Grandparenting at Thirty Something
by Donna L. Scrafano
Learning that my just-turned-16-year-old daughter was pregnant and that I was going to be a grandmother at the age of 39 filled my entire being with a plethora of emotions—shock, concern, anxiety, excitement, and confusion. As a Human Services professional, I knew that teen pregnancy was a reality. In fact, I had previously taught Parenting Skill Classes in a Teen Pregnancy Program for the State. Therefore, I was well informed about this issue. The challenge now was to accept that this reality had quite literally, hit home.
Although I was still raising my children—then 15, 16, and 19—as a single mother, I suddenly needed to figure out how to be a grandmother, as well. I also knew I would be acting as my grandbaby’s de facto parent for the next several years, since my daughter had two more years of high school to complete. And then there was college to think about. My Human Services training immediately kicked in. I developed a plan, a contract with my daughter that contained two lists. The first list set down the duties I would take on in raising my grandchild. The second list detailed the responsibilities I expected my daughter to assume. The contract specified that I would commit to my duties on the condition that my daughter agreed to her listed responsibilities. At the top of my daughter’s list was “complete your current education and extended education, as well.” In my mind, everything else was secondary.
My daughter agreed to the plan and contract. Then came the next step: informing the rest of the family. Quite honestly, telling my other two children and my daughter’s father and extended family was a smooth transaction. Advising my family of origin—better known as my “FOO”—was another story. Unfortunately, my FOO held many negative preconceptions about teen pregnancy and unwed mothers. Additionally, they had prejudiced attitudes regarding the fact that my grandbaby was going to be of mixed race. Nonetheless, I made it very clear that if their prejudices were more important than this baby, then they would have given up not only a relationship with the baby but with the rest of “my” family. Luckily, they rallied and accepted the circumstances. Well, all but one. Unimportant.
On March 19, 1994, a beautiful baby girl, Mariah, was born. The emotions of shock, concern, anxiety, and confusion were no longer present. Instead, I recall feelings of pure joy and an indescribable bond of love. Perhaps it was motherhood that helped to prepare me for grand motherhood. In any case, the feeling of that immediate love connection with my first grandchild was unexpected and indefinable. And liberating. The closest I can get is to say it felt like a state of exaggerated bliss.
Then the real work began. The process had its challenges, for sure. However, my daughter and I made a great team. I’d say my daughter was a successful teen mom, contrary to the lingering stigma in our society. That precious baby, Mariah, is now an OBGYN nurse and delivering babies for others. This experience was my introduction, my crash course on being a grandmother, in my thirties. It was quite the challenge, but I believe I passed this course with flying colors.
Now here I am, 24 years later, with five additional grandchildren and loving every minute of it. My “grand-loves,” as I refer to them, are 24, 18, 18, 15, 10, and six months—Mariah, Jaziah, Alexis, Aaliyah, Quincy, and Jianna. There is a different, yet special, bond with each and every one of them. They are all a joy and add meaning to my life. Through the challenges and heartaches, through the good and the not-so-good events, the outcome remains the same: pure joy and a greater love than one could imagine.
Photo credits: Donna Scrafano with Mariah and her daughter, Mariah all grown up!
Donna began her journey in Human Services in 1983. During the next 35 years she held various positions and formally retired in 2018. She writes on an array of social issues. Donna's relaxation time includes walking her Lab, Roxy, having fun with her seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, writing for Silver Sage, spending time with friends and family. Her last full-time position was providing care to her father. Since that has ended, Donna is taking the time to invest in her own self care and interests.