Parenting By Proxy

Our mother missed many important, life-changing events when she moved to California. One particularly momentous occasion that stands out is when my sister Abby gave birth to her baby boy, Mary’s first grandchild. Mary was in California, whooping it up with her new-found freedom and reveling in her “new life” sans family.

When she received the call about her first grandchild’s birth, naturally she was so excited that she ran down to her favorite dive bar and began drinking in celebration.

No, she did not hop on a plane…or a bus…or a train so she could see the darling little Mug of Beerbaby. Instead she hoisted at least a few beverages. I suspect she likely bought the whole bar a round or two while loudly proclaiming the happy news to one and all. She later called her sister Marty to gloat about her new grandmother status as she was the first sibling to have a grandchild.

Once she received pictures of her new grandchild, she showed them off like any proud grandma.  She loved being a grandma from afar.  No responsibilities, no duties, no expectations of her.  She was a parent and a grandparent primarily by proxy – she relayed messages to one relative for another, sent cards each holiday but addressed them impersonally to the recipients, and made the occasional phone call or visit.

I think she loved the distance most of all.

Bottles of AlcoholLater in her life, she would always say how much she loved her grandchildren.  The truth is that in her twisted mind she found them to be so much better than Abby and me.  Maybe it was the distance or maybe it was not being held accountable for how they turned out. Or maybe it was the booze, the pills, and the mental illness.

Mary had a unique parenting style and grand-parenting style.  To our knowledge, she never used brute force on them and never tried to put them in a strait jacket.  That’s something to be thankful for!


  1. I think women who were not confident of their parenting skills (whether earned or not) are not going to be confident of their grandparenting skillls either, and can conveniently hide between excuses like distance or “I’ve raised my children.”

  2. Lindy Riverside says:

    Very true! Unfortunately our mother had a multitude of problems that compromised her ability to parent. Being a parent of convenience is not something to emulate. Abby and I were the lucky ones because of the best Dad ever! And we have each other! Now that’s priceless!

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