Friday, August 17, 2012

Grandparenting---21st Century

This grand parenting thing isn't easy.  I guess I should have known, but somehow, I believed, and this seems to be my philosophy of life, I would just fall into it.  Not so much....

Most things in life, at least my life, we learn by observing and then just doing.  Aside from the book learning that may get us a job in life that pays money, or teaches us, (sometimes), how to learn a new skill, I am of the "wisdom is experience" bunch.  So, I naively thought being a grandma would somehow just happen over the course of about a week.  But no, couldn't be that easy. 

My teachers of grand parenting are, well duh, my grandparents. I remember what they did and how they did it and what I felt like as the grand child.  I had two distinctly different sets of grandparents.  My dad's parents were old and had been around the grand parenting block for 20 years when I came along.  Even in their early years of this title, they were hard nosed German-American stock, where surviving and making a living were their chief concerns.  I don't remember ever, really cuddling with either of them, heck, I don't  remember even sitting on Grandpa Walter's lap.  My mom's parents, on the other hand, were the exact opposites.  Mom was the eldest child and I was the first grandchild for Grandma and Grandpa Laurenz.  They were thrilled.  My brother and I had them all to ourselves for almost 5 years before my sister and then my cousin came along.  I believe they treated all their grandchildren well, because they just delighted in being grandparents, but I hold true, in my heart of hearts that I was their favorite.  I am told, though my memory is a bit blurry before my sister came along, that I would climb into my Grandpa's lap on every occasion to explore his bib overalls for the piece of Juicy Fruit gum that resided in his top, front pocket.  He told me that there was a time in his life, (I later learned it was a cancer scare), that he didn't care about much, but that he and I would sit under a tree and while away many a summer afternoon.  These non memories always bring me great comfort, and I can honestly say, when my grandpa passed it was one of the most wrenching experiences of my life.

I can't remember a time when Grandma and Grandpa L. were not a part of my life.  We spent countless hours with them, (even more the first years of my life that I have no real recollection of), and I would guess they were the Norman Rockwell ideal of grandparents or the television epitome of  Grandma and Grandpa Walton.  They came to every birthday and always brought a small toy for my brother if it were my birthday and the same for me when it was his, so no one felt left out.  Birthdays then consisted of the immediate family and Grandma and Grandpa L.  Occasionally, because my birthday was so close to Christmas, we would combine a party and a few more aunts and uncles and cousins would be in attendance, but for the first decade of my life, Grandma and Grandpa were it.  I never lacked for a big party, no one I knew had big birthday parties.  I had lots of love all around me and that's what mattered.

When my own children came along birthday parties had evolved into our nuclear family which included brothers, sisters and the grandparents.  My kid's cousins were always in attendance.  And my grandparents still came to every one of the great grand kid's birthdays. But we still pretty much stuck to immediate family and get together s were always a chance to see one another for the adults as much as the kids.  We lived farther away from each other and these times were our excuses. 

There were kind of unwritten rules for watching the grandchildren.  Neither grandmother was ever asked to watch the kids for a night out at our house.  That was when we hired a teenage girl.  It is how I made money in high school before I could drive and how the neighborhood girls of my baby's time made their money.  Grandparents took our kids on the overnight stay when WE, (Kurt and I), needed a vacation.  It wasn't often as we were more home bound parents back then.  Once the kids were old enough to be involved in youth and summer sports our world narrowed down to that time frame.  We went out less if that is possible, because most of our recreational activities centered around their sports activities.  We took family vacations.

Now I am a grandma and Boy, have the rules changed.  We spent months before the grandchildren were even born deciding what should be our monikers.  Grandma and Grandpa were too old fashioned. MeeMaw, MiMi, MeMe, Nana, Nanny were also discarded.  (If you notice, apparently what I would be called was much more important than Grandpa).  Now a year later, I have decided that whatever they call me as long as they call me, (a bad joke, I know), is fine.  I am leaning toward Minga with Vittoria as that seems to be her favorite word right now and since her time with me is short and my affection rating with her is kind of low it might be the "in" I need.  Luca, on the other hand, is pretty willing to go to everyone when he doesn't want something specific, like climbing my stairway.  He'll likely call me Grandma and that's OK. 

One of the unforeseen complications is being the mom of the sons when grandbaby's come along.  Naturally, as I did and as I now realize my mother did, we as the mothers gravitate to our mom's. Its as it has always been, but still doesn't make it always easier to swallow.  With Vittoria living out of state, my time with her is always short.  I seem to be trying, perhaps too desperately, to get her to like me.  I understand that now she is used to mostly 3 people in her life, her parents and her wonderful nanny, Diana.  She recognizes those people and can now make distinctions of who she wants to go to.  I understand all of this, still it doesn't assuage that deep pang when the other grandma walks in carrying her, and I can't even get her to hold my hand.  Understanding is one thing, but the heart always feels that tug. 

I can choose to wallow in some self pity or decide its the new way of being a grand parent.  I can't be there with Vittoria, and no amount of books with my picture and voice, or "Face Time" is going to make up for her knowing me every day.  It just won't.  But I also am not defined by being a grandma.  It is not my life, and wouldn't be if they lived next door.  I can't go to NYC once a month and just visit.  Its not the same and won't make a grandparent out of me.  This too, I shall have to learn as I go along.  I am willing to try and I just hope everyone has patience with me as I stumble and fall and cry crocodile tears of self pity.  Its a new world and being a grandparent is becoming new also.  I guess I'll just rely on some of the old for a while longer....

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