Author Teresa Pitman, who has helped so many families through her best-selling books on breastfeeding, lives alone now yet surrounded by family.
Although I was born in England, I came to Canada as a baby, so I lived an ocean away from my mother’s mum—my grandmother. Didn’t matter. Every week she sent a parcel to me and my sisters, with a letter telling us about the family news, copies of English comic books (Beano! Bunty! Rupert Bear!) and often some English chocolates or other treats as well. Despite the distance, I always felt close to her and loved imagining her in the store thinking of us as she made her purchases.
Now it’s my turn to be the grandmother. As of this July, I’m living alone for the first time (not counting my two boisterous dogs). And yet I’m not alone: two of my sons and their families live nearby, and so I spend a lot of time with my six grandchildren. Every weekend they all come to my house for dinner; as a mother of four, I know what it’s like to cook seven days a week for a big family and I want to give my daughters-in-law a break. Sometimes my out-of-town kids come, too.
During the week, I might be picking up 13-year-old Sebastian from band practice, taking nine-year-old Callista to the library, or looking after two-year-old Mackenzie while her parents volunteer as Scout leaders.
I work more than full-time hours as a freelance writer. More work, less money and no benefits compared to a regular job, but it worked for me when my marriage ended many years ago and I wanted the flexibility to be available for my then-young children. That flexibility is still important to me—I have a whole new generation to love!
As a grandmother, I can sometimes step in when it would be harder for parents to solve the problem. When Callie was longing for more friends, I organized “Girls’ Club” and brought together a group of girls (Callie included) for regular afternoons of fun—and watched the friendships blossom.
We also started a tradition that the kids named “Special Days”—where I take one child at a time for half a day or so and we do something chosen by the child. With seven-year-old Xavier, that often means playing board games all afternoon; five-year-old Keagan and I sometimes go to the movies or the park. At 17 months, Dexter’s not big enough for a half-day away from his Mom yet, but he loves to come with her for a lunchtime visit or to play with me for an hour or so while she’s at the gym. And when each child turns eight, we do a grandma-and-grandkid trip to Disney World (Xavier and I are going in 2015).
Those special occasions, though, are really the icing on the cake. I think it’s all those ordinary, everyday moments that mean the most and build our relationships. And the support goes both ways: one of my daughters-in-law will feed the dogs when I have a late meeting, or my son shows up to shovel my driveway. We talk to each other just about every day.
In many ways, my life has not gone as planned. There are plenty of things I get stressed out about. But I am always thankful to have these close connections with my grown-up kids and my grandchildren.
This is #1000families post number 51. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.