Another brilliant piece from a GUNNAS WRITING MASTERCLASS writer
I am sure you have all seen it, the headline that says ‘Grandmother bashed in her house’ or ‘Grandmother arrested for carrying drugs through airport in Thailand’. Well, I am a grandmother, but you know what, I don’t get it. I don’t get why it’s important to tell us that someone is a grandmother in a headline like that. Does it mean they are more worthy of compassion? Does it mean that they are therefore a bit old and senile so you wouldn’t expect them to have the brainpower to manage to smuggle drugs? Or that it’s no surprise when they get caught because obviously their brain is a bit frazzled because of grandmotherhood.
Yep I am a grandmother, and I love it. My grandchildren have each from day one, got their claws into my heart and embedded themselves deeply into my soul. They give me joy and they magnify any fears I have for the future of the world because I don’t want them to have to deal with the damage we seem to be hellbent on wreaking on this tiny planet we inhabit. But I don’t want to be defined as a grandmother. I am a woman with a history, an atheist, an activist, a feminist . I have worked to change the world, I have worked to make our community just a little bit safer for women and children. I have loved good and bad men, I have travelled, I have at times had too much to eat and too much to drink. I dance, I laugh, I tell stories, I am rude, I am kind and I am at times quite cruel.
I hate those flowery cards and sentiments that say things like ‘best grandmother ever’. I hate those shallow quotes that say grandmothers make the world go around, that they are always there when you need them, or they are wise or spread kindness and compassion. In the end grandmothers are just women. Women who have had (in my case the incredibly fortunate) experience of giving birth and whose children have survived long enough and healthy enough to have their own children. Being a grandmother does not automatically make you wise, or saintly or a source of overflowing goodness. In some cases women have not wanted or known how to care for their own children, are able to love, celebrate and care for their grandchildren. Others never learn to care for themselves let alone anyone else. Grandmothers both carry the sins of past generations and hand them down to the future ones if they are allowed to.
Not all grandmothers are there all the time. Some of them want their own space, some work and love it, (or hate it but need the money) some want to have a life and not be forever available to give and give and give again. Some do choose to do that, or feel pressured into it by their ever so loving children and grandchildren. I know that I am a pretty good person, but not because I am a grandmother. I am a good person because I care about the world, because I intensely dislike those parasites like Tony Abbott and Cory Bernardi who want to drag us back to the last century. It’s my values and the things I have done that define my goodness and worth, not my status as a grandmother. I know my grandchildren are fortunate to have me in their lives, not because I am inherently kind or good, but because having me around allows them to know their past. Somebody, no idea who, once said that we need to know and acknowledge our past to shape our present and our future. So that’s what I give them, a knowledge of who they are and where they come from. Those who have been denied that connection, like the stolen generation or orphans or those who have not had families that cared for them, tell us what an aching hole not having that history, that connection to the past that understanding of where they came from, can leave.
Maybe that’s why grandmothers are either celebrated or sniggered at. Maybe it’s because we provide that connection to what has gone before which some people value and some don’t. But just think, if we celebrated and included all older people and spent time listening to them, to their stories to their histories then grandparents would be just another part of that. If, as a community, we embraced all children and all older people, whether you were or were not a parent or grandparent would not matter. What would matter would be your memory, your history, the knowledge you have accumulated over the years and the connections you have to your community.
So, next time you read those headlines, or you see the cards or somebody posts something on facebook about grandmothers, just think that there is a whole history there that is more than that. Just think that there is a woman who has a life and who has lived it well or not but that she is more than just a grandmother and is not deserving of either sainthood or scorn just because she carries that label. Be curious instead about what her life might be or have been like.