirs, is a far richer benefit.
Like grandmas everywhere, I ponder these harmonies and treasure them in my heart.
How have you enjoyed seeing your kids become parents? What stands out? If they’re still kids, what are you hoping to get in payback?
Then and Now Photo Gallery
Sam gets his first kitchen sink bath with Grandma Melodie’s assistance. 2013. Michelle gets her first kitchen sink bath with Grandma Miller’s assistance, 1981. (Like all babies everywhere, there are more photos of baby #1’s first everythings than baby #2 or 3. Yeah.)
Baby Sam at three weeks with father Jon, 2013. Baby Tanya at two weeks, (Sam’s mother,) 1983. Do they look alike?
Top: Michelle meets baby sister Tanya, 1983. Bottom: Michelle waves hello to all the people out there in the far over Internet land, courtesy of Grandpa and Grandma Miller, 1981.