Thursday, 4 September 2008
I have quite a few "grandchildren', not all of my bloodline - some are the children of my stepchildren, some the stepchildren of my own children and some the children of people who have chosen to treat me as an alternative mother, it gets complicated and expensive, come Christmas! I have 4 grandchildren actually of my bloodline, not including one charming little boy who left us when he was only 6 weeks old - I don't include him only because there is no longer anything I can contribute to his life, not because he's not important - he is still very precious. Three of these are the older siblings of our lost James Rowan - Carys, David and Bethan, the children of my eldest daughter, Annabelle. The fourth is a new arrival, the first child of my youngest daughter, Ruth, and Inga arrived early, on the 4th of July - I dread to think what her name might have been, had she been born in America!
Last week we went to meet Inga for the first time. She and her parents (Daddy is Mark, a spectacularly good History teacher and ex-Army, who is a brave and special person in many ways) live in a gorgeous old stone cottage in Pencaitland, Scotland, which they managed to move into, after 2 years renovation, the day after Inga was born! We were a tiny bit apprehensive about how things would go on this visit, as Ruth and I have had a difficult relationship in the past, and I have found it all too easy to put my foot in it - don't misunderstand, I love and admire Ruth tremendously, she has overcome enormous difficulties to achieve things that many professionals in her childhood would have believed impossible - they seriously underestimated her! However, there is considerable tension between her father and myself, and this has contributed to alot of misunderstandings and pain for both of us - and I haven't always been the most stable and strong a person myself, so I have, sadly, sometimes let her down badly. We need not have worried, Ruth seems so much happier and at peace with herself, and I am overjoyed for her.
Inga is an unusually interactive baby - at only 2 months, I found myself relating with her as I would expect to interact with a child twice her age. I suspect Ruth and Mark will have their hands full with this one! She is obviously intelligent and curious about the world, as was her mother, and her cousins. I'm really not being a soppy Granny - not all of my much loved younger generation are quite as bright and pretty (perhaps I shouldn't say the latter - Mark insists the poor child looks like me!) but this one is certainly precocious.
I find that I do feel differently this time round, though. My older grandchildren arrived when I was not that far from having had small children of my own, so they were far from a novelty in my life! Also, it has to be admitted, I wasn't really ready to wear the label 'Granny", with its image of age and past-it-ness! This time, parenting of babies and toddlers is way behind me, and I find myself able to enjoy Inga without the pressure I felt earlier - a shame, as I now see how my earlier grandchildren missed out. Not that Carys seems dissatisfied, she tells me I'm "cool' and 'fun', but sometimes embarrassing!
Having struggled as a parent, and knowing from the start that I wasn't really the ideal personality for parenthood, being a grandparent is an unexpectedly enjoyable experience. I have always valued and enjoyed children, but am not a consistent enough person to be the reliable, strong parent that every child needs and deserves, so as a grandparent I can contribute and offer what I can, without carrying a level of responsibility I am ill fitted for. Ruth plans to have more children, and since Inga was planned almost to the day, I expect her to have a couple of siblings! Ruth's brother, Nicolas, also has hopes of being a father one day - though that is not likely to happen soon, I hope that in future I can be a better grandparent, and perhaps give my children better support as parents than I was able to give them as children.