My day is about to begin; I’m in charge of a two-year-old
named Matilda June.
She is my “Tilly” and I am her “Oma”.
She hits the ground running, this tiny force of nature.
“Oma’s House!” she calls out, filling my grandmother’s heart with
Matilda is my very first grandchild, and she has unlocked a space in my life that’s alive with Possibility and new purpose.
I’m loving everything about grandparenting: watching her learn and
discover; seeing my daughter step into her Mothering Skills; the stirred-up
memories from when I was a young mom – lullabies returning and the mingled
smells of crayons, bubble bath and play dough.
I embrace it all, even welcoming the realities of diaper changes,
scraped knees, tantrums and teething.
I’ve entered a portal into the-unknown-yet-familiar. There’s no turning back for me.
I’m all in.
This rite of passage – this mysterious journey into grandparenting
-- should be wholly available to All
Moms of a Certain Age.
But, sadly, it isn’t.
There are grandmothers and grandfathers who are denied access to
their grandchildren. For various heartbreaking reasons.
Chronic health issues.
Irreconcilable differences in parenting styles.
The anguish of this came knocking one day in the grocery
store on an otherwise normal Tuesday afternoon.
I was in the checkout line, loading my items onto the counter, when I
overheard the conversation in front of me.
Two women exchanging pleasantries – the store clerk and the customer,
doing what we women do so naturally: conversing like old friends. They were
talking about popsicles, and the store clerk mentioned her granddaughter’s
passion for ice cream treats.
Of course, I had to chime in. (As we women do). I offered up how much
I love being an “Oma”.
“Do you have grands?” I asked the customer, a tall woman, regal in
her silver-gray ponytail, her sundress, her manicured toes. I remember she
absolutely exuded warmth and nurture. In my naivete, I simply assumed she had
She looked confused at my question, so I repeated it. “Do you have grands?”
That’s when her face clouded over with something like despair and
“I do have grandkids,” she said, “and I used to know them.”
“But I don’t know them anymore.”
The world stopped for a moment. The hum and bustle of the store
became muted as I struggled to understand her dilemma.
“I used to know them.”
She had grandchildren but she couldn’t be with them. How awful is
This dear lady explained her son, the father of her grandchildren,
was now divorced and the mother wanted absolutely nothing to do with the
extended family; therefore, the children had been cut off from family members
they once knew and loved.
I know this kind of thing can happen, but it’s kind of a vague blip
on my radar.
Now, here stood a pain-filled human right in front of me, a lovely person paying for her groceries and stepping out into the summer day carrying a certain kind of pain. The pain of severance.
The ache of empty air where once there was laughter.
The echo of bedtime stories and birthday parties, shadows
of memories becoming thick like scar tissue.
Before she left, she turned around and gave me a sad smile. “I’m
happy for you, really. Please, enjoy your granddaughter. Because, well … you
just never know.”
You just never know.
If you are reading this and you are alienated from your grandchildren,
I am deeply, truly sorry. Whatever the reasons, you have been denied the
affection of Littles, the loyalty of teenagers, the thrill of seeing young
adults launch out into the world.
You are suffering and please know your unseen wounds are visible to
“Grandparent Alienation is a type of elder abuse that occurs when grandparents are unreasonably denied meaningful opportunities to have a relationship and spend time with their grandchildren.” https://www.aging.pa.gov/
If you are reading this and you – like me – are abundantly blessed with full access to your offspring’s offspring … revel in that. Drink in ALL the beauty of your situation and be keenly aware of your good fortune.
Tilly June keeps me on my toes. She has only one speed: fast-forward.
Together, we go on walks in the woods, inspecting every bug and flower. She
We make frozen treats and slurp them on the patio, dripping and
giggling to our heart’s content.
Her parents invite me on treks to the library, the zoo, the park and the
It’s all amazing.
And I know it. Every single moment.
A little checklist for the Abundantly Blessed:
ü **Maintain empathy for those missing their grands. Don’t automatically assume other grandparents have it as good as you do.
ü **Be aware there may be legitimate reasons, including the physical safety and emotional welfare of the child, for denial.
ü **Be available to stand in the gap for kids who need a grandparent-figure to influence their young lives. You just may be the answer to somebody’s prayers.
ü **Remain locked and loaded, fully engaged in your joy of being a grandparent.
ü **Happily maintain your bragging rights. You’ve earned them.
ü **Here’s a great resource when you’re thinking up stuff to do with your grands: Type "Macaroni KID" in your search bar. Macaroni KID is a free weekly online newsletter giving you all the kid and family friendly events in your community.