A Grandmother’s Love and Limits:
A Letter to My Mom
I’m so thankful for the role my mom played in my daughters’ lives!
I wish you were alive so I could tell you how sorry I am. When I had young children, I was completely unrealistic in my expectations of you. I didn’t understand why you weren’t eager to step up and help me with my adorable babies. Ok, they were precious, but now I know they were also a lot. Even at the time, I knew that two babies just fifteen months apart were a handful. That’s precisely why I was so desperate for help. I didn’t understand that you didn’t have the energy to care for little ones. I know you loved all of your grandchildren, but you also had your limits.
Today I took care of my grandkids for a short four hours, and I am exhausted. I immediately thought of you, mom, and all the times I asked you to help me when my kids were little. You were about the same age I am now, mid-60s. With my arrogance of youth, I didn’t comprehend how two kids wore you out so quickly. My grandson Callister is four and is a fun, happy kid who is relatively easy. His sister, Sylvia, just turned ten months old and is one of the calmest babies I’ve ever seen. One at a time, they are a delight, but when there are two of them and just one of me, it becomes overwhelming quickly. Is that how you felt when I dropped off my two kids with you, Mom?
When I was in my early 30s, I was a single mom with two young kids, and I was overwhelmed at times. I remember you asking me to look for other babysitters, and you would fill in if there were an emergency. I was hurt. Why didn’t you want to come to my house every Monday night while I went to graduate school? Why didn’t you want to take care of your two little granddaughters, who often bickered and made collosal messes? Now I laugh at my naiveté while also cringing at my selfish ignorance. I had no idea what it felt like to be in my 60s. I had the natural energy that seems synonymous with youth, an energy I took for granted.
You raised four kids, including one with a disability. Then the grandchildren began arriving, with my kids being numbers seven and eight. You were tired and ready for some caregiving-free years. When I had my first child, it was just a few months after your youngest child with intellectual disabilities left home to live in a care facility. You were experiencing your first taste of freedom in almost forty years. I was self-centered enough to think that meant you would have more time and energy for my kids, but now I understand you were ready to not take care of anybody for a little bit. You deserved some time to take care of yourself!
As my kids became elementary-aged, you were there for us so often. You picked the kids up two days a week, so I could work later and not pay for child care. I probably never expressed what it meant to know my kids were safe and loved at your house. Sometimes when I came to get them, you would have dinner ready, and we would sit down to eat together. For an exhausted and lonely single mom, those evenings were the best. I probably took you for granted, mom, and didn’t tell you how much I appreciated you. You made my life easier, and you made my children’s lives immeasurably better!
Mom, you’ve been gone a long time now, but I just had to write this letter to apologize for not understanding your limits or fully appreciating what you did for us. Now, I am the 63-year-old grandmother with two precious grandchildren I adore. I want to step up to the plate and be everything for them. My mind and heart are willing, but my body is not always in agreement. I have so much love for them, but as much as I hate to admit it to anyone (including myself), I have my limits. There is a reason young people are parents!
Please forgive me, mom, and thank you for being the mother and grandmother you were!
Your grateful (but tired) daughter
A lapful of grandkids, a heart full of love, a body in need of caffeine!