When your baby has a baby

There’s something about life that, by the time we reach our 50s, we all understand. I suppose that’s because the rearview mirror teaches us a great deal.

In every life, there are a handful of key events that change a life’s trajectory. Which college to attend? What major to select? Who will my life partner be? Will we have children, and if so, how many? Do we pursue a life of faith, or go it alone? Will I choose a corporate career or pursue entrepreneurship? These decisions determine RIGHT, LEFT, or STRAIGHT AHEAD at life’s junctures.

The tricky part is that we don’t understand how these key choices affect us (and those we love) until we’ve already made them, often not until years after we made them. In our late teens and twenties, what DO we understand? Turns out, not much. Our best bet is to rely on the example and advice of good parents who love us, guide us and teach us.

We make many of these important decisions in our twenties. In our thirties, we live with them (or try to). In our forties, as women anyway, our vision becomes crystal clear. For many of us, it is the first time in our lives that we know who we are, aside from “daughter,” “sister,” “friend,” “wife,” and “mom.” It is an enlightening coming of age, and I found it to be strengthening – very welcome.

At age fifty-eight, I became a grandmother. My baby had a baby. Turns out, that event is one of those key mile markers. I was surprised at how that one event reached into my soul, getting past all the cracked walls and broken glass, and wrapped my heart in thick, soft, warm velvet. In the instant that I first laid eyes on my minutes-old granddaughter, my relationship with my daughter changed forever. Any of those classic differences that characterize a mother/daughter relationship vanished. Poof. Like they were never there in the first place. The love that I have for my daughter was immediately buttressed by respect and admiration. I always knew she’d be a good mother, but when I saw her holding her baby, nursing her, caring for her, I knew I was right.

I want to believe that the way she loves and mothers her daughter is rooted in the way I loved and mothered her. My heart swells with love, nearly bursting it feels, when I see her talk to her daughter, cuddle her, begin in these wee months to parent her. She sets a schedule and a routine for her now two-month old daughter. She is building structure, predictability, and security into her tiny, dependent world. She is mothering.

I thank God for this, because I have seen what a lack of mothering does to a child’s life. I’ve seen what it does to an adult’s life, 50-plus years after not being mothered. The results are no less than devastating.

Yes, it changes a person, to see her baby have a baby. It changes a mother to see her child pick up the gauntlet and carry it, perhaps even a bit higher than she carried it before her daughter did. It lifts us up. It gives us assurances about the carrying on of life. It gives us joy and peace.

Carole Townsend is an author, journalist, and columnist living in metropolitan Atlanta. She and her husband have been married for nearly 20 years, and during that time, they have raised their children and now delight in doting on their granddaughter. Through those 20 years, they have brought 6 dogs into their home and family, and they have loved every one of them well and thoroughly. When she’s not writing, gardening, cooking, or training Theo, Carole travels throughout the southeastern United States, talking to women’s and civic groups about being a woman, loving a family, and writing. Visit her at www.caroletownsend.com, Carole Townsend – Author (Facebook), @caroletownsend (Twitter), and @carole.w.riter (Instagram).