Grandparents can be incredibly important and special people in the lives of children. They love you as much as your parents do, but they don’t have to do all the telling off and rule making. Their cuddles are just as good and they come with sweets before dinner.
That said, for my two bigs, my daughter Miss Rose and my step son Z, their grandmothers have become something even more than a traditional grandparent role.
Since he was 7 months old Z has spent weekdays with his grandma as both his parents work full time. She did his naps, his meals, his bath times. She took him to playgroups and taught him to ride a bike. Whilst she would never replace his parents in his heart, she very much became a third parental figure in his life. Not a grandma for naughty treats and visits, but a consistent and depended on parent figure to do disciplining and raising as well.
In Z’s life, where he is bumped from his mother’s home to his father’s home to his grandmother’s home, it is a positive. Knowing he sees every home he spends time in as a place here a parent he depends on is, it gives him security everywhere and doesn’t leave him pining for something that is missing.
For Miss Rose her relationship with her nanny, my mother, is something different again. Last night is struck us exactly what it is.
As Miss Rose sat on the stairs, clutching a photograph of her nanny to her chest, and sobbing huge tears of sadness, we realised something.
Nanny is her weekend dad.
When her biological father left, my mum stepped in to become something he had taken with him. Whilst I was on the verge of a mental breakdown, struggling not only with the collapse of my marriage, the vanishing of my husband and the sudden thrust into single parenthood, but also existing mental health issues, my mum became her dad. When I needed help my mum was it. When I was struggling to pay for things, my mum paid. When I needed a break my mum cared for her. When I needed to make a parenting decision, it was my mum I made it with.
In Miss Rose’s world, where her real father disappeared, my mother stepped in. Where my mother stepped in she became daddy number 2. She didn’t fill the void left by her father, but she came close.
My mum was depended on in a way more than a grandmother for visits. Much like Z and his grandma, nanny became one of Miss Rose’s parents.
Then I met The Boy.
When The Boy came into her life he didn’t take the daddy role immediately. He was a stranger and my mother was already there. Indeed, he’s spoken about how he often felt he had to be conscious of not treading on her parenting toes with Rose, far more than he felt it about mine. He couldn’t overstep his mark because my mum was the protective parent, and he was the newbie.
However, over time The Boy became Daddy. He is now depended on as much as any biological father would be. He does the fun, the games, the discipline and the worry. He loves her, cares for her, raises her. It’s he who steps in when I need help. It’s he who I discuss my parenting concerns with. He is daddy.
But that means my mother and I had to break up. My mum had to stop being the father figure to allow The Boy to take that job. My mum became the weekend dad.
When her biological father used to visit, sporadically though it was, Miss Rose would immediately have a breakdown as soon as he left. She would scream and cry and tantrum, she would break her heart and take out her frustration and confusion about his leaving on me. Now when my mother leaves it’s the same deal.
Nanny does everything a weekend dad does, both good and bad. Nanny spoils her, taking her for trips and buying her ice cream. Nanny helps financially paying for things she needs. Nanny comforts her, gives her someone to depend on. It’s Nanny she cries for when Mummy and Daddy have thwarted her. Nanny loves her fiercely, is loyal to a fault, and puts Rose’s needs in the forefront of her mind like any good parent would. But sometimes Nanny promises to show up and has to cancel. Nanny makes decisions that I, as the mother, have to over rule and become the bad guy in. Nanny disagrees with parenting choices I make and has to be shot down because I’m the one who would deal with the consequences. Nanny comes and goes.
Nanny and I broke up as parents of Rose, and it’s Rose who’s living with the consequences. Nothing about her grandmothering would be out of place in a regular grandmother, but in the light of her stepping in as a daddy role, it leaves Miss Rose grieving for the absent father who is still in her life;my mother. She is left with an open wound from her biological father, and now a constant scratching from her second father.
Her third father and I promise her we love her, promise her we’re here for her, and give her the consistency and stability she needs and craves. She is better for us being together and, over time, my mother will morph from daddy number two into just a grandmother. Over time she’ll be able to wave goodbye to my mum with a smile and a cuddle, and not break into little pieces because her heart is being ripped out by the absence. She is only four years old and my mother was who she depended on second only to me for a huge portion of her life and it’s still very fresh. Over time it will ease.
But until then we have to try to understand what she’s going through. When she reacted like this to her biological father’s absence, when he expressed his opinions on her raising and we disagreed, it was a given. We understood it, we expected it. We hadn’t fully taken into account that it is the same emotions raging through Miss Rose where my mum is concerned and it’s something we need to respect.
I am so very grateful to my mum for being so essential in Rose’s life and caring for her as much as she does, she is and always has been an incredible parent, to both me and Miss Rose. I am so grateful that The Boy has stepped in to become the father she truly needs and deserves. And together we are all muddling through trying to raise a little girl to be happy, and dealing with the complexities of a patchwork family that so many of us are facing in our own unique ways.
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Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!