Ask almost any woman about her new grandchild and she will light up all over, like a young woman in love. Grandmothers are invariably thrilled to bits. Perhaps that is all we need to know. We have become grandmothers and we love it.
But for those with a naturally inquiring mind, an interesting question is – why? What is it about this new-found role that is so fulfilling? There are many answers.
Let us start with the grandchildren. Of course, we adore them in all their different shapes and sizes. Some remind us of our own children – their parents – and feel we are living an earlier life all over again. Some are completely different and we cherish the novelty of their interests and personalities.
And it is fun to do things with them. To dandle a new baby on our knee, to get down on the floor and do puzzles with a toddler or take children to the park. Loads of activities which we did a myriad of times and thought we might never do again. Indeed, perhaps we got fed up then. Oh, dear, do I really need to read this story again? But now, we have time and we see the intrinsic pleasures much more readily.
And if you are an instinctive teacher, it is wonderful to teach them about the world. They have so much to learn and you have so much to give. This could be a matter of explaining facts, like the earth is round, or offering some form of spiritual guidance about how to live. There is and deep enormous satisfaction in the process. It is extraordinarily fulfilling to be able to offer new little beings your hard-won wisdom.
But having grandchildren is much more than that. It means that your children will have all the joys of parenthood. You have always wanted the best for them and, perhaps, spent hours talking about what they might want to do with their lives. But you also know that having children helps people to learn and grow into themselves. It is something you will probably have wanted for your own son or daughter, whether you thought about it or not.
The part of being a grandmother that is possibly the most surprising is what it does for you. Yes, it is fun to play with the children. Yes, you want your children to be fulfilled. But there is something more than that. Having grandchildren does a number of much deeper things for a woman.
Many women feel that they were not the best of parents – perhaps they were just too young and inexperienced. Or maybe they were too involved with their work or other issues. Having grandchildren provides an opportunity to do it again, to do it better and, in some small way, to make amends. It is that rare thing in life – a second chance.
As you grow older, you begin to think a little more often about what happens in the end. Has your life been worthwhile? Have you left something good behind? Grandchildren necessarily represent the future. It may be that they will remember you over time. You may like to think that perhaps there will be a conversation, twenty or thirty years hence, that begins “I remember my grannie telling me…”
A corollary of this thought is the passing on of your genes. Perhaps you don’t think this is very important, but often people realise it has a meaning for them when they learn that it will never happen.
And finally, most surprising of all, is that the fact that you like yourself so much better when you are with your grandchildren. It is such a wonderfully innocent relationship, not so full of the guilt and anxieties of parenthood or the complex feelings arising from a marriage. You can relax and just be you. It’s not something we think about a lot, but if you do, you might realise that it is very self-affirming.
What do you love about being a grandmother? What has being a grandmother taught you about yourself? Please share your experiences.