Monday, August 04, 2008

My Daughter's Grandmother

“I thought this trip would be our birthday present to you,” my mother told me yesterday, after a five and a half day visit at my parents’. “What do you mean?” I asked, a dreadful realization that she might really meant the cost of feeding my daughter and me for a week. “Oh, you know, all of this,” she answered, with a vague wave of the hand.

Before I could stop myself, I answered, “you mean the flight I paid for?” “I’m sorry, did you want something else?” She answered. “Well,” I said as tactfully as possible, “it is nice to have something on one’s birthday, just to know you’ve been thought of. Like how I brought you and Daddy something from Israel for Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, and your anniversary….” “Now I feel bad,” she answered. And I paused, fighting mightily between “honor your father and mother” and wanting to say, “GOOD!” I said nothing. My daughter broke the silence, thereby changing the subject.

And now I feel really guilty for writing bad things about my mother on this blog, and for feeling like a spoiled brat. [not to mention presents during the three weeks]. I don’t want to give presents because I want something back. I want to give them to make the receiver feel loved and appreciated, and also because I want my daughter to come from a family that gives modest, but thoughtful gifts, when appropriate, like normal people, darn it! Selflessly. Obviously, I’ve got some issues to deal with before I can finish this lesson.

Because Really:

My mother is quite a good grandmother, and my daughter had a marvelous time. My parents own a lot of land that is farmed, so my 19 month-old lived out any toddler’s dream of tearing paper by picking all the cotton bolls, right from the plants, that she wanted, for hours. She pulled so much of it she held the overflow under her neck and arms, yelling in protest if I tried to help her, and only surrendering that soft, gorgeous-smelling stuff to her Grandpa’s big bucket. She played in an auger-cart full of corn kernels (dry, of course). She played in sand piles. She took several baths a day, most of them outside.

And wow, did she love the enormous house and the 11 other cousins who stopped by during the week, and all of them at once on Sunday. And the kittens and birds and flowers.

What I guess I’m struggling with right now is the transition from daughter to mother. (Though one would hope that being a mother does not mean one must forgo presents for the rest of one’s life). What I mean is, I’ll be a lot happier if I think of my mother as my daughter’s grandmother, because she’s really, really good at being a grandmother. And isn’t that really the best present of all? Seeing the strengths in the person you love, and overlooking the weaknesses?


lsw said...

Wow! I'm impressed you even want to acknowledge your birthday anymore! I prefer to stay hidden under my covers as if to say, "If I can't see you, you musn't exist." Don't be too hard on yourself, all that traveling takes a toll.

Your little one must have been in heaven!

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain on this one. My mother-in-law (also my daughter's grandmother) has been known to say things like this. It's hard to express hurt and frustration like this when the subject matter makes it seem like you're being greedy, but the fact that your mom said "this is your birthday present" as if feeding and housing her daughter and granddaughter in her own home is some sort of special generous gift. You should not feel bad about the kick-in-the gut feeling it caused you, because it was an insensitive thing to say. Even if she hadn't planned to buy you a gift, saying this is like pouring salt on the wound. I say this as someone who has a very good relationship with my mother, and she is a wonderful grandmother to my daughter, but she often doesn't call on my birthday (or worse, calls and talks about her own problems) and then doesn't act like there's anything strange about that. I think you have a right to feel exactly how you feel, and you also have a very healthy and positive outlook on this as well.

Maya said...

lsw--what are you saying? 25 is NOT old! And you're even younger than me!!

Thanks, anonymous. It would have been easier had she just said, "we decided not to give presents anymore." I guess it was the implication that feeding us was a burden. I'm sure she didn't mean it like that. And I'll bet your daughter's grandmothers see you as a source of strength, and as an independent, generous person, which is why they share their problems on your birthday.