Grandmothering in Extended Families
My grandson, Lachlan, has two grandmothers, although he had three when he was born five years ago. His father’s mother died a few years ago, so now he has me, and my first husband’s second wife. I tell you all this just to point out the extension of many families to step-grandparents, step-aunts and uncles, and other family that isn’t biological. My son-in-law’s sister serves as grandma more frequently than either of his real or almost real grandmas as she lives in Minneapolis where he also lives, and I live in Northern California.
I’m thinking about all these relationships as I’ll get on a plane on Friday to go to Minneapolis to retrieve my grandson for his annual trip to California. It is a sweet and special time for me. He was nine months old on his first visit, so this will be his sixth visit with us. Us changes. The first two years, Lachlan came to visit me and my husband (who is not his biological grandpa), Grandpa Murray. Since then I’ve shared him with my daughter Blake, his loving auntie, who has two step-children of her own, and lives twenty minutes away.
I love thinking of things to do with him. One of his favorites is the Oakland Zoo, where the animals interest him not at all, but the rides are entrancing. From the time he could walk, he has loved the cars that go round and round on a stem like a merry go round. On our first visit, he rode the cars eight times and cried when I pried him off of one to go home. He also loves the San Francisco Bay ferries, as do I. For the last two years, the only time I ride the ferry is with him–Oakland to the Ferry Building, Ferry Building to Sausalito, lunch in Sausalito and return. We’ve also ridden a fire engine from San Francisco to Sausalito and back, visited the Discovery Museum, and eaten at various restaurants where the wait staff is always surprised at how well behaved he is (thanks to mom and dad, not to me).
With each year I realize that he is a different kind of precious than the year before. Now he has long hair. His voice is deeper and he has opinions. I’ve been hesitant to buy him any books because I’m afraid he has outgrown his several year love affair with Spiderman. What could be next?
There is a bit of anxiety in this anticipation. As he gets older, I’m less sure of myself as entertainer and confidante. He will take the lead this year, rather than Grandma. I am working more than I have worked for the last six years, so I will not be with him every minute. Although I’ve protected as much time as I can, I know I’ll be torn, like a new mother, when I’m away from him. Overall, I know that the fear and worry are only about wanting him to have a good time, and wanting us to have a good time together.