There is a wonderful lady in our lives we call Nani. She married into my husband’s family when he was a child and although not a blood relative, she became a pillar in my husband’s life. My husband has always had a strained relationship with his mother who was often absent and Nani filled in the gaps whenever and wherever needed. Through the years the bond blossomed into more of a mother and son relationship and he now regards her as his “bonus mom.” She introduces him as his son and treats him like so. From spoiling him with his favorite foods and being attentive to his moods to putting him in his place and calling him out on any perceived selfishness, she’s there.
She’s also embraced me as a daughter and has lovingly supported our marriage. I’m thankful for all she has done for my husband and I. However, what I never imagined and what has touched me the most is her love and attention to our son. I don’t know why but I didn’t expect that the bond she has with my husband to so easily and thoroughly extend to my son but I feel like I won the lottery with my son’s bonus grandmother.
Our boy has no relationship with his paternal grandmother and just as Nani stepped in as a steady, supportive and caring parental figure for my husband, she has stepped in to be an attentive and spoiling full flown bonus grandmother to our son.
This woman spoils him in the best way possible. In a way that makes my heart swell instead of cringe (well, except for all the random toys she buys him since we live in a 350 sq ft house, but nothing is perfect).
She consistently shows up. Whether it’s to an award assembly or for a last-minute school pickup. She organizes special outings with him, takes him for a sleepover or a weekend camping trip, or simply has him run errands with her when I need the help. She talks to him about his feelings and fears, she shares stories of his dad as a little boy and of her own life. She hugs him and kisses him. She plays with him…from video games to board games. She gives him so much love and attention that no person should ever doubt that she is his grandmother.
The most amazing part? She makes him eat vegetables before giving him treats!
I won the lottery.
My son adores her. He knows she isn’t his biological grandmother but corrects anyone who says she’s not. He caught me saying one time that Nani was like a grandmother and he quickly jumped in to say… “No mommy, you said like. She’s not like a grandmother, she IS my grandmother.” Enough said.
Anyone who brings this much joy to my child’s life and who showers him with this much love gets the grandmother title. No further explanation needed. However, I feel that both Nani and I are constantly having to explain the situation and our relationship. People seem to have difficulty accepting it as the real thing.
She recognizes my son as her first grandson, the eldest. She now has a second grandson and she corrects anyone who says that baby is her first real grandson. She gets annoyed and downright upset when anybody questions the relationship. People seem to think that the relationship isn’t real, lasting or true if it’s not blood related or through adoption.
My son doesn’t lack grandparental love. He gets his special sleepovers with my mom and she does spoil him rotten. She’s not local so it’s just not as often. He also has a wonderful relationship with my dad who lived with us when my son was a baby and helped raise him. But he now lives in a different country. However, Nani lives close by and gets to see him the most and there is something extremely special about having this physically close and consistent grandmotherly love.
Nani could have limited the relationship with my son but instead she fully threw herself into the grandmother role. I would understand if her relationship with my son as well as the attention she gave him changed after her biological son had a baby. However, it has not. Their bond continues and she spreads the love and attention so graciously, that I am continually humbled.
Even if my son had both of his biological grandmothers nearby and present, Nani would still be a wonderful addition. It makes me think about what I can do for the children around me. I’m inspired to take on more active roles with the children of the people I love the most, even if they aren’t blood related.
I realize that the roles we’re supposed to have with others in general should always be evaluated and many times need to be reconsidered. Nani saw the need to support my husband outside of her “distant cousin through marriage” role. She embraced it and took the transition into grandmother role with our son. Whether it was because of her love for my husband, the continued absence of my mother in law, or just because my son took to her and she likes kids, Nani created the role with no restraint.
I want more of that in our world.
I would like all of us to remember that blood doesn’t define titles. Titles don’t define roles.
We can all be a Nani, a bonus grandmother to someone. So, go out and be a Nani…and also let Nani be. We would all be better off.
Are you lucky enough to have a bonus grandmother in your life?
Sarahi Nunez Mejia is an organizing wizard, events mastermind, wife and mom. She lives in a 500 sq ft tiny house with her family in Los Angeles and blogs about the lifestyle of downsizing and minimalism, prioritizing experiences over things, and using your money smartly at Tiny Living In LA.
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