Dr. Cindy Ryan shares the inexpressible joys and fears of her experience becoming a grandmother. Her thoughts on parenting and grand-parenting.
God is Always Preparing Us for New Paths
The women tried to prepare me. A band of women, all grandmothers, had been whispering their secrets for months
I suppose this has been going on all my life, people trying to share what they know. When my daughter was born, people said, “She will grow so fast.” I heard them, but I couldn’t digest their words. Back then, I just wasn’t ready to hear truth like that. I wanted to figure things out on my own or to believe I was the exception.
This time around though, when these grandmothers spoke, I was listening. They said things like, “It will be exhausting but the most wonderful thing you’ve ever experienced.” And, “Being a grandmother is like pure love, extracted.” I even asked more about this bit of wisdom. The grandma said, “Remember how you worried about every phase of your child’s life? You won’t do that with your grandkids, because you now know that each phase will come. You get to fully enjoy each moment.” I could hear them, but it was almost as if they were speaking a different language, one that I wouldn’t understand until my first grandbaby was born.
Jesus Always and Big Life Changes
Along with getting ready to become a grandmother, I made some major life decisions. God had been preparing me for a while to take a new path, asking me to trust Him, assuring me that I would be shown when the timing was right. During this preparation time, I read Jesus Calling daily, just as I had for years. Then I received Sarah Young’s new book, Jesus Always. I added it to my daily devotional time and received the gift of God’s Word over and over.
When I read the Jesus Always devotion on August 21, I knew God had an important message for me:
“Lift up your soul to Me—waiting in my Presence with no pretense and no demands. As you dedicate time to waiting and worshiping, I gradually transform you and open up the way before you.”
Sure enough, God was faithful. When I exited my long-held ministry position, I was absolutely sure that it was time to move on, to graduate from that chapter of my life.
Connecting as Mother and Daughter, Dealing with Distraction & Worry
And as I got ready for a new chapter, becoming a grandmother, my daughter and I entered a new realm of our relationship. And I treasure those early pregnancy talks.
“Mom, I’m so distracted by this pregnancy,” she said. “I’ve not been able to focus on work or anything since I found out. When will I be able to focus again?”
This sweet question sent peals of laughter through my soul. She didn’t know. She couldn’t have. She was just figuring out the deep and ongoing distraction of motherhood.
I’ve been parenting now for twenty-eight years straight. I still have a high schooler living at home. In those twenty-eight years, I’ve never had a non-distracted time. Moms worry. Moms project into the future. Moms think about things like school pictures, birthday celebrations, laundry, backpacks, lunch money, and all the inadvertent harm we are causing our children that therapy will never repair. We think constantly about food, clothing, shelter, global warming, immunizations, play dates, and Ebola.
Read More: 10 Tips for a Joy Filled Life by Sarah Young
Joy and Mourning Growing Up
A few days after my grandson was born, I found my daughter standing in the middle of her bedroom sobbing. She had been looking at pictures on her phone of the baby in the hospital a few days before. “He’s changed so much. He’s growing up too fast.”
Then she said, “I’m afraid he will get eaten by an alligator.”
Again, I could only nod because, of course, we all worry about that. Alligators are real. So are accidents, diseases, and troubles of all kinds. Being a parent means you are wearing your heart outside your body now, and it’s subject to all manner of alligators.
Every mom and grandmother whom I’ve shared the alligator story with reacts the same. They do not say, “Your daughter is crazy.” They do not say, “She was speaking out of a swirl of exhaustion, physical pain, and raging hormones.” They say, “Oh, yes, the alligators. She’s figuring out about the alligators, bless her heart.”
Graduating to Grandmother-Hood
When my grandson entered this world, I was right there, experiencing the moment I graduated to grandmother-hood. My son-in-law and I had developed a plan where he would support the top half of my daughter, and I would look after her bottom half. As it turns out, my role had the premier seat in the house for watching our collective new life emerge.
Sweet baby Keller came out looking stunned, eyes wide open, a tad bit panicked at his surroundings. And suddenly, I could understand what those grandmothers had been telling me: “Pure love, extracted.” “Your life will flash before your eyes.” “Motherhood will come full circle.” “You will savor him in an icing-on-the-cake way that you couldn’t savor your own babies.”
In the days that followed, my family all fought politely over who would hold Keller. I’ve never seen such a family of baby hoggers. When I had my turn, I focused in on the tiniest parts of him. His smallest finger and the tiny fingernail there. His lips. His feet. His stretches. Oh my. Scripture rang breathtakingly true in those moments: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:13–14 niv).
A Spring Full of Blessings
May is the season of graduations and of celebrating motherhood. I’ve graduated from so many things in my life—high school, college, seminary, jobs. Graduating to grandmother-hood was the sweetest commencement yet. Of course, how lovely is it that the word commencement means “new start” or “beginning”?
I thank God for new beginnings, for those who whisper truth to us, for full-circle joy and wonder, and for God’s faithful Word to guide us through all our graduations.
And so it begins.
Dr. Cindy Ryan was ordained as a pastor in 1987. She has served in small, medium, and large churches in Texas. She has also served as a hospital and hospice chaplain. In addition to being a wife, a mother of three, and a grandmother to Keller, she blogs at drcindyryanblog.com and occasionally speaks at retreats, in churches, and at other events. You can also find her on Facebook as Dr. Cindy Ryan.