Getting ready for grandmotherhood

When you get the news, you realize you have a lot to do before the baby arrives

I knew that when my son Chris and his wife, Kate, walked in the door looking like they had swallowed a zygote, the moment we’d been hoping for was upon us.

“You’re pregnant!” I shouted.

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If mothers have eyes in the backs of their heads, wanna-be grandmothers harbor an intuition gained from decades of keeping children alive.

And yet, inner knowing or no, I wasn’t entirely sure my children would get to this moment. Like a lot of millennials, my trio openly questioned the logic of bringing babies into their already stressed-out lives, not to mention a world of N95s and good-old-boy politics.

Against such odds, I had a hard time seeing myself as grandma — me and my purple-tinged bangs and leggings against the stereotype bun, granny glasses and little black shoes? Not to mention the fact that I still haven’t figured everything out.

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

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Certainly, in recent years, I have watched many of my friends move lithely into grandmotherhood.

No little black shoes in sight. Nor do many of them even call themselves grandma. Instead, they are Gigi, Bubbe, Nonna, Glamma, Grammie. The most original I’ve heard thus far is Miss Banana.

My friends don’t seem so much caricature grandmothers as new mothers all over again. A baby looking strangely familiar is placed in their arms, and suddenly, they are transported back to a time of giddy awe — only this time with a lot more confidence and much less responsibility.

“I must admit it was hard being a parent, always worrying if you’re doing it right and making the right decisions,” said my friend Maryanne, a grandmother of two, 2 and 4. “Being a grandparent is easy. You don’t have the worries you had with your children. You just have to be present and love them as they love you.”

So, too, said my friend Jerrie.

“As a grandmother, my focus is no longer on building a better life for my family. It’s not about work or money provisions. Each day I am with my grandchildren, I am not in the past nor future. I see things in wonder along with them. We do things together. We have talks and have a bond that isn’t like that of my children. I was forever planning this working on this schedule or that. Being the mom who was everybody’s mom. I worked almost nonstop. There was the mom running all over with this activity or that. With these pressures gone it’s a freedom to live in this moment with my grandchildren.”

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My grandmother friends tell me having a grandbaby is like being given a second chance. You may have moments of regret and longing, wishing you could go back with everything you know now. You will also experience profound pleasure in seeing the world through the eyes of a child again, and in watching your grown child parent their own.

I realized in the days following Kate and Chris’ announcement that I have a lot of work to do.

I need to build upper body strength. This is so I don’t drop the baby. Apparently, grandmothers harbor this irrational fear, too.

I need a name. I’ve tried on many, among them: Marmee, Mimi, Gaia and Grandmama with a French accent. My latest is Lolly. If I were Lolly and my ex-husband Pop, together, we would be Lolly Pop.

I also need to apologize in advance. Already, in the first trimester, I had written not one, but two, love letters to the baby and his mom and dad. I sent baby books and a stuffed bunny. I talked a little too much about breastfeeding and birth plans.

I know in advance that if I am to err, it will be on the side of too much. This will demand solid boundaries from them and a promise from me — that no matter how much I love this little one, no matter how many poems are inside my writerly head, no matter how much wisdom I want to offer about going back to work, colic and sleeping through the night, I will always remind myself:

This is their baby, not mine. This is their baby, not mine. And repeat.

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Debra-Lynn B. Hook of Kent, Ohio, has been writing about family life since 1988. Visit her website at, email her at or join her column’s Facebook discussion group at Debra-Lynn Hook: Bringing Up Mommy.)