Dear family of mine,
As I prepare to journey back to the East Coast for my stint as a full-time Grammy, I realized there are a few things you should know.
First of all, Rachel: I love you dearly. I loved the idea of you before you were a you. The days since have shown me that the love of a mother before her child is born is nothing compared to the loving that swells every day after. You will learn this soon enough.
Secondly, Dan: That you love our Rachel so well makes you A-Okay in my book. But, thankfully it doesn’t stop there. I’m lucky to have your stand-alone friendship and I can’t imagine life without your silly puns and fantastical moustache. You’re a damn good guy. Period.
Third: I cannot wait for the day you two make me a Grammy! However, I haven’t spent a second wishing or wanting for this baby to be any one person. For some very specific reasons. To start with, every new person deserves to become who they are uncorrupted by anyone else’s expectations. I certainly can’t ignore that fact. Even more, though, I am so excited to see who this person is and how its parents’ features (both physical and personality) mix together to create it. Will it have curly hair? A Kunzle chin? Looooong fingers?? Will it be stubborn? A book worm? A wild child? Guh!! I can barely contain my excitement!
But there are a few things we need to get straight before that day comes. Just in case you haven’t already figured it out…
I plan to be an Utterly Impractical Grammy.
Now, if you find yourself thinking, Whaa…? You should be ashamed of yourself. You obviously think I might be a totally different person when I become the third generation in our family. Your kneejerk reaction should be: Well, of course you are (with an accompanying eye roll). Just in case, I thought I’d announce my intentions before anyone goes having any absurd expectations.
So, without further adieu, here are a few things you should expect as your baby grows into whoever s/he will be:
1. Things are gonna get a little bit loud. Impractical Grammy doesn’t care if we scream or sing or talk too loud. We’re just exercising our lungs. We’re probably clanking pots and pans, too. There will likely be quiet times, too, but they will be momentary at best.
2. Messes will definitely be made. If I’m honest, I will admit that messes will probably be the norm. Paint, playdough, ooblik? All nontoxic, but messy and more fun than we could ever have otherwise.
3. That’s gonna leave a mark. Clothes will be ruined: by paint, mud, some sciencey something or other I ordered on the internet. So, do not send your child(ren) to this Grammy’s house in their Sunday best. You’re only going to end up mad about it. And then I will have to remind you that we already discussed this very situation…
4. Homework will go undone. I will likely forget there’s homework to be done in the first place. However, even on the odd day I can rely on my memory, there’s probably going to be a book to read or trail that needs walking much more than the damn homework needs doing.
5. Crazy ideas will be discussed… as though they are the most reasonable ideas in the world. Imaginations will be honed, sharpened, ripened (pick your favorite) at Grammy’s house and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. BE PREPARED!
6. Arguments will be had. But they will be made up again, too. Life isn’t all fun and games. Sometimes a kid has to wholeheartedly (toss in loudly here, too) disagree with the people s/he loves most in the world. Loud and boisterous arguments will always be welcome at this Grammy’s place. Meanness, however, will not be tolerated.
In other words, don’t expect me to suddenly become this alien, other person just because you’ve gone and had a baby… 🙂
P.S. This list is a decent start on things, I think. However, I reserve the right to revisit and revise it at any time in the future. I probably forgot something that needs specific attention. But don’t worry. I will love that little-little more than any other Grammy could love it. That will always be my priority more than sending her/him back home to you with clean clothes and without a scratch.
Love, Mama (AKA Becky-in-law and Grammy-to-be)
Americans make a big deal about independence. Of course we do, our founding document has the word right there in its title. But American feminists, even more so. Independence is this thing that we all seem to look on as the ultimate in personhood. But I question the wisdom of this idea of independence at all cost.
The day my mom had a stroke I learned what it’s like to be enfolded in the supportive embrace of one small part of the Black American community. Two of mom’s dearest, closest, best friends – Dee and Brenda – are of African descent. They both flew (metaphorically speaking) to the hospital as soon as they heard my mom was there. We three mostly just sat around and kept the patient company – the stroke left little damage other than a bit of trouble with word recall – and tried to convince her that an overnight stay was not a bad idea. That my mom is a stubborn lady goes without saying.
When visiting hours ended, Brenda and Dee suggested we go for dinner. That’s when the magic happened. These ladies are incredibly openhearted and we sat for a delicious and long dinner talking about my mom’s strength, my fears, all of our fears, all of our strengths, loving each other, helping each other… Not to mention the stories that were told around that table. I depended on those two ladies to make the situation okay, in my heart-space and in my brain-space, that night.
Black American women have an interesting relationship with dependence vs. independence, I think,* because poverty, or living on the bare edge of it, makes you dependent on help from friends and strangers sometimes just to put food in your mouth. That’s a mean place to be, given the wrong mindset. Black women, the one’s I’ve been fortunate enough to know, make helping each other such an essential, natural part of community and friendship, though, that it’s impossible to tease it apart from the rest. You may as well tell a woman to stop breathing. That I was privy to such natural help changed the day my mom had a stroke from incredibly scary to manageable.
Mothers and daughters have this indescribable something between them. When faced with the first real demonstration that one day that relationship will change forever, it’s a heavy thing to accept. I’m lucky I didn’t have to do it alone. I had these two very special ladies to help me.
That’s the first time I questioned my need for independence.
Here’s the thing: I looked it up and Merriam Webster told me that dependence is the state of relying on or being controlled by someone or something else. Here I’d been operating under the misconception that the very reliance associated with dependence goes hand in hand with control. Not so?
Since that time a few years ago, I’ve become financially dependent on my fiance. The thoughts of controlled by him pop up in my psyche every now and then, but I’m always able to talk myself down off that ledge. We have a partnership, he and I. [Insert cheeky remark about me being the brains and him the brawn] Honestly, though, we naturally separate when it comes to our priorities in the relationship: His biggest concerns are taking care of us physically, financially, while mine are taking care of us emotionally, mentally. Only one of those concerns requires money, and the job that brings it.
I have an ulterior motive, too, though. Because of Steve, I am able to stay at home, keep the dogs company, run household errands, and write. I have this unrelenting desire to write for a living. The issue with that is the for a living part takes a while to get going. It’s a slow process…
…But I am making progress. Maybe one day my earnings as a writer will exceed Steve’s earnings. It’s not probably in today’s readers market, but it’s not altogether impossible. Either way, our relationship works, just as it exists. Plus, we’ve weathered a couple of life-altering storms over the past five years. We adapt.
But what, again, about that dependence thing? I’m going to say it right here, right now. I am BOLDLY dependent on my man. Forever it’s been anti-feminist to be dependent on a man, right? That’s the only reason I have to add the boldly part. If I’m going to go against the grain, I damn well better be bold about it, right? Yes. That’s right.
To end this post, I’d like to dedicate it to those wonderful ladies: Dee Sewell and Brenda Whitehurst. Thank you both for bringing me through that night. Even more, thank you for showing me that bold has many faces. I am forever in your debt.
*I am a white woman, so I can only describe how I see the Black American community from the outside in. Please excuse whatever misinterpretations that might come from that fact. Feel free, though, to correct me in the comments if my ignorance is crude or leads to blatantly wrong assumptions. I only know what I know from my personal experiences.