Written by Donna L. Scrafano
Learning you’re going to be a grandmother, at the age of 39, is not what’s considered traditional or “normal” in my world. However, I subscribe to something the late, great Erma Bombeck once wrote “normal is just a setting on your dryer.” With that said, you pick yourself up, dry your tears and have a conversation with your 16-year-old daughter. The conversation needed to be with love, understanding, and the transfer of responsibility. Luckily, I was introduced to teen-pregnancy, as a professional. One of my gigs included teaching parenting to teen parents, in Warren County NJ, in the 80’s. In addition, my professional experiences in Human Services, gave me the insight to know that teen pregnancy and officially becoming a grandmother at 40 was not the end of the world. On the contrary, it was the beginning of brightening my world more than I could ever imagine. Although I was also a single mom, and then became a single grandmother, I embraced the experience. Advising my parents about the new challenge my daughter and I would be encountering was probably the most difficult task. Why? Because my grand child would be bi-racial, African American and Caucasian. Although I had a multi-cultural mind set, that was not the cultural norm I came from. I had to fight my way through the limitations and barriers of my family of origin. That’s another topic, for a later article.
In March 1994, I became a grandmother to a beautiful baby girl, Mariah. I would be lying if I said there were no challenges in helping to raise my granddaughter and continuing to raise my daughter. There were challenges, indeed. I would not entertain discussions about the two parental teenagers getting married. Something my daughter thanks me for till this very day. I’m not suggesting that teen marriages never succeed. I happen to know a few couples who were married very, very young and are still married today. However, I knew better regarding my daughter and her then boyfriend. And my instinct was correct.
Enjoying time with my granddaughter included going to plays in Philadelphia, reading, outdoor activities, making sure she was connected with her father’s family and incorporating a multi cultural life style. I truly enjoyed acting as the second parent, for my granddaughter. My daughter, although so very young, was a great mom, as well. My agreement, in assisting in the rearing of my first grandchild, was that my daughter continue her education. And she did.
We are taught to have “unconditional” love for our children. I don’t think I knew the true meaning until I had my grandchildren. Honestly. Being a grandmother continued my growth in being a mother. I believe I had a second chance to correct mistakes I made with my children by being different with my grandchildren. And my children take the opportunity to point out the differences. Often.
Currently, I have five bi-racial grandchildren ranging in ages from 23 to 10 and one on the way. My heart beats differently, for my grandchildren – it’s a phenomena I cannot explain. I’m not discounting the love I have for my three children. It’s just different. Deeper, I believe. Another challenge was when I needed to remove myself from being a second parent, for the first three grandchildren. Stepping back and handing the baton, totally, to your child – in order to transition from acting parent to grandparent – is yet another learning curve. Some of the time, the transition is completed peacefully, other times it’s more turbulent. Because I am a strong-willed woman and my daughters were raised, as such, my transformation was more on the turbulent side. The transition took place approximately ten years ago and I have so enjoyed being a “grandmother” as much, if not more, than I did when I was the acting second parent. My first grandchild completed her RN, is continuing her studies toward a BSN and is gainfully employed in her specialty of interest, maternity. Three of my grands are in high school and one is in grade school.
My relationship with my daughters is healthy because we weathered the storms and have a special respect for our differences and our growth. When my grandchild number six arrived in November, she will have the grandmother, who has learned how to be just that. A “traditional” grandmother.
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 six grandchildren, writing, spending time with friends, and applying self-care. Her current full-time position is care-taking her 90-year-old father.