Global Grandmother

21st Century Global Grandmother
[written in 2009, already out-of-date, the half-chinese family have moved from New Zealand to Shanghai]

Once upon a time
one could arrange
a marriage
for good or ill.
Make some choice
of future in-law family.
At least
introduce some girls
known to one
to one’s sons.
No more.

Hoist by one’s own encouragement
of independence,
celebration of diversity,
exhortations
to live life to the full.
Sons make their own choices
and thereby
it seems
expectations and reality diverge
Twenty-first century grannyhood
is strange.

One son has not given me the title.
I wait to hear if he ever will.
One, age fifteen, went to America.
Not then, but there,
he found his independent glorious girl
and founded his dynasty.
Disney focussed
ferociously vocal
upfront, in your face,
all three american:
My beautiful granddaughters
Teach me assertiveness.

My first born travelled east,
teaching,
English as a foreign language.
Fell in love with China
and all things chinese
including Xin Yan,
bright swallow bird
offering her admiration
engaging his happiness,
and less predictably,
producing non-identical twins
my grandsons.

The unintentional consequence
being, unlike in America,
my vocal capacity
for in-law communication
diminished
faster than lettuce in a hotpot
defeated under an onslaught of difficulties
learning chinese
later in life.

Xin yan and my son
both speak good chinglish
and my chinese is better
than the other grandparents’
non-existent english
but nevertheless my voice
is a trigger for laughter
undermining already shaky
diction and well-meant advice.
And sometimes, regrettably,
a trigger for tears
as I mind what happens too much.

I also suspect
non-verbal communication
in defence of a daughter
who should now belong
to her husband’s family,
but being western, that family
Me, myself, alone in China,
neglected to claim
the expected authority.
Which is confusing.
Though unexpectedly
I am the most important
granny, the Father’s mother.
My helpful co-granny
is only mother’s mother
A lesser role.
This reversal of american experience
upset learned grannyhood.

There mother’s mother
is offered a natural due
a vote of confidence.
And mine was earned.
Helpfully, I remembered my mother
our occasional clashes,
and how much I came to love
the thoughtful regard of my own mother-in-law
the other granny to my
crash course mothering.
The rule is let them learn somehow
without much bothering.
Except that twins defy the rules
while everyone learns.

To have both sons and twins
wins the lottery of parenthood
in China.
Present and future fortune,
Immediate elevation of all grandparents
to very superior status.
Mixed parentage apparently doubles the luck
Strangers point to my pushchair.
I learn to understand chinese,
unwhispered awestruck voices,
“that’s her, the western granny,
grandmother of the mixed blood twins”.

Some dilemmas of grandparenthood
are shared in either place
though stretched even more by the
chinese branch
deciding last year
to move to New Zealand
which is even further away.
How long to stay,
how much to help,
Let them find their own way.
Balance with one’s own life
Feel the distance daily.

I am a travelling granny.
Always separated from someone,
family or friend.
I decide on separations
made regularly and often
in child sized remembrance.
The bewilderment of language
and culture shocks
both sides of the world
are transcended by excited welcome.
Armswinging hugs from
already bilingual boys
who know which granny they are talking to
and girls old enough to email
when I am not there
and come to my place for sleepovers
when I am.

Twenty first century
global grandparenting
brings newness every day.
Experience beyond imagining
joins age, grey aches and pains,
joy, gratitude, good fortune.
As long as I can, I will be:
A global grandmother.

All five met once in 2009 at their grandfather's 70th birthday

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