Wow – being a grandmother
I probably started my initiation as a grandmother when I was born. I had two grandmothers. One was an earth grandmother and the other, who brought me up, was the complete opposite. The ‘earth mother’ one taught me all about nature, cooking and how to grow pumpkins in compost. The other one took me at four, to the college of psychic science to be with the mediums there. They mothered me and began at an early age to teach me how to use my intuition properly. So, in a way I had very balanced role models.
My spiritual practice and support system has been there a long time but as a grandmother it is even more essential, like a super lighthouse guiding me through so that I don’t get lost or flounder. Part of that support system are the wise women and other grandmothers who share their journeys – I can’t imagine life without them.
One of my most precious possessions is a Native American pottery figure of an owl storyteller with her grandchildren. This was given to me a few years before I actually became a grandmother and somehow it started a ‘broody’ feeling deep in my gut. Babies seemed to gravitate towards me everywhere I went. My two sons got married not long after this, and, soon grandchildren started to arrive.
When Oisin was born, seven years ago, I felt a surge of passion I hadn’t expected and this has continued with the birth of each child. The last one was born just before Christmas and the passion is still the same. Each birth has had its own signature and, interestingly, I have had a different role each time. Caleb was so determined to be born at home (despite the fact that wasn’t the plan) that I was very much part of that process. It was an amazing family experience as he literally fell into my hands as my daughter in law had no contractions to speak of and my son cut the cord. Even if I haven’t been at all the births, my bond with each of my grandchildren is just as significant.
It was quite a challenge the first time I realised ‘Oh my goodness I have to share being a grandmother with someone else. Surely he is MY grandchild.’ For the first time in my life the green-eyed monster of jealousy reared its ugly head. Now I can laugh about it. I am incredibly grateful, as a therapist, that I recognised this quickly and got help. It took time, but what I finally got in touch with were my own fears around my mortality, which I hadn’t felt before. As a grandmother I am not going to be around all their lives, and that makes them all the more precious to me.
I enjoy letting the child in me play, explore, get dirty and, if I forget, they remind me of the wonder of the world we live in. With Miles, who has lived in cities so far, we love exploring different streets, go to parks and museums and weave stories about the people who live in the city. With the grandchildren who live in Norfolk, we tend to go to the beach or wild countryside and tell different stories about nature and animals. One of my ambitions as a grandmother is to be part of their getting to know both worlds, whether it’s a city or the countryside. Sometimes I can do that through storytelling and hopefully we can visit both more.
A few years ago, before grandchildren, I found myself with some Aboriginal grandmothers. They had been desperately thinking of ways to help their grandchildren who were beginning to sniff petrol out of boredom and abandonment by their parents. They learnt that if they sat quietly and painted stories containing the wisdom of their tribes, the children would eventually become curious and ask questions. I was privileged to see this happen and have used it as a way of passing on family history, not because my grandchildren have been abandoned, but because, as a grandmother – like my grandmothers before me, I am a holder of our history. A couple of years ago I wrote a book called ‘Healing the ouch of disappointment’ dedicated to my grandchildren. It contains the tools that I have used in my life and passed on to my clients as well as a story to help us look after our energy field. My grandchildren can read this even when I am gone and I suspect there might be another book or two before I pass on to another dimension.
I have learnt that my grandchildren are like sponges, and observe everything we do and how we interact with others. They need to make up their own minds what they choose to copy and what they don’t. They also have ears that hear round corners and are very good at spotting inauthenticity. As a potential role model they keep me on my toes, and as I am not caught up all the time with their day to day needs, perhaps I am more aware of this. Having had a grandmother who would repeat everything I told her, I know how important it is to be someone my grandchildren can talk to and trust. This reminds me that each relationship with the children is unique, and how important it is to have special time with them individually.
Being a grandmother does not mean that I need to give them more time than their parents. My sons still need their mother and that relationship is always growing. I love both my daughters in law and have never seen them as ‘just providers of grandchildren’. I had a stroke a year ago and the love and support I have had from my family is amazing but they have had their own challenges and we need to support each other. What I have noticed is that I can be quite a tiger grandmother over the whole family, not just my grandchildren, and sometimes I need to rein that in.
Very often the help and support that my grandchildren’s parents need is very practical: picking up from school, babysitting, feeding, helping with general family logistics – and I have been happy to do that, as well as the ‘fun’ things. Although I am a loved grandmother, I have to remember that my grandchildren are growing up and their needs will change. I have to watch out for having a favourite age, as each age will have its joys and pitfalls. What I can add to childcare, as opposed to someone from outside of family, is that I love the children with all my heart.
An added bonus of being a hands-on grandmother of seven children is that I can incorporate this into my practice as a psychotherapist. Not only do I have the experience of bringing up my own children, but I have young children around again and am part of their growing up. Sometimes I can be a ‘grandmother’ to clients and help them understand the dynamics in their own families. What a gift it is to be a grandmother …
This personal essay was written for Wilding Magazine Volume 3. (The journal for ‘free spirited’ families.) March 2016.
I highly recommend this beautiful publication, and feel very privileged to be part of this edition.