Confessions of a feminist, first-time grandmother

Confessions(kənˈfeSHən) of a feminist(ˈfemənəst), first-time grandmother

By Eleanor Barrington

Grandma love in the time of COVID-19 is sadly different. Socially isolated for my own survival(sərˈvīvəl), I am suffering(ˈsəf(ə)riNG) withdrawal(wiT͟Hˈdrôl) from child play. Like so many grandparents in these strange days, we’ve lost the win-win-win of helping care for little ones while their parents work. Our family currently makes do with three-generations walks, the six foot social distance kept strictly(ˈstrik(t)lē) between us and my two-year-old grandson confined(kənˈfīnd) to his stroller(ˈstrōlər).

Our “Grandma Pyjama” ritual(ˈriCH(o͞o)əl) has had to go online. I am learning to read backward with the picture book facing the camera, channelling(ˈCHanl) The Friendly Giant(ˈjīənt) of my childhood. We do our best, but what is Grandma love at story time, without a cuddle(ˈkədl)?

I’m a goo(ɡo͞o)-goo Grandma. I admit(ədˈmit) it. Not long after my grandson was born, I bobbed(bɑbd) happily about their living room, singing nonsense(ˈnänˌsens) rhymes(rīm) to settle(ˈsedl) him on my shoulder. My daughter paused from folding her laundry(ˈlôndrē) mountain(ˈmount(ə)n) to inquire(inˈkwīr) with significant incredulity(ˌinkrəˈd(y)o͞olədē): “Were you like this with us when we were little?”

I’m sure I paused too long as I searched for a plausible(ˈplôzəb(ə)l) answer. “Sometimes … I think so … I was so busy. I hope I was? Sometimes?”

In truth, what I remember most about their early childhood is feeling stressed, sleep deprived(dəˈprīvd) and intellectually(ˈˌin(t)əlˈˌek(t)SH(əw)əlē) starved(stärv) by the domestic(dəˈmestik) sphere(sfir). I loved my children hugely(ˈ(h)yo͞ojlē), but for years I was dizzy(ˈdizē) with the go-round of kids, house, money, marriage, justice(ˈjəstəs) causes and my career. I wished a lot of their childhood along, yearning(ˈyərniNG) ahead for more independent stages.

Consequently(ˈkänsəkwəntlē), I judge(jəj) myself a not-very-playful mom. Not patient and attentive(əˈten(t)iv) enough. A mother who had the next thing to do on her mind, more often than a transient(ˈtranSHənt, ˈtranzēənt) moment in my two children’s lives.