Having my one year old grandson, Layne, living with us, I have had lots of time to reflect upon ‘grandmotherhood’. When I first learned that my daughter was expecting, and that I was to become a biological grandmother, I had mixed emotions. I already had three amazing step-grandchildren whom I adore, but somehow my daughter having a child would automatically age me. Was I really that old? I felt much younger than I had imagined grandmothers to feel. I run; I do Zumba; I bike; and I am basically cool (that last one might be a slight stretch, but I like to think I am a little cool). However, Morgan was older than I was when I had her. Little did I know when I became a mother at the age of 21, that would mean I could possibly reach grandmotherhood before most of my peers. Who thinks that far ahead?
Once Layne made his appearance, I embraced my new role. His blue eyes, precious smile, and unconditional love won my heart immediately. Suddenly, I was proud to announce that I was this little guy’s nana. Okay, I did choose to be called ‘Nana’ rather than ‘Grandma’ because I thought it sounded younger. Fast forward one year…Morgan and Layne have taken up residence in our home while Layne’s dad is in Afghanistan. While going from a house of three to a house of five – and one of those five is quite the active little climber – has been challenging (and exhausting) at times, I treasure having this time with Layne. I realize that because his dad is in the military, they will likely live away for several more years, and I am very blessed to have this time with Layne. And he is quite entertaining!
I have also thought a lot about my own grandmothers, and other grandmothers of their generation, and how different today’s grandmothers are. I loved my grandmas dearly. Grandma Greenland was a heavy-set lady – the stereo-typical grandma who was an incredible cook. She treated us to ham loaf, buttery (I am talking 2 sticks of real butter) mashed potatoes, and dessert that would rival any on the Food Network. Her cookies were not only scrumptious, they were also beautiful. And her pies? Wow. I have never tasted a butterscotch pie that was even close to hers. She worked hard, raised three sons who all died before she, overcame some devastating times, was active in church, and played the piano. And then there was my Grandma Allen, ‘Gram’. I was really closer to her. I spent many nights with her. She made me grilled cheese, popcorn, and taught me this game where we connected dots and tried to get the most squares. She was also a good cook. Her specialties included fried chicken and eclairs (which I learned to make). She never had much money, but we never noticed. She had very few toys for us to play with, but instead saved her thread spools (she also made her own clothes) and greeting cards. We grandkids could spend hours building with spools and cards. I have wonderful memories of both of my grandmothers, and miss them tremendously.
I wonder, now, what my grandchildren will remember about me. I can cook. Well, no one would starve anyway. I can bake some, but not to the degree my grandmas baked. I run races; I teach Zumba; I love to travel and attend sporting events. My Grandma Allen always, and I mean always, wore dresses. I can’t imagine her wearing Nike running shorts and t-back tanks like I wear to work out. If my grandmothers heard the music and saw the choreography for Zumba, I imagine they’d be shocked (but secretly jealous). Saturday I ran a 5k dressed as Super Woman, which meant I wore a short sequined skirt, royal blue tights, and a sparkly blue headband. If Layne were older, would he think his nana was nuts? Just the thought of my grandmothers in a Super Woman costume is hysterical. They never stepped out of their comfort zones. They both had a sense of humor, but they stayed with in society’s norms. I, on the other hand, choose not to dress a certain way just because I am middle-aged. I want to remain active until I can no longer move. I hope to run races well into old age. I want to get my Zumba on into those so-called twilight years, and encourage others to do the same. Sure, I can crochet, which a rather grandmotherly thing to do, but I will crochet only after I have gotten a run in or gone to the gym.
When I look around, I see that my friends who are also grandparents no longer fit the molds our grandparents so eagerly set either. They are also working out at the gym, running, walking, going to Zumba, taking classes, or somehow continuing to grow. I think we are setting an incredible example for our grandchildren. We are teaching them that one is never too old to set new goals, that we must remain physically active, and that learning is a life-long process. We are active grandparents who, rather than spoil our grandkids with cookies and pies, spoil them with our time and energy. Because we are active, we are able to really play with them. Because we are tech-savvy, we can also post all those adorable pictures (like this one from Layne’s first birthday where he has cake smeared all over his face) on Facebook! See, we are cool!
As I typed this, Layne walked in wearing his shirt that says ‘My nana runs faster than your nana!’ That pretty much sums it up!