Many years ago, more than I care to add, my then boyfriend asked this shy eighteen year old to be his wife. Having grown up convinced that no one would ever want to marry me, I was beyond excited to think someone really did love me. In the coming months, my mom and I would iron out wedding details. There were some issues on which we butted heads, but a bridezilla I was not. In all honesty, I didn’t realize I actually had much say in the details. My parents were paying for the wedding, so I assumed what they said would be what took place. When June 13, 1987, finally arrived, I had a beautiful wedding dress (off the clearance rack priced at $200), a bridal party of friends and family, a reception outside of the church basement (something different than my siblings who married before me), music to dance to (the one thing my parents refused to pay for but we wanted badly enough to pay for it ourselves), and a week long honeymoon in a place that catered to honeymooners! I was prepared for the wedding. I was NOT, however, prepared for marriage.
In the years we have been married, I have learned that there are some things you just cannot be prepared for–I mean really prepared for. I thought I knew exactly what I was getting into when I, as a young girl still in college, married my husband. I imagined days of whistling as I cleaned the house we would buy, cooking dinners and baking desserts that would have him singing praises of my ability in the kitchen, and spending all our free time together pursuing the same interests. The reality, though, was that my days were spent finishing school–a promise my husband had made to my dad when he sought my dad’s permission to marry me, working a part time job, eating take out pizza or, more often, stalking my parents to see if we could mooch a meal off of them, and cleaning a tiny basement apartment. There wasn’t much free time to do anything fun. Marriage was not anything I had dreamed it to be. It was actually work–hard work.
Not even two years into our marriage, another life event hit. We were expecting our first baby. Back then, there was little reliability in determining the gender of an unborn baby, so I prepared with the basics. My parents bought us a beautiful crib, a changing table, and a dresser for the nursery. We picked out a stroller and a car seat. A baby shower provided onesies and blankets and sleepers. I read books. We attended childbirth classes. Oh, and I still had that pesky promise my husband had made to my dad to be concerned with. By the time our son made his debut into the world, two weeks after I finished college, I was ready.
Or so I thought.
I had read all the right books. I knew what was supposed to happen. Then I learned that most of that stuff just isn’t reality. The first night home, we brought our new bundle of joy into our room, laid him in his portacrib and kissed him goodnight. The lights were off maybe ten seconds before he started to cry. Apparently, at three days old, babies don’t understand what bedtime is. No book could have prepared me for parenthood. Oh, the books gave me averages and guidelines, but there was no way any author could have prepared me for being a mom. As that little boy grew, followed soon by his little sister, then little brother, then grieving the loss of a little sister, and finally his littlest sister, I realized more fully just how unprepared I was to be a mom. Then, just to keep my life interesting, I found myself the parent of a special needs son, a daughter who was diagnosed with asthma at eighteen months and spent many nights in the hospital, a son who had unbelievable energy and did not know what the word sleep meant, and a daughter who just wanted to be part of their activities but was seldom allowed.
As these kids reached junior high age, it became apparent that the public school system was not working for them. I studied and read everything I could on homeschooling. I dove into it feeling prepared. Wrong again. High school brought those same inadequacies. Young adulthood brought even more.
I knew some day these kids would grow up. I read books and talked to those ahead of me on the path. I looked forward to the empty nest. And then one day, it came, and I found myself an emotional mess. I had lost my identity–I was no longer a “mom”. Of course, I was still their mom, but my role needed to be different. Only, I didn’t know what that “different” was supposed to look like. It didn’t take long for a marriage proposal. What were my emotions supposed to be when my baby girl’s last name no longer matched mine? I didn’t know. Then another marriage. What would be my new role as my son had someone else as the primary woman in his life? I didn’t know.
There are some things you just cannot be prepared for.
Ten months ago, I faced yet another life change that left me reeling and feeling unprepared.
You see, a little over ten months ago, a new title was added to my already impressive list of titles. For years I had been wife, mom, teacher, chef, encourager, coach, disciplinarian, and chauffeur. But in March, 2015, I added the precious title of Grandma to my list. Actually, Grammy is how I refer to myself. The little boy who has my daughter’s blue eyes and his uncle’s lack of sleep patterns has taken my life to a different place. I didn’t really have grandparents growing up, so I had little preconceived notion about how it is supposed to be, but from my experiences with my mom as a grandma, I knew my role would be to give him pretty much anything he wants. I was prepared for that. There is one thing, though, that I am finding myself amazingly under prepared in regards to being a Grammy…no one could have ever explained the intense love I would have for this little boy. As a parent, I would look forward to the few times I could sneak in some alone moments. Now, I find myself alone so much that loneliness sometimes threatens to drown me. Yet, this little boy, my baby’s baby, has the power to bring a smile to my face, even in the deepest of depressions. On days when I am struggling with my emotions, you can bet I am scrolling through pictures on my phone, smiling at that precious smiling face on the screen. I anticipate the days I can see him, to melt when he holds his arms out for me to take him, or he squeals with excitement because I have walked into his house. My arms sometimes ache to hold him and rock him to sleep, and I cherish those days when I get to do exactly that.
Life brings many things that we just cannot really be prepared for–marriage, parenting, jobs, chronic illness. I didn’t think being a grandparent would fit into this category. For me, though, it does fit. No book, not even someone else’s experience, could have prepared me for the love I have for him. In these days that, for me, have been very emotionally dark, I am so thankful for his life…so thankful that God chose me to be his Grammy.