Monday, December 28, 2009

To Grandmother's House We Go?

Until very recently I was excited about becoming a grandmother.

I had no idea why. I didn’t consider it; I just thought it would be a meaningful experience. For all of my sense of myself as a woman, and critical thinker, I assimilated this received information without a thought. Somehow in my mind being a grandmother seemed a warm and wonderful next step in my life as a woman and mother, sharing love, sharing ideas and experiences with a younger person, a child, and as I write this, I realize a kind of immortality. There must be something about watching a child of our child take a first step or say a first word that hurtles us back in time, our own lives flashing before us as we hold out hands for balance. I think this last bit is why people go crazy for grandchildren.

When my son’s wife did become pregnant I voiced my excitement. I looked at baby clothes online, and thought about how cute the clothes were. I also thought about how I couldn’t stand how most parents these days expected the populace at large to care for and about their less than well behaved children. Sometimes I didn’t like kids, and sometimes I didn’t think of them at all. I would hear people talk about the suffering of little children in war-torn and impoverished countries and I would think of children then. Otherwise, I was not aware of their existence except as poorly behaved small people. Cute clothes and creepy parents and children: a conflict.

As my son’s wife’s pregnancy continued my relationship to her became muddied. My expressions of what I thought were excitement and support irritated her to the point that she sent me a really sharp, unkind email. Suddenly I took a look at myself. Why the hell was I so involved in this idea of a grandchild? I decided to see what other feminists had to say on the subject.

There is little to nothing to say it seems. It is a barren plain marked only by silence or worse the cloying sentimentality of women afraid to be alone, afraid to age.

I saw enormous amounts of posts and writings with declaimers. They were insuring the reader that they were not man-hating feminists, or whining women, or lesbians, or non make-up wearing fat unfashionable women. Reading this material was exhausting. It made me realize that today, as in my time, for too many women feminist is the F Word. Still. I cannot understand how we have arrived here, and yet in my discussions with LJ and others, it appears that for most women the feeling is that women have gotten what they needed and there is no valid reason for feminism today. This is referring to feminism outside the academy.

For the woman who is not interested or invested in reading and discussing feminist theory, there appears to be no place that it fits into their lives. The feeling is that we are getting equal pay for equal work (no) we are able to construct lives outside the need to please men whether in looks or behavior(no) and we are considered full and equal citizens under the law (no again).

What will it take for women to realize that we are still struggling, world-wide, to be treated as fully realized humans with the right to safety, choice, and freedom?

There is a lot of received information out there to be aware of. I received from what source I know not, that being a grandmother was a rite of passage that I must long for and love. As I have most times had the best relationship with my son and his wife, I thought that a child would make it more: meaningful, loving, connected…

The women who have written about being grandmothers (I have searched and searched for alternative thoughts on this) all seem to be in love. They write saying that you get to have all the “fun” of having a child without the “mess”. They write that having a grandchild connects you to a bloodline. This scared me seven ways from Sunday and I am still trying to process it. Mostly that statement made me feel like a slave.

It appears from what I have been able to find so far that being a grandparent exonerates feminists who feel that perhaps their zeal to be fully realized people made them bad mothers. Seeing one’s child parenting her/his own child with love and a certain amount of confidence confirms that it all came out right in the end, and no fatal errors have been made.

We don’t have to age alone and unnecessary. This is also what comes across in the readings. We can continue to thrive as we pass on our knowledge to a newer generation--while we are babysitting. No joke, the women I read and one I talked to said that these were the times they really enjoyed with a grandchild: stolen moments when the parental figures could not intervene.
I have spent way too much time in my life hiding myself under the covers to have this feel liberating or like something I get to look forward to. It sounds like what it is: I get to hide who I am one more time.

For relationships to work well they need to be based on something more than heredity and tradition. Not for everyone obviously; but for me at this point in my life, yes. So, I will let the grandchild get to know me and I will get to know the grandchild. I will try not to bring along any of this creepy baggage, and see if despite all of the crap, we can be friends.

I don’t know how I really feel about becoming a grandmother. I can say that I am ambivalent. This is scary to admit to. I fear I am being what people called feminists in my day: a frigid bitch.