This month I turn forty. I’m finding myself in this sort of strange limbo between motherhood and grand-motherhood. I’m in no rush for my children to marry and start families, but I think about that day more than might be normal. My youngest is thirteen, which means in all likelihood, I’m much closer to being a grandmother than I am to when I was last pregnant. This has caused me to more closely observe grandmothers, to reflect on my own angelic grandmother, and to see the abundant goodness in my mother and mother-in-law as they nurture my children as grandmothers.
One day my husband and I were strolling past the baby section of a department store when he noticed me getting unreasonably excited about the cute clothes, even though I cannot have any more children. He said, “You were born to be a grandmother.” Those words seemed to stick to my soul. They felt so true. So why is this the case? Why is my heart so open and happy at the idea of being what society has deemed, old, past-your-prime, and no longer a spring chicken? Let me tell you.
When I reminisce with my mom about the sweet tender feelings I have of my saucy southern grandmother, she often chuckles, and sometimes will tell me she was so different as a grandma than she was as a mom. She remembers all the good, of course, but also a woman frazzled and stressed from divorce and surviving breast cancer. I only knew a sage woman who I trusted more than anyone on earth. As a grown woman, I can see this same pattern emerge with my own mother and my children. They know nothing of the stressed-out mother of my youth! They take her word as gospel, and seem to lay at her feet a kind of love I am often a little jealous of. It seems to me, grandmothers enter an extraordinary state of being where those who tell their tales in generations to come will only remember the very best. As life has smoothed and polished us, those sweet grand-babies never get to see the jagged edges of our younger years. Each birth of a grand-baby is the rebirth of a grandmother, offering her new life, and the chance to be her best.
There are other things, too, like how grandmothers seem to have softer skin. Their touch and embrace feels different. Somehow they have shoulders that calm fussy babies, and hands that diffuse love and healing. Even the worst cook among them can somehow turn a can of soup into a healing elixir. Women who have become grandmothers are settled women on the inside. Gone is the round-the-clock anxiety young women and young mothers experience about being good enough, and liked enough. This halfway mark in life offers women an internal settling that I can just feel the edges of. Grandmothers have realized there is no competition with other women, there is only a whole lot of understanding and mercy for how hard life’s hard road is. These women are able to offer deep attention and focus to whatever grandchild is nearby, while somehow at the same time, worrying for an ever burgeoning family that has far expanded from the one they first made, which now includes children’s spouses, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren.
Becoming a grandmother is not stepping down in life so others can have a turn in the spotlight. Being a grandmother is to fill the measure of your creation as a mother. Although not all women get to experience this phase of womanhood, I believe all women who desire such a role will be given that chance as we discover what lies ahead for us in the life to come, which will include being reunited with children we lost in this life.
Grandmothers fill in the cracks mothers cannot. They are a healing balm to every generation that follows. Their small, consistent efforts and victories are somehow magnified and glorified by grandchildren. If she is religious, you know she knows God. When grandchildren see their grandmothers they see themselves. The good ones, whether biological or adopted leave deep imprinted hope upon these grandchildren, and a powerful prophecy that everything is going to be all right.
Bonnie D. Parkin, a past Relief Society President once said, “As grandmothers we have a sacred responsibility to encircle our grandchildren in love.” In that same talk titled, “Eternally Encircled in His Love,” she relays a story of a grandchild being sassy to her grandmother. The grandmother responds, “Don’t talk that way to your grandmother, because we are going to be friends for millions and millions of years.” I really believe that. I know our family relationships are eternal. I know every family role we have in this life is essential. Never doubt the majesty and angelic nature of grandmothers. Never doubt God needs grandmothers to help calm the seas their sons and daughters are navigating. You are their North Star. You know the way home. Don’t be afraid to lead and heal your families with all the gifts God has given you. You have not become the supporting actress in your own life. A virtuous grandmother’s price is still far above rubies. The Lord will guide you and be your supporting hand. You are the crowning glory of motherhood, and we will never, ever, ever stop needing you. You were born to be a grandmother.