Not your average grandma
My children are adults now, and I’m most surprised by the choices they’ve made. I traveled with them a lot and put them in unique positions with the purpose of nurturing an adventurous spirit in them, but it’s had the opposite effect. I did a lot of traveling through Europe right after high school. I lived and worked in Birmingham in the UK. I worked at a photography studio by day and worked at the White Horse pub at night. I lived in a convent with the nuns because it was cheap lodging. But my kids are both homebodies. Neither of them likes to travel. They both value staying in one place and establishing a firm foundation and home.
I met my husband when I was hitchhiking in Texas. He picked me up. I’m dating myself, but this was in the 1970s when hitchhiking was acceptable. I moved to Texas for him, and that’s where my son and daughter were born.
I was a full-time mother until their father and I separated, and then I became a full-time student. I finished two years of undergraduate courses in one year. I was so focused – I wanted to go to law school the very next year. My daughter was in second grade and my son in fourth grade when their dad and I divorced. I packed the three of us up, and we moved to Washington, DC so I could attend Georgetown Law.
I think the transition was difficult for my children. They went from a comfortable lifestyle in Texas to the life of a poor student in DC. I was going to law school full-time and working part time as a law clerk, so there was very little time to devote to them, and I was, unfortunately, probably a part-time mother.
When my kids were making decisions on their own, they were adults. My son is very athletic and had a lot of raw talent. I’m a big baseball fan, and I wanted him to be a professional baseball player – he had the talent. A scout from the Baltimore Orioles wanted him to go to train with a baseball team, and I was thrilled. But he wouldn’t do it. I remember him telling me, “Being a professional baseball player is your dream and not mine.” He had just turned 18. It made me realize that my children have their own dreams, and I can’t decide their future for them.
I spent a lot of time worrying about everything that they ate. I grew sprouts, I made yogurt, baked bread from scratch, didn’t allow them to have any sugar. I learned one evening, the hard way, that it was all for naught. I began noticing that they lost their appetites for dinner. After dinner most nights, they would accompany their father on his construction site work. I had a suspicion that something was going on, so I followed them. They went straight to McDonald’s. I was absolutely furious. It’s silly, looking in hindsight, at all the trouble I went through.
I learned early on that my happiness is not dependent on my children needing me. I had to make a life for myself as well, separate from the children. And I did that while going to law school. I had my own career and my own goals. My dreams didn’t stop with having children. I couldn’t depend on them to fulfill all my emotional needs.
My daughter recently separated from her husband, so she’s taken on the role of single mother as well. I try not to give her advice, because I don’t think she takes my advice. It’s not in her nature. But I don’t like to see her being a single mother because I know how difficult it is.
I spend every free moment with my grandchildren. Even living in Beijing, I spend more time with them than any other relative. I make sure of it. I told my daughter that her children are another opportunity for me to love her, because I see so much of her in these children. I have another opportunity to hold her in my arms, because these babies are her. I see my daughter reflected in their personality and in their eyes. It’s such a thrill to get to love your children a second time around.
They call me “Nana.” We’ve never used the “G” word, as my lifestyle certainly doesn’t fit into anyone’s definition of “grandmother.” I’m taking kung fu and so is Devin, my grandbaby, back in the US. We’re going to form a kung fu team.
I envy Chinese grandparents because they spend so much time taking care of their grandchildren. In Korea, families live in the same compound as their children, and I love that idea!
Even though my children are adults, we’re not friends. And I don’t want to be their friend.They need for me still to be their mother. Even now, when I’m hurt and I experience emotional or physical pain, I cry for my mother. With my kids, I still need to give them advice and whether they will take all the lessons they’ve learned from me is up to them. It’s always good to talk about my babies – all four of them. As told to Jessica Pan
American Lucy Nichols is a lawyer (Global Director Brand Protection) for Nokia. She is the mother of Kirven and Bridget and the grandmother of Devin, 6, and Bianca, 4.