A new beginning
My granddaughter was born two weeks ago. I was excited and joyous and thrilled, so proud of how my son took care of his wife; so impressed that he went without sleep for two days while she labored for 28 hours. I got to see that precious infant only hours after she was born and to watch my son’s instincts of pride, protection, and possessiveness kick-in. I watched and adored and appreciated and loved. And now I feel something else.
Fear of the patriarchal world
I know that my granddaughter has been born into a patriarchal world. She will struggle less than I did, less than my mother and far, far, less than my grandmothers. I still wonder. In a country where our president feels that returning to a xenophobic, misogynistic world is the way to go, where will she find her place? What will things look like for her as she gets older? What will her opportunities be? Am I overreactive?
Adding to this social-political aspect of her future life is also that her parents, my son and his wife, are both Christians. Although their particular church does not ascribe to the oppression of women, it is still there, and it still permeates that religion, many believe that men should be in control, the head, over women, in spite of the Bible showing a much different story. What will her beliefs be as she grows? Will she believe she is “less than” or will she know she is born in God’s image, neither male nor female but an equal heir with Christ? Will she reject the church as I have?
So proud of my son
I watch my son, the child I birthed and raised. The child who taught me so much even as I nurtured his growth. I love the man he has become; I mourn that I couldn’t have been a better parent, I cherish that I did the best I could, I am so proud of who he is, both inside and out. Since his wife has the higher income (and insurance), my son will be the stay-at-home parent and come Fall he will reduce his workweek to part-time and be home with his beautiful baby girl as her primary caretaker. My heart shatters with the pleasure of knowing my son does not take his masculinity so far as to abdicate his parental responsibilities. He does not see being a man as his right not to change a diaper or settle a baby who fusses, the uncomfortable parts of being a parent. I am more impressed with my son now than I ever thought possible. The ruminations of a feminist, first-time grandmother, are funny, aren’t they?
A heartfelt gift
I find as I search my heart that I do not want to “steal” the baby as so many say they do. I don’t want to care for an infant, no matter how perfect she is, what I want is to protect her parent’s, specifically her father’s, right to parent their daughter how they see fit. I want my son to have the freedom of raising his beautiful child without someone trying to take over, possess or commandeer her caretaking, that goes for his wife too, I want them to have the freedom of parenting without interference.
Another thought occurs to me, am I this detached from the “normal” grandmotherly reactions because she is a girl, and I raised a son? I don’t know that answer; I do know that I still feel the need to protect my child and his wife, my child by marriage. Perhaps right now, they are the ones who feel real to me, and my granddaughter does not. Maybe it is because when I was a young mom, I didn’t feel free to parent as I saw fit. I felt pressure to conform to societal standards. The gift I want to give my son and daughter-in-law is the space to grow their beautiful expanding family as they envision it, not by what they are “supposed to do.”
I have a feeling my fears are unfounded; they are both resilient individuals, and their love for each other is so powerful and tangible. They have a healthy relationship, and each has demonstrated their ability to stand up for themselves, not flawlessly, but honestly. I think that is the piece I missed when my child was born; it was something I had to learn. Maybe I helped him develop this part of himself, perhaps I didn’t, but I hope he continues to gain the confidence of trusting his gut. I pray that both of my granddaughters’ parents learn to be fully trusting of themselves and when needed, ask for help.