Being a grandma at forty-two is the other side of being a mama at fifteen. How is it possible that I am still thinking, “Should I have one more babe?” as my oldest is having children of his own? My kids are spread out, twenty-seven, nineteen, eight. My first grandson is seven. He was a surprise. I was nursing my own newborn when my son and his then girlfriend came over with “news.” It felt strange that the baby would have a toddler as an aunt. I felt like I couldn’t be a grandma, I was still a new mother.
I felt disconnected, too wrapped up in my own baby. My grandson was wonderful but attached more to “papa” than me. I think he sensed I was struggling a bit — tired from nursing 24/7, work, finishing a degree. With time, we got closer and built our own space together. Now, he fights off his eight-year-old aunt to snuggle me when he comes over. I feel connected to him through the miracle of time and the love we made, but it still feels a little strange.
I don’t want to be called grandma. On the other hand, I love the look in my grandson’s eyes when he runs to me and hugs me tight, saying, “I love you grandma.” I wanted him to call me mamashell, a moniker that felt more like me, more like a cool teen mama — that’s who I was, right? But for him, grandma stuck.
When I think about being a grandma, I feel like I should be older, more patient, have money, be able to spoil him, take him places. Instead, I walk with him and his aunt to the park. I drag them to the library because “grandma loves books.” I play music loud in the car and plan my next tattoo. All things I guess grandmas don’t do. Or maybe they do. I do, anyway.
Last weekend, he asked me how old I was. When I told him, he said, “Ooh, 42 is old.” I cringed, thinking I still had time for babies. Even if I don’t want anymore, I could. The option still seems important to me, a woman who has always been a mama.
It is such a strange place to be, mama and grandma. Young but getting older and really feeling it. As a foster kid-turned-teen mama, I didn’t have a childhood, and sometimes I just want to get in the car, explore, be alone, not be anyone’s mom. It would be easier, in those moments, to be a grandma. But I am still a mom to a young child. So, I stay.
There is a new grandbaby on the way, another baby boy to play with his girl auntie. I look forward to a new baby, the smell of his neck, the little smiles and wiggly toes. I won’t be too hands on — we live far away. I will still be mamashell, or grandma, if he insists. I will love him fiercely and hug him tight. But I may still dream of my own babe snuggling in my breasts. And of buying a cheap camper and traveling.
I will always be a cool grandma, tatted up and singing loud, writing and finding ways to challenge the world my babies and grandbabies live in. Really, I am still that fifteen-year-old, stubborn and fighting, trying to build a family and survive, babe on my hip. It’s just that now he has his own babies, too. And I have the privilege of being here, whatever name I am called.