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Did you just call me GRANDMA?

My life changed this week.

Completely and irrevocably.

My daughter had a baby girl and I became a GRANDMA!

Boy is that word loaded or what?  Just say it out loud one time.  It can’t help but conjure up images and expectations.  Do you respond with images of old ladies in rocking chairs?  With memories of kitchens that smelled like coffee cake?  With thoughts about crocheted sweaters and reading glasses?  We all have so much emotional attachment (whether positive or negative) with the word and the role it describes.

When I say the word “grandma” I am filled with beautiful memories of the woman who was my grandmother.  I can smell her perfume and I am reminded of how soft her skin was and of the way she taught me to eat bacon and eggs (yes, according to my grandma there is, in fact, a RIGHT way to eat bacon and eggs!) I think of perfectly polished rose-gold fingernails and pantyhose and clip-on earrings.

Here’s the problem:  I don’t own any clip-on earrings.  My nails never get painted.  And, I don’t wear pantyhose.  In other words, I don’t match up to the image I have of what a “grandma” should be.  I am not my grandmother.  I have never been anyone’s grandma. I don’t feel like a grandmother. I am unprepared for this new role I find myself in.  This is uncharted territory for me.

I remember having these same feelings when I became a mother.  And when I got married and became a wife.  New roles bring with them all these preconceived expectations.  We are burdened with images of how we should behave as a spouse, parent, grandparent. It’s easy to feel like we don’t quite fit, that who we are is not quite right for the new role.

And, other people have their own ideas and expectations about those roles as well.  This is a primary cause of conflict in relationships – differences in how we see each other’s role.  Does your new spouse have the same expectations and images of “husband” as you?  Probably not.  You are different people coming from different backgrounds.  There will be areas where your barely-conscious ideas about this stuff will clash.

So, how do you adjust to a new role gracefully? Here are some pointers:

  1. Talk about it. As with all things relationship-related, communication really is the key to a smooth transition. Talk with the other people involved in the new relationship.  How do they see your role?  How does this mesh with your own ideas?
  2. Grow into it.  Don’t assume that you will suddenly feel completely at home in your new role the day your life changes.  You may not feel like a “wife” on your wedding day… or the next week for that matter.  It may take a few weeks, or months, for you to settle into being “daddy.”  That’s okay.  Give yourself time.  It will happen.  One day you will realize that you really have become the “grandma.”
  3. Be you first.  This is the most important tip I can give.  Be true to who YOU are.  Don’t try to do the grandmother you grew up with.  Don’t copy the parent your best friend is.  Be you.  Be the kind of spouse, parent, grandparent that YOU are. Do that to the very best of your ability.

So, I won’t be running out to buy clip-on earrings.  I will continue to wear blue jeans.  I will be a new kind of grandmother – the kind that only I can be.  And, someday, I will get used to being called Grandma.