9 Essential Truths About Being a Grandmother That I Learned from My Own Mom

I vividly remember standing in my kitchen, making lunch for my young children, and realizing I was singing Victor Vito as I stirred the pasta sauce. It struck me at that moment. I’m the mama. I’m THE mama! How can that be? How did I get here?  

My children were probably around one and three at the time, so it’s not like I was new to motherhood. It’s not even like it was the first time I had this thought. From the first moment I saw my son, I was in love and loved being a mom, but it took me a long time to fully process my new role.

Grandmother with grandkids
My mother with all her grandchildren. (Photo credit: Laura Hudgens)

For years I felt like was not really the mom

For years I had fleeting moments when I didn’t feel like I was as old or as wise or as mom-like as my own mother had been at my age. It was similar to the way I felt when I entered high school, pledged a sorority, or got my first job. It’s a surreal feeling to be doing something you’ve always imagined doing–to be living your dream come true.

I feel the same way now that I am about to be a grandmother. For starters, I am thrilled. I cannot believe that our family is getting a new little one to cuddle and love. Second of all, I can’t believe I am going to be a grandmother! A GRANDMOTHER! How can this be?

How did I get here? It’s exciting, but it’s also a bit overwhelming. Luckily,  just like every other phase of my life, I have wonderful role models in my mother, mother-in-law, and grandmothers.

I learned so much from my grandmother. (Photo Credit: Laura Hudgens)

Nine things I’ve learned from watching my mom and grandmother

1. Grandmothers (and grandfathers) make life easier

My parents were our support system. They provided childcare, transportation, and even entertainment. My kids loved being with their grandparents, and we loved having the extra help. Living near my parents enriched our lives in countless ways. I’m so ready to pay it forward for my kids and their children. 

2. The “Grandmother Effect” is real

The basic idea behind the Grandmother Effect is that in cultures where grandparents are an active part of the family, children and grandparents live longer, happier lives. I know my kids are better off for having grandparents nearby, and my 82-year-old parents would say their lives have been enriched, and probably extended, by spending the last 28 years loving and caring for my children and nephews. 

3. You can’t always choose your grandmother name

The “trend” among grandparents these days is to have a fun, hip name like Cookie or Honey or even Glam-ma. But the reality is, children will call us what they will call us.

My young, funloving, 40-something grandmother wasn’t quite ready to be identified as a grandma or granny. She preferred we just call her by her name–Juanita (Nita for short.) But my older brother’s toddler-speak turned that into Nino. Thereafter, she was Nino to us, my parents, my cousins, and her friends. When she retired and took up painting, she even signed all her artwork NINO.

4. Closeness isn’t just about geography 

We are lucky that our first grandchild will be living close by. But it remains to be seen where our other children will settle and start their families. My mother’s parents lived three hours away, as did my in-laws. Yet, I had a special bond with my Memaw and PaPa, and the same was true for my kids and my husband’s parents. There’s just something about the love between grandparents and their grandchildren that distance can’t diminish–and that’s reassuring. 

5. I will have special traditions

Every spring when I was a child, my mother would take me to visit my grandmother in “the big city” and she and I would go shopping for my Easter dress–just the two of us.. We made a day of it…a dress, shoes, maybe a hat. Once she even bought me white gloves. And we always had lunch at a fancy restaurant. Shopping for Easter was our thing, our special tradition.

I don’t know if it will be Easter dresses or something else, but I’m looking forward to developing a just-for-us tradition with each of my grandchildren.

6. I will use the good china

My dad’s mother was a hostess at heart. She loved to decorate for the holidays and the seasons and to set a pretty table with her finest dishes. Even when she got too old to do much decorating or to host large family gatherings, she would still add a festive touch to every occasion–a red paper heart on our plates in Februrary or a basket of dyed eggs as a centerpiece at Easter. No, she didn’t always use the good china, but she always made getting together feel special.

7. I will give the gift of listening

One of the greatest gifts my parents, in-laws, and grandmother gave me was to listen in rapt fascination to all my stories about my children–their antics, the cute ways they said things, what milestones they accomplished, or how endless and utterly amazing I thought they were. It was as if they had nothing better in the world to do than to hear stories about their grandchildren. It was a testament to their love for the children and for me. 

8. I need to get some cool grandma stuff

Every child should find his or her grandparents’ house a place of wonder. It doesn’t take much–a bowl of butterscotch candies for the taking, a box of multi-colored buttons to play with, or a collection of fun hats.

My grandparents had a mechanical bird that sang when my grandfather wound it with a special key, and my other grandparents had a collection of copper teakettles on their hearth that I, and later my children, were allowed to play with. My mother-in-law kept a box of old frilly nightgowns and silky scarves for playing dress-up. Looking back on my own childhood and my children’s, I realize that seemingly meaningless trinkets can seem like treasures to kids. 

9. I will play with my grandchildren

When I found out I was going to be a grandmother, I started doing pilates because I want to get down on the floor with my grandchildren and build wooden block zoos for all their stuffed animals. I want to take them on long nature walks through the woods and toss them around in the swimming pool. I want to be able to do all the things my parents did with my kids! 

Since finding out that I’m going to be a grandmother, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my own grandparents and remembering all the things I loved about being with them. I’m aspiring to be the same type of hands-on, helpful, and fun grandparent that my mom and dad have been and a source of constant love like my in-laws.

I’m so fortunate to have so many wonderful grandparenting examples. It still all seems a bit surreal, but I can’t wait to be a YaYa–or whatever they decide to call me.

More Great Reading:

I’m a Grandmother and It’s STILL Hard to Let Go

About Laura Hanby Hudgens

Laura Hanby Hudgens is a part-time high school teacher and a freelance writer living with her husband and children in the Arkansas Ozarks. Her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Grown and Flown, Parent.co and elsewhere. You can learn more about her at Charming Farming, where she occasionally blogs about faith, food, education, and family life.

Read more posts by Laura

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