In my (super short - ha!) lifetime, I have undergone many role changes. And in all honesty, it has always gone pretty smoothly. Middle school to high school to college - no problem. Single to girlfriend to wife - easy peasy. Becoming a momma, pure joy.
BUT - becoming a grandma has not had that same smooth sailing feeling in my heart. I always see these cute sayings about how amazing it is to be a grandma, and well. . . for me, it has been a struggle.
(I confess all of this because I have never heard anyone else say that earning the grandma badge is anything less than bliss, and I doubt I am alone.)
Hearing I was an expectant grandmother was actually the exact opposite of what I wanted. During my daughter's first pregnancy, I was terrified. She had never been in a poorer condition emotionally, physically, or spiritually. I did not trust that her boyfriend would stick around. I did not know how she would handle being a young mom. Rather than joyful, the situation felt very tenuous.
When my grandson was born, I was totally relieved. He was beautiful, content, and healthy. His momma and daddy, together, worked hard to be good parents. Yet, from my vantage point, grandparenting was hard. Instead of being able to hug and snuggle and spoil that precious baby, I was constantly torn between attending to my grandson and my littlest daughter, who is just 15 months older. The tension in my heart has been difficult. The two babies seemed to be in direct competition for my love and undivided attention. It often felt as if I were failing them both.
NOW, hear me clearly, I have never lacked love for my grandson. Never! And I have always been proud of the way his mommy, my beautiful and courageous firstborn, has risen to the challenge of parenthood.
THEY were never the problem.
My own expectations WERE the problem.
I had always envisioned being a grandma who had lots of TIME for her grandbabies. I planned endless rocking and playing. I was going to lavish my precious grandchildren with undivided attention when they were with me. They were to feel like the center of my universe.
At this point in my life, grandparenting as I had always imagined grandparenting, is impossible. My grandchildren MUST share me with my own children. That has been hard. Mataya has struggled with the role. . . a lot. She has not been sweet and gentle all the time. She has kicked, hit, bitten, stolen toys, etc... She has cried with jealousy and insecurity when I have cared for my grandson. Many times, I am not sure if I should discipline her or reassure her. Which child's needs should I meet first? Who should get the sought after toy, this time? There is a constant tension, both babies struggling to figure out their place in my heart.
Of course, there have been many moments of joy. My grandson is sweet and content and delightful. I have LOVED watching him grow. I have LOVED the many hours he has spent at "LaLa's day care" while his mommy has been at school. (I have cared for him three days a week for much of his life!) I have loved him heart and soul from the moment I knew he was coming. . . I just didn't feel very grandmothery.
Being a grandma and not feeling very grandmothery is a guilty thing. I can not even totally explain it. I LOVED him. I knew he was my grandson, but it just felt odd. Not special, just factual. (I know none of this makes any sense. How can I say I adore him and yet not feel that ushy-gushy grandma feeling? I have no idea. But that is how I felt. I was truly a tiny bit detached and unsure. I was very uncomfortable, doubtful of my ability to succeed in this very important role as grandma.)
And my poor little grandson felt the exact same way. This little people person learned all the names of family members before any other words. His first 15 words were names. He could say momma, and dada, grandpa, Joshua, Riley, TayTay, Rah-Rah (Sierra), Enna (Brenna), and all the names of his daddy's family, too. But he called me, "MOOOM!" Not the cute kind of momma. He belted out, "MOOOM!" like Mataya did when she was in dire need. And every time he did, I ignored him. Or I responded, "Momma is at school. Can LaLa help you?"
He was so frustrated. Everyone else called me "mom" and I responded. However, when he did, nothing happened. Poor little guy. He would repeat "LaLa" when I told him to - but his heart and mind just did not connect with the title.
We tried Grandma. He knew that term. He used it for his other grandma - but in reference to me, it just confused him. I was just this weird lady that loved him, cared for him often, and didn't fit into any box he understood.
And then one day, he and him momma walked into my home and he yelled, "LaaaLaaaa! LaaaaLaaa!"
At that exact moment, my heart melted in a way it had never melted before. For the very first time, I felt like a grandma. HIS grandma. He asked for me! And he asked for me first, not TayTay or Joshua - but LaLa. He claimed me. He gave me a name that no one else had ever given me. It was precious and life-changing for me.
Since that day, we have a game. It is a brand-new game. One I have never played with anyone else, ever before. It is ours, and ours alone.
I walk a few feet away from my sweet grandson and he yells, "LALA!" To which I respond, "loves you!" And he giggles quickly repeating, "LAAAALA" We do this over and over and over, all day long. And it never, ever, ever gets old.
Not a single struggle has changed. The babies are still vying for my attention, all day long. I continue to wonder how to balance the role of mommy and grandma simultaneously. More than likely, I always will. Yet, my heart has changed. I am his LaLa. He has named me. He has claimed me. He has changed me forever.
In just three short weeks, grandbaby number two will arrive. This time I am being gifted with a granddaughter. This time I am not scared. I know the transition will be hard, her parents will be tired and stretched thin. They will struggle to meet the demands of two little ones - BUT they will succeed.
As I await my granddaughter's birth, I am feeling something brand-new. . . joyful excitement. I GET to be a grandma. I will soon hold my tiny, precious granddaughter for the first time. I can not wait. The Lord took my own grandparents home this year, but he is sending me another tiny one to love and mentor and enjoy. I no longer have a grandma, but I get to be a grandma. I CAN use all the love they poured into me and pour it out into these precious, precious babies. What an amazing gift.
Wyatt John, your Lala loves you with a special, all-encompassing love. You made me a grandma, and I am so grateful. Thank you for patiently teaching me how to do my job!