Tuesday, March 17, 2009

“Glam-mas” – the new breed of grandmothers – a very long post

I read an article the other day about grandmothers who have told their children to not expect them to be hands-on or to baby-sit. I was amazed at how selfish that sounded. Did these women do it all by themselves, so they expect their children to also go it alone? Did they have such poor role models in their parents that they see no other way to act? I don’t know but I was absolutely appalled.

As a product of the baby-boom generation, I had very little interaction with my grandparents, except for holidays and vacations. My mother worked outside the home the whole time I was growing up but our grandparents did not watch us. Her mother had also worked and I remember that she was still working when I was a young child. She died of cancer in 1969 when I was 13 and she was 65. Because she had been working right up until the time she got sick, she wasn’t really available to us except for the occasional weekend visit to our house. One of my last memories of her at our house was during the summer and I was taking her and my mom each a glass of tea. I stepped on a bee and I remember screaming and throwing the glasses up in the air as I fell to the ground. That foot swelled up terribly and was very painful. My great-grandmother (on my dad’s side) took care of us when I was very small but she eventually went to live in Tennessee with my grandfather.

My mom’s parents had divorced many years earlier and he was re-married to a woman who had seven children. He totally cut himself off from his own family and became a devoted grandfather to her grandchildren. I remember seeing them drive by our house on their way to her grandchildren’s home and if we were outside they’d wave at us as they went by. We were terribly jealous and even though we had the obligatory visits to their home for Christmas or birthdays, I don’t believe any of us felt any kind of emotion when he passed away and we felt even less when his wife died. I remember he came to the hospital to see me when I broke my shoulder and when I had knee surgery. I’m sure he visited my brothers when they were also patients.

My dad’s parents were also divorced and remarried. His mom and step-dad lived in Pennsylvania; his dad and step-mom lived in Tennessee. Every year for my dad’s vacation, we’d take the drive to see one and then the other. My grandfather died when I was about 10 or 11 and my step-grandfather died when I was in my early teens. My grandmother then moved to Kansas City to live with my aunt and I saw her whenever my dad would go get her and bring her to the house. Her health was not great and I remember thinking how old she looked and acted. It wasn’t until many years later that I found out she had only been 65 when she died but looked so much older. My step-grandmother was younger but the last time I saw her was when I was 16 and we went to Tennessee. She passed away about 20 years ago.

My own children missed out a lot on the grandparent interaction because we lived in Wichita and my parents lived in Kansas City, MO. I worked but both of my parents were retired. When I’d hear that they took some of the other grandkids to the movies or kept them overnight or even babysat them, I got pretty jealous. I honestly didn’t understand then, and I don’t have a clue still, why they never thought to invite my kids up during the summer. Even if they didn’t want to keep them all at the same time, I would have made back-to-back trips to take them one at a time if they’d only been invited. I think this still sticks in my mind and I really have to work to not be upset about it. My kids had Ron’s mom and step-dad but they didn’t really interact much with them either. My MIL only wanted to keep one at a time so it’s not like we counted on her for babysitting.

So, that brings me back to the glam-mas in the article. I decided that when I became a grandparent I was going to do things differently than my parents and my grandparents. I remember too clearly all the things I feel I missed out on and all the things I feel my kids missed out on with their grandparents. I may not have been the best parent around, but I’m determined to be the best grandparent possible to my grandchildren – and to my step-grandchildren. I think I’ve been as involved with the “steps” as I could have been and as much as their parents let me be involved. Of course, the level of involvement is different for each child as they’ve each had different needs and interests. I’ve babysat when asked (and when I could) and I’ve taken one of them on more than one trip. I’d be more involved if included in the activities, but that’s where the parents have not extended the invitation or information. I’ve worked hard to really “think” of things they’d like for birthdays and Christmases and done my best to provide them with what they’d enjoy instead of just getting something for the heck of it. At times, I’ve given cash if I’ve really been stumped for a gift that would make them excited. (Cash is always exciting!)

When Isaiah was born I wanted to be as involved as I could, even though he lived in Virginia. I was ecstatic when Amy and Isaiah moved back to Kansas because that meant I’d get to be more hands-on. Isaiah has actually lived with us since December 2005 and Amy moved back home after she got out of the Navy in April 2006. I’ve babysat whenever needed and sometimes just because I wanted to keep him. I’ve bathed him, slept with him, rocked him, cuddled him, played with him, made cookies with him, taken him to appointments, gone to teachers’ conferences, gone to school functions, and been his 2nd mother. I’ve loved it and I’ve often told him that I wanted him to never forget how much he was loved by his grandma and his grandpa. (I don’t recall ever hearing those words from my grandparents; I’m sure they said them but I just don’t remember it.)

We’d like to be as involved with Alexander (and his soon-to-be baby sister) but since Shaun and Jenny live in WA, that is a bit harder. It was very nice that Jenny and Alexander were able to stay with us for a month and that we both have Web cams so Alexander can see us and we can see him. I’m very excited to have another grandbaby – a girl this time – but sad that I can’t spend as much time with them as I do with Isaiah. In fact, I’ll be just as sad when Amy and Isaiah move out.

The reasons these glam-mas gave for not wanting to be involved in the lives of their grandchildren were beyond selfish. I don’t enjoy changing dirty diapers or cleaning up vomit, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do it if it was necessary. I have a very weak stomach and it was tough for me to clean up after my own kids. In fact, Ron used to accuse me of marrying him just so I’d have someone else to do it. LOL – it did help that he had an iron-clad stomach.

I feel so sorry for the children and their parents to have family members who care so little for others. What kind of role models are they setting for these children? I have no patience for those would take advantage of the other but it’s not the children’s fault. If the grandparents think the children have no limits, then set some for them so they see how they should behave. If all you can give to a child is love, it’s probably what’s needed most anyway. If the parents of the children are too indulgent, whose fault is it? It can probably be traced back to their own parents. Maybe all the parent received from their own parents growing up was “stuff” instead of attention, time, and love.

I know I’ve rambled long enough on this, but I just had to say how amazed I am – and not in a good way – about how some adults act. Sure, maybe there have been some times when I’ve been less than interested in babysitting a particular night but, big deal. It’s not like I had anything better to do. There were times when maybe staying home with a sick grandchild was less than convenient, but big deal. You deal with the situations as they come your way, make the best of things, and move on. I keep Isaiah because I want to, not because his mother expects me to. I can't imagine not wanting to keep him when I can. Why should I make life more difficult and expensive for my daughter when I can make a difference?

I can’t imagine how empty my life would be if I didn’t have such a close bond with Isaiah. I want the same kind of bond with Alexander and his baby sister – and any other grandchildren that come my way. The time spent with family can never be measured in dollar amounts and lost time can never be recaptured.

These glam-mas are missing so much. I imagine that one day they’ll be old and maybe need to be “babysat” by someone. I can only hope their kids and grandkids show more love and compassion than they’re currently showing their kids and grandkids. They won’t deserve it, but maybe they’ll realize just how much they’ve lost out on.

We can always hope…

No comments: