Over the last couple years my life has changed drastically. My daughter, who I call “The Child,” left the nest. I got married. I became an aunt—twice. I had a major unplanned surgery which was hard emotionally and physically. Bought a house. Sold a house. Changed jobs. Had other health issues. Started a business. And most recently, 9 days ago to be exact, my grandson was born. I am a grandmother. I repeat. I’m a 37-year-old GRANDMOTHER. I shall be called Grammy.
Pause here a moment with me. I need to take all of this in and reflect for a moment. This might be the first time I’ve REALLY thought about all that has taken place.. It’s a lot. I’d say I’ve been coping pretty well with everything but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t rough and lonely at times. It’s certainly been a whirlwind of change. It’s been quite the juxtaposition at times. I’ve had so many good and challenging things going on at once I don’t always know how to feel in the moment.
One of the most challenging changes in my life has been watching The Child go out into the world on her own and doing things no mom wants her child to be doing. I’ve had to make a conscious effort to remember I raised her the best I could and gave her all the tools to brave the world and be successful on her own. But most painfully I’ve had to be reminded her choices didn’t poorly reflect on me. Thank goodness for my husband, therapist, and fantastic friends who kept reminding me of this important detail in my parenting career.
Over the past year or so, my relationship with The Child had become pretty strained. Our communication was rare, usually heated, and left me in tears for fear of her safety and future. Tears I would hold back while on the phone because I needed to be the strong mom sticking to my guns. My poor husband put up with my tears and many late night conversations processing the situation to death with me. Often, I didn’t know where she was living or from which state she was calling. Everything out of her mouth seemed as if it was a lie. It was very hard to function normally in the rest of my life with the worry I constantly carried in the back of my mind.
The week I started a new job she ran away. I still had to go to work and focus while I was so afraid for her. I spent time preparing myself for THAT phone call. The one from the police with horrible news no parent ever wants to hear. I tried to compartmentalize the best I could. And for the most part I did. Many people around me didn’t know what was going on with my life. I knew if I talked about it I may not keep it together. And truthfully, I was embarrassed about her life choices. Let’s say it wasn’t something I wanted to shout to the world.
One big way I coped was by working on my business and myself. I’ve been through a lot in my short life and done a lot of work to gain tools for myself and to teach others. I love caring for people in healthy ways. This is what keeps me going. I also listened to “Shelter” by Ray LaMongtagne an uncountable number of times. That song always reminds me of The Child.
About six months ago, we received a call from The Child. She had moved to Florida and found her way into an abusive relationship and was pregnant. As you can imagine, there is a lot more to the story but I’ll spare you the details. She was in crisis and wanted help getting back to Colorado. My husband and I had been manipulated and lied to so many times it was hard to know what to really believe or expect. Nonetheless, she’s my daughter so (of course) we took a risk. We specifically agreed not to do anything that would further enable her or compromise us as a couple. My husband (my hero) was heading to Atlanta for a business trip. She was able to drive from Florida to Atlanta and the two drove back to Colorado. Rough trip, but they both made it back in one piece.
The news of The Child’s pregnancy devastated me. Maybe somewhere beyond devastation actually. While I wasn’t entirely surprised by the news, I felt so incredibly sad. Not because I don’t love babies, I love babies!! I’m a doula!! I was devastated and sad because I was a young, single mom myself and raised The Child on my own at the age of 16. I know firsthand the consequences of our choices follow us for a lifetime. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t take it personally. I felt like I worked So. Damn. Hard. to raise The Child in a way that would allow her to grow up without poverty and struggle and now this.
I raised her praying she would never have to be in the same situation in which I raised her. I’ve so badly wanted her to have better—the best even. But, the part that I’ve felt is missing is her conscious or unconscious decision to have the same desires for her own life. We survived as a family of two but I’ve always wondered at what cost? My situation was not fair to her? And did I give her the best? Not even close. I certainly tried my best but she didn’t have the best.
As she grows into an adult I don’t want her to just have a life of survival, I want her to have a life where she can thrive and be happy and have energy. Travel. Go to college. Make a career for herself. Have a savings account. And not be constantly one paycheck away from being homeless. Not rely on the government for survival. Support herself…
And then there was the fact she wasn’t equipped to have a child. She didn’t have the skills to even take care of herself. And there is no way my husband and I were going to raise this baby for her. I don’t mean to sound harsh or unloving in any way, but for the first time in my life I’m creating the life I want and I have the privilege to think about myself and my own needs. I’m coming into my own. I’ve just started a life with the most wonderful man who loves me and my child.
