It all started the other day with a joking threat from my 16-year-old daughter.
I was hanging out in the kitchen with her and my son, who’s 15. We’d just gotten home from school and the tradition – apparently – is for them to throw their backpacks on the floor, then hop up on the counter, snack on whatever’s nearby, and recap their day. Basically, they try to shock me/gross me out and I try to act like I’m not shocked/grossed out – kind of a Yin Yang for the teenage years.
Somehow we got on the subject of friends’ parents and parents getting older and then – out of nowhere – my daughter snort-laughed and said to me, “You are going to be such a scary grandma.”
As my son nodded his agreement, a revelatory look came across my daughter’s face and she announced to us (and our two traitorous dogs who had been nodding along with my son), “Our kids are going to call you Meemaw!”
Oh, they loved that. Hooting with laughter and high-fiving each other, they couldn’t resist saying it again and again: “Meemaw!”
I opened my mouth to launch into a response along the lines of, “Over my dead body.”
And then I caught myself.
And I thought about it for a second.
And I had a revelation of my own.
I. Will. Be. Meemaw.
It was suddenly so clear. Here was my chance to hit the reset button on my entire mothering career – to reinvent myself in a way that left behind the fears and insecurities and, well, overall good sense that was woven through my parenting years to date like fat through a well-marbled steak.
The more I thought about it, the more excited I got. How had I not considered the fact that at some point in the future (granted, the very dim and distant future – like, jet-pack future) when my children had children, I would have the opportunity to unleash the Auntie-Mame-Meets-Uncle-Buck parent I had always wanted to be on a fresh audience of youngsters who didn’t know me at all?
“Meemaw” could do all the things that – for better or worse – “Mom” never would.
Meemaw would arrive in a St. John knit with a barge of matching luggage, demand black-out shades in the guest room, and relocate her grandchild’s birthday party to the skeet range. Meemaw would teach the neighborhood stay-at-home moms to do the merengue and shoot dice in the back of the PTA meeting. Meemaw would say things like, “You – the short one with the barrettes – has your mother taught you how to make a decent Singapore Sling?”
Oh, this was going to be fantastic. Years away though it might be, the change was coming. The arrival of the next generation would signal my down-to-the-studs parenting remodel – a chance to revamp, redirect, and restart my role while teeing up the opportunity for my children to get to know me – I mean Meemaw – in a whole new way.
Meemaw would be my motherhood Mulligan. A dynamic do-over, if you will.
Was I the only one thinking this way? Were my mom friends also projecting into the future and planning which freak flag(s) they would let fly the moment their parental odometer rolled over to the big “G?” And what would that look like, exactly?
I tried to imagine some of the moms I knew in their flash-forward, post-grandma state and predict which of them would unleash a surprise penchant for break-dancing, rodeo-clowning, or competitive reptile-wrangling. (And this was only the first branch of the classroom phone tree.) Released from the restrictions that came with raising children still of an impressionable age, who knew the variety of inmates, candidates, and potentates – all former drop-off line veterans – who would also answer to Grams, Gannie or Bubbie J?
It was all very exciting, really. Another incarnation, another chapter in the family story, and – finally – a legit excuse to own a big-ass hat. My kids were right: I was going to be a scary grandma.
If Meemaw was wrong, I didn’t want to be right.