By Pam Glover
One day while I chatted with a colleague I noted a little side table in her office. On it sat a cup of markers and pencils and a cube of colored sticky notes. Above the table kid-scribbled notes were pegged to the wall. A long chain of paper clips snaked around the table top. The woman followed my glance, and remarked that her grandchildren frequently came over after school. "I'm so glad I get to spend time with them. I'd hate to be the B grandma."
Was a B grandma like a B team? I don't know if grandmas can drill and skirmish to improve their abilities. In my mind, the B grandma was less available, the less favored, the one lacking grandma zing!
Was I an A or a B grandmother? I immediately, detrimentally began to compare myself to THE OTHER GRANDMA.
She was available, and watched the baby every Wednesday while great grandma and grandpa joined them for the morning coffee and infant entertainment. It became known as Samday. He was the star of the morning and they showered him with affection.
I, however, live 1500 miles away. I only saw him every 4-6 months, too long for toddler memory. My son-in-law invested in pre-Skype technology and Sam learned to recognize me over a TV and telephone connection. Later, his little sister didn't take to the system as well, and every face to face visit required me to get reacquainted. I tried to make up for lost time when I visited, but It felt like I wasn't making a big impact on the children.
The other grandma is wonderfully creative and the kids adore her. As they matured she expanded their world in wonderful ways. When Sam was four she enrolled him in a clown clinic, created a cunning hobo costume, and he presented a solo gig. I felt sorry for myself because I couldn't offer anything like that.
When he was in kindergarten she signed up to be the class mystery guest. Well, gosh, I thought, I can do that, so on our next trip west I had my chance. I bought a funny book about a farting dog, which I thought would surely be a hit with Sam. Standing in line to enter class a little boy asked whose grandma I was. "Sam's" I told him. He remembered the A grandma. "Do you do magic tricks and tie balloons too?"
"No, I read books."
"Too bad" the little guy grumbled.
Yeah, too bad for me I thought. I was even a B grandma to a five year old stranger!
When our granddaughter called to tell us about the other grandma's new a puppy, I briefly, ridiculously, considered building a small corral in our large yard and getting a pony.
Last week Em called and told me about her kindergarten costume parade. Of course A-grandma had gone to the parade and sent me photos. Not only had she gone and immortalized the big event, she came in costume!
Now, I really like the other grandma. I am glad she's a big part of Sam and Em's lives. But I do feel left out and under-gifted. Like an athlete on the bench I don't get enough playing time and my inner coach says my performance lacks luster. I've moaned about this for so long my husband now comforts me by saying "You're the best B grandma in the country."
I've quit contending for the A spot. I'm trying to shake loose from the comparison altogether. The whole A/B classification has created a black hole which sucks up joy.
And I avoid even thinking about the step-grandma's themed holiday weekends and the boatload of playmate cousins her daughters produced. I could slide right over the edge of sound judgement into C status and a big hole of self-pity.
I know it's petty. I know children's affections aren't to be won by one-upmanship. I know that they love me. But if I were a kid, I'd rather spend time with the A-grandma too. I thought being a grandparent would be an effortless process. Perhaps my expectations of the grandchild-grandparent relationship were unrealistic and too rosy. But deep down I feel disappointed by the bond I've been able to create with them, and discomfited to consider that genealogy doesn't guarantee warm fuzzy feelings.
My heart's longing is to have the love of my grandchildren. But the only thing I can control is that I love them with all that I have. Then the children are blessed, and I am blessed.
Words have always been a source of joy for Pam Glover. She earned a bachelor's degree in English literature, and a master's degree in English as a second language.
Writing is her primary tool to clarify her thinking. It's her public voice too. She argued for bilingual education in a commentary published by the Christian Science Monitor. She invited music lovers to come to North Carolina in Pow'r Pickin, a bluegrass newspaper. She celebrated her counterpart in “A Letter To the Other Grandma" published in Mature Living magazine.
She maintains a weekly blog at synpasesongs.blogspot.com