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.