As grandmothers, we influence and inspire our grandchildren in myriad ways, leaving grandma-shaped impressions on our grandchildren that may last a lifetime. Sometimes our influence is intentional. More often, though, it's not.
My maternal grandmother inspired me to communicate through the written word, though I doubt she consciously planned the impact she had on me. Especially as her greatest influence came once I was an adult, not when I was a child. During the first decade or so of my adulthood, my grandma and I regularly exchanged letters. I was honored she took the time despite her failing eyesight to share the this and that of her days and express concern about mine. Her handwriting—so tiny, tight, and perfectly aligned, thanks to placing a sheet of paper beneath each line then going back to add the tails to any Y, P, J, or G requiring such—illustrated the power of words to connect, affirm relationships, express love across miles. To this day, I'm far better at expressing myself in writing than in person. I attribute a fair amount of that to those letters from Gramma.
My paternal grandmother also unintentionally influenced my character. The grandma-shaped spot she left, though, was imprinted on me as a child. I loved my grandma on my dad's side, yet she and I weren't close by any means. She had oodles of children who had oodles of children of their own, and I'm pretty sure that to her I was just another one of the many kids who showed up at her place on weekends and holidays. I always remember that grandma as being sick or out of sorts much of the time. Not frail and bedridden, just impaired to some degree—and being quite vocal about the real or imagined injustice of her infirmity. From having often seen my grandma in such a disgruntled state, I learned to be quite strong—and usually silent—in the face of most illnesses or ailments. That's a good thing, I think, and I attribute it to wanting to do the very opposite of what I saw in my grandma.
When I consider the ways my daughters were influenced by their grandmothers—my mom, my mother-in-law, my step-mother-in-law—I imagine the ways those women affected my girls, when they were little and now that they're grown. I've not asked my daughters about it, but I can see smidgens of the grandma shapes on them, attributable to each of their grandmothers.
The girls have seen their step-grandma, Jim's step mom, only a handful of times. Each time, though, involved doing a craft project, resulting in, at least partially, the girls' artistic streaks and enjoyment of crafts. I see impressions of my own mom—a lover of animals, dancing, and offering far more food than necessary—on each of my daughters in their attention to animals, enjoyment of goofy dancing, and desire to gift food upon those they love. And I attribute much of my daughters' commitment to their faith to my mother-in-law, who was the most joyfully faithful example in all of our lives.
My grandmas and the grandmas of my daughters likely didn't consider how their daily actions and interactions would influence, possibly even inspire, the children birthed by their own children. Kids they weren't around every day, yet whom they affected in unexpected and unintentional ways. Ways that even as adults, continue to affect us, move us, guide us.
Which leads me, naturally, to consider how I might be affecting my grandsons in unexpected, unintentional ways. What grandma-shaped impressions am I leaving on them?
Like my own maternal grandma, I live far away from my grandchildren. Yet influence and inspiration knows no boundaries, and I have no doubt I impact them through even the limited interactions we have. The idea warms my heart. It also, though, gives pause to my heart as I think of which negative traits of mine might be ever so obvious, unattractive, undesireable to my grandsons. Now or eventually.
I hope that with any and all unseemly attributes of mine, my grandsons do as I did with my paternal grandma—the very opposite, improving themselves by seeing in me and my failings exactly what not to do.
As I continually strive to intentionally make a positive difference in the lives of my grandsons, I think it's also worth considering all the unintentional ways I might be making a difference in their lives. I hope that when they're adults, they can pinpoint specific acts and traits of mine that made an impression on them, shaped the characters they'd become.
And I hope they look fondly upon those impressions, for better or for worse. That they consider the grandma shape imprinted upon them as having inspired them to be stronger, more productive, more compassionate, more faithful, more loving—of others, of themselves, of life.
Regardless of whether such inspiration was intentional on my part or not.
What unintentional impression did your grandmothers leave on you?