Grandma Sue?

In doing research for my book, I’ve been reading articles about stepgrandmothers. The articles seem to come from fairyland. I read about the wonderful things one can do with the offspring of one’s stepchildren and think, yeah, right. Set up opportunities to get to know them. Take them out to the movies, have them stay overnight, telephone and write letters or e-mails, have long heart-to-heart talks, get involved in their soccer games, doll play, or whatever they’re interested in.

It all sounds very nice, but it never happened for me. Not having been a mother or even been around children much, I had no idea how to go about courting my stepdaughter Gretchen’s kids. Plus, we’ve always lived at a distance. Because Gretchen was divorced from the children’s father when they were little, whenever we visited there was a good chance they were with their father. Or they might be with one of their real grandmothers. They had two grandmothers and two great-grandmothers when they were young. Grandma Sue was just the woman married to Grandpa Fred.

I was only 34 when Stephanie was born, 35 when Brandon arrived 14 months later. My training was in writing and music, not early childhood relations. I truly “didn’t know nothin’ ’bout babies.” Maybe if I’d had those articles then, things would have been different. I could have been more like my Grandma Rachel, who was also a childless stepgrandmother. She married Grandpa Fagalde a few years after Grandma Clara died. Rachel dove into grandmotherhood full-force. She showered us with gifts, took great interest in our lives and made us feel loved to the nth degree. She was big, loud and eccentric, but we loved her. To us kids, she was our grandma.

I wish I could have been that kind of grandma. I know women who adore their stepgrandchildren. In fact, they never use that “step” word. But it’s too late for me to start over. If I ran into my adult stepgrandchildren on the street, I’m not sure they’d recognize me.

How is it for you? Have you had the strange experience of becoming a grandmother without ever being a mother? Do you have a warm, fuzzy relationship with the kids or is it awkward and distant? I’d love to know.

2 thoughts on “Grandma Sue?

  1. I became a grandmother at 42 when I married my husband who was 56 at the time–my first marriage. He has 5 grandchildren. Some warm and fuzzy after a few years. The kids were young then and loved their grandpa, so I just became part of the package. Although I am not really a kid person, I found it way more awkward to deal with my husband’s daughter than the kids. (He is, unfortunately, estranged from his other daughter.) We have had the two oldest stay with us from time to time and taken the oldest with us on some camping trips. It’s really different having another (young) person around, but then when they are gone, I miss them for awhile until we get back to our own routine. Not a perfect world but we muddle through!


  2. I too became a stepmom at the age of 34, my husband was 41. I had gone through a miscarriage in my first marriage just two years earlier. My husband’s first grandson was already here at that point. He didn’t want any more children and I married him knowing that. We now have a granddaughter and they call me Grandma and I call them grandchildren. I only mention “step” when people ask about my age and having grandbabies (I’m 38 now). I was never a maternal person, never wanted children until I lost the baby that was a surprise. Now the babies come and spend the night with us maybe every two weeks or so. Their parents are going through a divorce, so we try to be there for both of them. Many times I have struggled with getting close to them and not getting close, only because I hurt so bad sometimes for the baby i lost and the fact that I won’t have children…ever. I feel like I don’t fit in with my friends and co-workers. They either have kids or they are grandmothers in their 60’s and 70’s. How does a 38 year old fit in? I can’t relate to the struggles of raising children and I feel people think I’m not a ‘real’ grandma.I have struggled with depression through the years, and this is a part of it. I have just decided that the Lord knew what he was doing when I lost my baby and now, I have the energy to keep up with the babies. LOL


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