“Grandma Finds Her Way”
March 30, 2016
My mother has always showered affection on all of her grandchildren, but there are times when she found it more difficult than usual. In the end, she finds her way.
Back before our oldest child informed us at age six that she was actually a girl, we experienced a few years experimenting with having a gender non-conforming boy. In pre-school, this started out as tutus and princess costumes, but by age four she wanted a real dress. She picked one out from the store and, after a few weeks, gathered the courage to wear it to school. She was quite the cute little pixie with her short “boy” hair and her fancy little dress with puppy dogs on it.
Not long after that, Grandma came for a visit. She was her usual enthusiastic self, full of praise and encouragement for her grandchildren. And then our oldest child wanted to show Grandma the new dress. As the four-year old walked slowly into the living room, Grandma was silent for a bit. “Oh!” she managed, after a pause, “It’s white. With little puppy dogs on it.”
That was it. Awkward.
A few days after the visit, I gave Grandma a call. I let her know that I couldn’t help but notice her lack of enthusiasm about the dress, and that if I noticed it, then her grandchild probably noticed as well.
“I don’t want to judge,” she said, “and I didn’t know how you wanted me to react.”
“I want you to be able to be honest with the kids,” I said, “and we definitely expect you to be part of their lives. But if you feel awkward about the dress, then this one grandchild isn’t going to want to share that very important stuff with you. Your relationship will become distant, when in the past you have always been so close.”
To her credit, Grandma listened.
On the next visit, Grandma was with us when we stopped by a clothing store to pick out a birthday present for a little girl we knew. It happened to be the same store where our oldest child had picked out the dress, and, surprise, surprise, here was another dress in just the right size for our child that would be so wonderful.
“That’s beautiful,” said Grandma. “Let me buy that for you. Do you want to wear it?”
And a few minutes later, Grandma walked out of the store with the happiest four-year old in the whole world, looking real sharp in a brand new dress.