by Beth Wesson
I watched my eldest granddaughter play a high school basketball district tournament game. They lost. After the game, parents and grandparents dutifully waited outside the locker room to show our support. After what seemed like forever, the girls began to tearfully trickle out and flow into the arms of their loved ones. I anxiously waited to see how my girl was faring. With a tear-stained face she searched the crowd and found me. Our eyes locked and she climbed the bleachers into my outstretched arms. She came to me first and I think I know why.
There are very few people in my life that I can say loved me unconditionally. Actually, there is only one, my grandmother. Her face lit up every time she saw me and I somehow knew that she was excited to see me for only one reason. Because, it was me. She loved me just because I existed and I was hers. I want to believe my granddaughter came to me first because she believes the same of me. The hug I gave her was without murmured words of sympathy, encouragement or advice. I just hugged her for as long as I sensed she needed and kissed her neck. As I watched her move on, I suddenly realized my role in the family dynamic had changed. I was now the bedrock this family of women was built on. I was the solid and safe place my women, my granddaughters, could reach when they needed to be loved unconditionally. I was my grandmother.
I am the mother of one woman and grandmother to six who are rapidly joining the ranks of womanhood. I’m okay with the role to which I now find myself relegated. The job is a lot easier than the one my daughter has. Raising women is hard work. Our daughters are exposed to so many negative messages. I’ve raised the girl I was directly responsible for and I did the best I could with the knowledge I had. I made a conscious effort to make sure my girl knew her worth apart from a man. I was not raised with this expectation. It was a different time and my mother raised me the best she could with the knowledge she had. Like my mother before me, I didn’t get it all right, but I didn’t get it all wrong either. I know this because I’m seeing my daughter build on my foundation and pick up the ball where I dropped it. My progeny are reaping the benefits of the women who have gone before them and tried to do better.
My eldest granddaughter just turned sixteen and as I watch her move gracefully throughout the gym comforting teammates and nodding her head respectfully to the sage advice being offered by her elders, I see the fruition of the efforts of the generations of women who have gone before. And, not just in my own family. She is the product of women who had the courage to break out of gender based roles and women who believed being a strong woman didn’t mean having to act like a man. She is smart, tough, kind, compassionate, competitive, and beautiful. She is equal parts warrior and girl and represents a new feminine ideal; a woman who can be any damn thing she wants. I’m not sure she even knows that there are such things as gender bias or glass ceilings. She just decides what it is she wants and works hard to get there. I’m pretty sure when she does find a door that is closed to her for reasons related to her gender, she’ll say, “this is bullshit” and knock harder. In fact, I’m pretty sure she’ll have the courage to knock the door down. She is the woman be all struggled to be. She is the promise we made ourselves. She is my gift to womanhood.
So, I’m raising a metaphorical glass of wine in toast to the women in my life past and present from the grandmother who loved unconditionally to the daughter raising women of her own. And, to my granddaughters, I’m proud of the women you’re becoming and if you need a hug…your grandma is here…waiting with open arms.