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I recently became a grandma at the young age of 37.
When Britney first told us she was pregnant she was 15 years old.
I’d love to say I was shocked, but honestly after multiple pregnancy scares that didn’t change her behavior I was more sad and scared for her then surprised.
The life of a teenage mother is not something I would wish on anyone. The level of responsibility is staggering.
As a parent I couldn’t help but wonder, “What did I do wrong? Why is this happening to my child? What could I have done differently?”
After her announcement these thoughts and so many other ran though my mind.
I felt so much guilt. I kept looking back at my parenting failures and playing the “what if” game. I second guessed my decision and agonized over my choices as a parent. I just knew if I had done things differently this wouldn’t have happened to her.
Although she was living with her Mother when she became pregnant, I knew that her pregnancy could have happened in our home just as easily.
Stubborn children tend to make crazy decisions as teenagers.
As a step-parent, I’m in a unique roll. I’m not the Mom, I’m not the friend. So where does that leave me? I’m in this weird in between land that at times can be overwhelming.
And yet, while I’m none of the above, I’m also all of the above.
I am the friend when they aren’t in my home.
I had a hard time figuring out my role until I realized that my job wasn’t to worry about my job title, my job was to love my girls unconditionally and be their role model to the best of my ability. When I loved them unconditionally, the roles just took care of themselves.
It took Britney’s pregnancy for me to fully realize what unconditional love meant. I’d love to say I’m perfect in this role, but honestly, I’m still not perfect. I love the girls, but loving unconditionally is a whole different level.
So now, rather then trying to be the perfect step-mom, friend, confidant and all the other stuff that comes with parenthood, I just concentrate on being in the moment.
I’ve tried to arrange my schedule so that I’m around more. When the girls want to talk, I put down my computer/cell phone/iPad and make a conscious effort to listen. I ask questions and do my best to engage in the conversation and ask them follow-up questions later.
I invite them to run errands with me and let them know I enjoy their company. If I’m heading out of town for the weekend I invite them to join me.
I want them to know that they are important to me through my words and actions.
I was doing most of this before Britney’s pregnancy, but not at the same level and intensity. I still feel guilty and at times wonder if my inattention played a role in her decisions/behavior.
I’ve finally learned to let that guilt go.
Deep down I know her decision where her own and that I was doing my best to be a good parent.
Kids aren’t going to fit into the neat little slots we’ve pegged them in. If we have raised them right they have their own mind, thoughts and opinions.
I’ll probably always wonder what I could have done differently to help her make better decisions. Aaron and even the girls tell me I’m being stupid and that it had nothing to do with my parenting skills, but I know the areas I struggled in as a parent.
I also know that I can’t allow myself to be weighted down by guilt. I’ve got a grandson that needs my love and attention and in the long run that is all that matters.
Shortly after Mason was born Britney made the decision to move back in with us. This is perfect since it gives me an unfair advantage in the race to become the “favorite grandma.”
So for now, I’m letting go of the guilt and self-judgment and just concentrating on being the best Grandma I can be.
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