The moment I first met my granddaughter
What role do I play?
I am a daughter, I have two daughters, one of my daughters just had a baby and now has her own daughter. We have no living grandmothers. My mother’s history is shrouded in mystery but it seems she was adopted at birth. She never knew her own mother, and the two ladies who adopted her had passed on long before I arrived. She too had no known grandmothers.
My father’s mother passed when I was three or four years old. I have two memories of her and neither are warm or fuzzy. I remember her banging her walking stick on the floor and glaring at me for putting my elbows on the dinner table. That stare was so intense it was terrifying. The other memory is of her playing cards with my dad and I think I committed the cardinal sin of burping. She made me drink so much fizzy bicarb I threw up in her sink. That led to a smacked bottom and being sent to bed in shame!
My own mother was mentally ill. She was a terrible mother. She was however, oddly enough, a warm and doting grandmother at least until my girls became teenagers. At that point she became more like the way she was with me growing up. She was a very difficult woman as a result of her tortured mind.
My mother-in-law didn’t take to me at all. Firstly, I wasn’t Jewish and that was unforgivable in her eyes. Even though I took steps to convert, I was always somehow ‘less than’ in her estimation. She was manipulative, dismissive, judgmental, and not at all supportive… until the granddaughters arrived. Then she wanted to be in our lives, focusing on the children, advising me on motherhood and instructing. I had no tolerance for her by that stage. Her particular brand of loving was gushing and doting. My daughters have very warm memories of her and being a grandmother appeared to give her huge cache within her social group. I experienced her as judgmental and felt she was constantly checking to see if I was making the grade. Over the years we worked our way round to a grudging acceptance of one another that in time, developed into a warm respect, ultimately deep affection, and even love, but it took a tremendous amount of work.
So now I am a grandmother. It is a role I have always dreamed of, however this is uncharted territory for me and I have limited resources to draw from to influence and guide me. I think the best course of action would be for me to draw a line under my dubious history and start fresh. Raw instinct and pure love drove my mothering and I certainly left no stone unturned in my efforts to ensure my girls knew that they were loved. I made many mistakes as I pushed and shoved my girls through life, controlling them too much and not giving them room to make their own mistakes. I never wanted them to be hurt and I taught them what I believed was the right way to live to get ahead. I did the very best I could with limited knowledge and understanding. In spite of how little I knew and having never felt love in my own life, I believe I raised two strong independent girls who became women with enormous hearts and an immense capacity to love. I know that I also caused them pain and heartache and I am not proud of all my parenting. At the time I knew nothing about conscious parenting or parenting philosophies that I have since discovered as my understanding of the human psyche has evolved. Rolling over to the next generation, I believe that I get to choose what to take forward from my own experience.
Some people perpetuate what they have always known, creating more of the same. Abused people are vulnerable to becoming abusers; children of addicts and mental health sufferers are susceptible to addiction, co-dependency, and a host of mental health issues of their own; or sometimes people work hard to create the complete opposite of their own childhood experience. Have you ever noticed how very buttoned up people often have children who prefer to colour outside of the lines? Strict disciplinarians often give rise to rebels or those who run outside of society’s restrictions. Another approach might be to take a balanced approach and acknowledge what worked for us growing up, discard, or better yet reframe what didn’t, and create an expanded, more meaningful experience for our little ones. This approach requires a mindful awareness and a well-balanced emotional mind. Often, we need to do quite a bit of work on ourselves to achieve that. For me, the most thrilling realization though, is that we do get to choose.
My primary aim with parenting was to ensure that my daughters knew that they were loved, something that was sadly missing from my own childhood. I didn’t consciously know that I was choosing this, I was far from mindful or aware, but everything in me instinctively rejected my own childhood experience where I was shamed for my very existence and made to feel guilty for my every action. I am satisfied that I have successfully changed the dynamic of so many previous generations of daughters on our maternal line who grew up unwanted and unloved. However, with my granddaughter, I feel drawn to a gentler approach.
Throughout my later years I have met so many really incredible women, who have great gifts to offer humanity. Yet many of them are held hostage to self-doubt and insecurity. They were all loved, for the most part they grew up in secure families, and yet they struggle to honour their own needs, or to identify with their inherent power. They find themselves terrified of standing out, of being different, of leading the way… they prioritize the needs of others over their own well-being. They have been taught how they should show up in life and they struggle to express themselves in a more authentic manner. This has led me to believe that feeling loved is only one part of the journey essential for development of one’s full potential.
So rather than imposing my will, choices, and desires on this little one, and teaching her how I think she should be in life, I would like to support and nurture her as she discovers who she truly is. I would like to learn from her how a free-spirited individual expresses themselves when they aren’t hammered into a mould of someone else’s determination. Loving my granddaughter in a manner that allows her to love herself first and foremost will, I believe, open the way for her to evolve into the fullest, most vibrant version of her infinite potential. That feels like a really honourable framework for our journey together.
I am a grandmother, and whilst my role may be an indirect one, a supporting role for her journey, it somehow feels like the most beautiful opportunity to embody grace in this lifetime.
As always, I offer you my understanding of things. I encourage you at all times to question and decide for yourself what you want to accept and onboard. I am always interested to hear your opinions and I encourage feedback. However, it is essential to understand this vital truth as we journey together:
We don’t have to agree on a single thing to be kind to one another.
So, disagree with me by all means, own your different perspective, but please remain respectful of other’s beliefs and journeys.
Treat yourself with EMpathy and EMbolden yourself to dream. EMerge from your learned way of being, allowing yourself to celebrate life as you EMbrace your full potential. EMancipate yourself from your limitations, EMpowering yourself to live with greater clarity and joy!
Until next time, be kind to one another and honor yourself as the unique and incredibly special soul that you are.
© Copyright 2020 – Janice Melmed