I have the life I choose instead of the life I have to have. I’m not willing to give that up now I’ve had the taste of less struggle, fun, travel, marriage, and more. And while The Child had no reputable job, no money, no car, no education, and the list goes on, I believe babies and children are a blessing and a gift. I will tell this to anyone and everyone including my ill-prepared child, but it takes a lot more than love to raise a child. In fact, loving them is the easy part.
Then there was the woman in me asking the universe, “What the hell, this isn’t fair?!”
I have two dear friends who have been trying for so long to get pregnant and have babies. They are in great marriages and deserve the babies of their dreams. I’ve thought, “It’s not fair when people have unplanned babies and people who want them are unable to conceive.” I had even discussed with my daughter adoption so her son could have a better life. I took her to the adoption agency not to push her into it but to show her what is required of someone wanting to adopt a child. I wanted her to see that she didn’t have anything on the list the agency would look for in a prospective parent. It made no difference, she had made up her mind. I could painfully relate.
When I found out I was pregnant I refused to look at adoption as an option, as well. I can’t tell you—even in hindsight—if either of our decisions were made out of emotion, logic, or some combination of the two, but aren’t we all a little insane to want kids in the first place right?
Ok, so I don’t mean to sound like a hypocrite here. I was in the same boat as my own child once. But in all honesty in the past months I’ve questioned if she has the needed skills to accomplish what I did as a parent. Even as a young, single mom with very little, I sought out and developed tools many parents – even older and coupled parents – never found.
Still, I can’t say I thrived as a single parent. I always did what had to be done to survive. Take it from me when I tell you living this way is exhausting. I’ve doubted her abilities until very recently. When she came home to Colorado, it took her a month but she did find a job. She will never make much more than minimum wage but she does love her job and it’s a good match for what she wants to do.
She had her car repossessed but still went ahead and bought a brand new iPhone (and yes, it made me mad she had a newer one than I—the Apple geek—had but that’s not the point). I felt it was completely irresponsible; she HAS to start thinking about needs not wants. But then she got an apartment, started making plans for raising this baby, and even followed through with the agencies offering her assistance. I’m seeing progress.
Since The Child returned to Colorado things between us have changed in a way I could never imagined. It was rough having her home at first. She was not invited to live with us and needed to get a lot of her stuff straight and make some hard decisions. Of course I wanted to make her decisions for her but I knew that wasn’t the right choice. I’m big on boundaries and big on not letting anyone’s life take over mine. I’m not here to rescue her or be taken advantage of. We love her and we will not bail her out. I admit I remain on guard to protect my heart from disappointment. But I am deeply enjoying the moment and bonding we are sharing. In my 21+ years as a parent I’ve never shared these positive moments with her. She has always been a handful.
We attended birthing classes together which of course was great since I know birth well. She signed up for the class and I showed up to support her.
This past week, I had the greatest honor to doula for The Child’s birth. I saw so much strength in her I never knew was there. I was proud. Beyond proud. We worked together as a team. We labored continuously together for 48 hours and then I stayed with her and my grandson in the hospital for two more days. Her birth was unmedicated and she was able to have the experience she wanted with my support. I could not have dreamed for a more wonderful, gratitude-filled experience. And to have that experience with my own child makes me cry in joy every time I think about it.
Over these past months I’ve dreaded the day my grandson would be born and I would be called “Grandma.” I’m 37 freaking years old!! Too young. I AM TOO YOUNG! I have fought in my head for months about what I could be called instead of the dreaded word that would describe me as an old lady. The stigma has had me in a panic. Best I could come up with after months of thought was “Madam President.” I have a feeling Madam President will be quite the challenge for my young grandson to say… at least for now. So, I shall be called “Grammy.” And I shall own the name like you wouldn’t believe. Because I’m in love. I’m honored to be his Grammy. My grandmother was one of my most treasured relationships, I hope to be as special to my grandson.
I will be hip, instead of needing a new hip. I will not be embarrassed for the life The Child has chosen or worry about being judged. Mostly, I will enjoy and cherish how my grandson has brought my family together in ways I didn’t know were possible.
And for now, this Grammy is signing off to cuddle with my beautiful grandson. Knowing not what the future holds, but cherishing this moment and the awe I feel for the strength I witnessed in The Child. My Child, who is becoming the mother I never knew she could be, like she was born to do this.