The other day I was out walking with my husband and we started talking about our retirement- I have dreams of moving to the coast, my husband said he wanted to be wherever the children (and hopefully) grandchildren were. It sparked off a long discussion because a) I hadn’t even considered grandchildren in the equation and b) I was perhaps a bit too happy at the prospect of being several hours drive away from our kids. It brought into question what kind of grandparents we would make. Him, door-step availability, close enough for impromptu get-togethers and me, far off and living my life while trying to foster ‘independence’ in our children. Two extreme viewpoints but both with validity.
So, what kind of grandparent would I be?
If our primary caregivers have a considerable amount of influence over the way we turn out, then it stands to reason that now, the way my mother behaves as a grandmother should inevitably influence and provide me with some sort of blueprint as to how I might eventually be with my future grandchildren. So, check this out for a start: my mum lives at least 7 hours drive away and, when considering my husband’s need to be near his progeny…..yep, his mum lives round the corner. Coincidence?
What I mostly find myself wondering about is the extent to which our future grandparenting roles are influenced by the way our parents behave as grandparents. I find this particularly fascinating because my parents never got to experience watching their parents be grandparents. And recently, watching my mother with my kids, it strikes me that in many ways, she behaves like, well, a mother and it irritates me because, I’m their mother and the parenting is my role. And yes, this causes friction between us. But isn’t this understandable? How could she possibly know what the role of a grandparent is when she has nothing to compare it to? Simply put, she just knows how to mother.
It’s important for me to think about this because (as clearly noted by the mere geographical location of my mother) the influence that she is already exerting over my idea of being a grandparent, is pretty strong and, up until recently, completely subconscious. And, if by watching her ‘grandparenting’ style I just assume or, perhaps accept, that the way she interacts with my children and the way she treats them is ‘normal’ grandparenting, (whatever that means) then that will inevitably have some influence over my grandparenting style and subsequently, my children’s future grandparenting style etc etc…… and so on down the generational line. And in all honesty, I’m not that happy about the way it is as it can be a very confusing ‘Is she my mother/grandmother?’ type of relationship thing that my children have going on with my mum. So, it falls to me to change this, to find a way of perhaps defining another type of grand-mothering role so that I can start laying down some kind of blueprint for future generations. Perhaps that means aligning myself more with my husband’s idea of being ever present and readily available.
Which brings me to the following thoughts: what am I learning from watching my parents interacting with my children? And perhaps more importantly, what behaviours am I taking and what am I discarding?
Who are your influences? How deep an impact do they make in your thoughts, behaviour and decision making? What will you change, if anything?