Years and years ago - twenty-three years, in fact - one Saturday morning, I sat in a restaurant with my family and Beloved Husband's family to have brunch in celebration of Offspring the First's baptism. It was a lovely service, and had gone smoothly; three-month-old Offspring the First had noisily sucked on her fist during the ceremony, much to the amusement of everyone since the sound was caught and projected by the priest's microphone. It was a bit of humor in the otherwise solemn service.
I was still learning the ropes of New Mothering. The trauma of Offspring the First's difficult delivery had started to fade, thank goodness; and she and I had, after much effort and many tears (primarily on my part) figured out the mechanics of breastfeeding. She nursed well and promptly drifted off into a heavy-cheeked sleep. She often smiled, and looked interestedly at the tiny board books I showed her. I was tired, but I enjoyed her, so much. She was such a good baby with whom to begin my motherhood path.
In the restaurant, Grandma took Offspring the First from me so that I could eat. And as she held my daughter, my mother proclaimed to everyone at the table:
"I don't feel old enough to be her grandmother. I feel like her mother."
I took my child back from her shortly thereafter. No one should feel like Offspring the First's mother, except for me.
Now, over two decades later, I have begun to comprehend what my mother said -- for twice over the past few weeks, I have been asked: "Do you have grandchildren?"
My first internal reaction is incredulity: Good Gravy, do I look grandmother-ly? Realistically, though, it is certainly biologically possible at this point for my Offspring to have reproduced -- so it is not an unreasonable question. Still, it makes me sad to have so clearly moved into this age group.
I do not feel old enough to be anyone's grandmother.
I finally understand, Mom.
In the fullness of time, if my Offspring have offspring of their own, I will embrace grandmother-hood. There must be something truly enjoyable about participating in the fun parts of a wee person's life without the onus of the grittier parts of parenthood. And I like babies, and toddlers, very much.
It has been so long since I have held a sleeping young person in my arms.
I will say one thing, though: I will never say that I feel like someone's mother, unless I am, in fact, their mother. Motherhood, in all its magnificent complexity, is wrought through pain and joy, through success and failure, day by day by day -- moment by moment, even. It is an experience unique to each woman, and it is not for me to lay claim to any experience other than my own.
I mother three human beings -- that is all. I nurture others. I might help nurture a grandchild, in due course. That is up to the Offspring. We shall see.
Myself, a lifetime ago.