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Preparing for the venerable title of grandmother

I'm having a difficult time concentrating on work these days. If all goes as expected, I'll be acquiring a new title in a week or so, and it's one I've been anticipating with excitement and some trepidation.

I'm going to be a grandma.I'm trying to adjust to thinking like a grandma and feeling grandmotherly. It's different from becoming a mother - in the obvious ways but also because it's so sudden. You don't spend nine months thinking about nothing else and watching your body change. You don't have any say about how or when it occurs. You just pick up the phone one day and find out your life will never be the same.

I've been wanting grandchildren most of my life. I love babies, and to get one without pregnancy's barfing, hormone changes and expanded waistline is the best idea since motherhood. But, though I've thought a lot about it and have encouraged my children to get busy and start producing, I'm still not totally prepared.

I mean, one day next week I'll be all the things I've been for most of my life: mother, daughter, sister, boss, journalist, S

unday School teacher, jogger. Then, the next day, I'll be something completely different and new: a grandmother.

I'm used to the old titles; I know how to behave in those roles and I have a good idea how other people view those of us who perform them. But I'm not sure I'm ready to fulfill the common stereotype of a grandma. If it requires learning to knit and spending lots of time in a rocking chair, I'm not qualified.

Does being a grandma automatically mean I'm old? And if I'm old, does this mean I'm no longer useful, my value to society has suddenly dropped out of sight along with any sort of prospect for a productive future?

Pondering such questions, I was thankful to read about a new scientific theory about grandmothers. According to a couple of researchers who have spent years studying how humans ended up with a higher standard of living than apes, we owe it all to grandmas.

Hurray!

I'm breathing much easier after reading what one of the scientists said: "This hypothesis says many of the things that make us human arise from what older women have been doing. Grandmothers may be the key to a whole array of things that make us distinctly human."

Wow.

Even though the study refers to the hunter-gatherer days of human history, I'm clinging to the belief that grandmas still fill a unique and necessary role. We no longer trek through the jungle to find roots and things for the older children to eat so the young women can stay busy giving birth. At least I hope not.

And, though most grandmas today are still doing some hunting-gathering themselves, I see a lot of them also providing their grandchildren with things at least as vital as nuts and berries were to our ancestors.

As one researcher put it, grandmothers shouldn't feel like a "third foot." That's comforting. Actually, I'm feeling a new responsibility. Just as I was welcoming the freedom of no teenagers in the family, I'm realizing I'll soon have another child who will be watching what I do. I hope I don't disappoint her.

I plan to be an "Auntie Mame" sort of grandma. I'll teach my granddaughter to ride a horse, snowboard, catch catfish, run in races. I'll take her to the Oregon coast, the Tetons, the Golden Gate Bridge, the North Shore.

I'm feeling much better. I'm ready to be phoned from the hospital. I'm ready to be Grandma.