Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The New Grandma

Has anyone seen Grandma? You know, the one we all grew up with…the lady who was slightly overweight, wore Christmas sweaters and had a house that always smelled like sugar cookies. She was the woman that would be sitting in her chair, knitting a new scarf, and waiting for her grandchildren to run into her arms as they squealed with delight. You may remember her as the woman in the kitchen, making family Holiday meals, while letting you lick the spoon. Does anyone know what happened to her?

Unfortunately, She’s gone and there is a New Grandma in town!

So much of my childhood was shaped by the relationship I had with my grandmother that I truly don’t know who I would be without her. This was the woman whose entire life revolved around her children and grandchildren…who saved all her money so she could pass it on to us, and whose only desire in life was to make sure were well fed and happy. I can’t remember a swim meet, school play or graduation where I didn’t look up and see my grandmother’s face looking down at me, BEAMING with love and pride. She loved me unconditionally, never said an unkind word to me, bought me Esprit when my mom thought it cost too much, and never made me finish the vegetables on my plate. One time she told me, “Kelsey, I hate to admit it, but I used to love when you got sick. Your mother would call me and I would rush over to your house. We would just sit together on the couch for hours while I rubbed your feet. They were the best days of my life.” She is not the only one that misses those days…to say I could use a foot rub is an understatement.

Let me introduce you to the New Grandma, the one who doesn’t play by any of those old rules. I don’t think any of us who grew up with mothers in the 70’s and 80’s should be shocked by the change, but for me, it has taken some getting used to. Our mothers were the first generation that coined the term “Women can have it all.” They fought for equal pay, better childcare, and less domestic duties. They told us we could be whatever we wanted, hired maids to do their housework, and showed us that you can have a family and a career.

So why are we still surprised that they are so different from the type of Grandma we had? I believe it is the expectation (or sometimes Hope) that we all have that gets in the way. We each had a vision of how our kids relationship would be with their grandparents, and when it turned out differently, we were stunned.

This may be similar to how men felt when they truly accepted the fact that their wives would never be waiting for them at home with a smile on their face and a scotch in their hand saying to him “Dinner is on the table, the kids are quiet and bathed. Let me take your coat, and then slip into something more comfortable.” Those days are over and we all better get used to it…

I believe women in their 20’s and 30’s need to know certain things before they start a family. They need to know that being pregnant is not always beautiful (most the time it is downright miserable), breastfeeding is so hard at first that you think you may die (it does get easier, once your nipples develop callous like scabs that numb you from the pain…awesome) and sex 6 weeks after you have had a baby is about ONE YEAR too early (what the hell are they thinking?) They also need to know about the New Grandma, who is she and what is she like.

Here are some things that are good to understand…

1. The new grandma loves your kid, but not enough to have them come over to her house. She just redecorated and really what will they play with anyway? (She doesn’t keep toys in her house…like she has told you before “been there, done that.”)

2. She loves your kids… in 1-2 hour chunks of time. She would like to spend more time with them but unfortunately she has a meeting, or lunch date, or hair appointment, or just wants a nap (she loves her sleep!)

3. She loves your kids but will not watch them on a regular basis; she just can’t commitment to that type of thing. For consistent help, you need a nanny or a babysitter. So what if she is 10 miles down the road, sixteen dollars an hour really isn’t that much, right?

4. She loves your kid, but not on Saturday nights. That is when she goes out on the town with her husband or, if she is single, a 75-year old man she just met on Do you know how many people over 70 are participating in online dating? Do you realize woman don’t start to really enjoy sex until their 50’s? Yes, we know and it makes us feel sick…sorry, it’s the truth.

5. She loves your kids but has nail appointments every 2 weeks and hair appointments every four. She would love to come to the soccer game, just not THIS month. And let’s not forget the New Grandma doesn’t sit on the ground, she will need a chair with a footrest…. Why? Because she knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to ask for it. Thank you Gloria Steinman.

6. The new grandma travels, A LOT. Many have over 100,000 miles of air travel each year. They pride themselves on how they pack, how they fly, and how they know the best hotels. They love getting out of town. And every now and then they say something like “Oh, I wish you could come. But, you have the kids…I remember those days”. I always answer “But Mom, didn’t you always drop me off at Grandma’s when you went on trips.” And she replies, “yes, honey we did…but that was a different time.”

7. The New Grandma has LOTS of opinions…about everything! From what you should feed your kids to whether or not your husband is doing a good job. The Old Grandma believed your business was your business. They New Grandma, not so much. She lets you know what she thinks about your husband, your marriage and your house. They are not afraid to tell you “I would have never allowed your father to do that.” You normally respond with “That’s true mom, but have you seen Dad lately, he is a miserable, beaten man.” Here is the news flash, we know they are idiots, don’t help us enough, and sometimes drink too much and watch football all day. But wait a second, you know who that reminds me of….my Dad when I was young. Weird!

8. The New Grandma does not want to be called “Grandma”, at least not in public. She wants to come up with a catchy name, something she thinks sounds young. My dad suggested that my kids call him Denis. Although this was very practical, it just wasn't endearing enough for me....

There are so many more things I can’t think of but, but feel free to add to the list. Luckily though, there is one thing that the New Grandma and the Old Grandma have in common. Something that won’t change no matter how many times they see our kids or what they choose to be called. That thing is a Grandmother’s Love.

At my house, when the door opens and my kids see their Sassy, it is like a Rock Star has arrived. They run screaming and yelling into her arms, and although she isn’t wearing a Christmas sweater (more likely a bomber leather jacket and a feather boa scarf) the joy and excitement they feel is just the same. Their Love for her is so Big and so Real that I always just smile and say “Thank you God.”

Even though how a grandma acts has changed over the past 25 years, what their job is remains the same. To give kids the understanding that by just being born, they became someone’s greatest joy. When I watch my kids with my mom, whether they are baking, playing puppets, making up stories of pirates and princess, dancing to music, reading a book, or just getting a hug, I realize they are so lucky. They are just like me, growing up in a family where they feel treasured and loved by someone who absolutely delights in their life. To all the Grandma’s out there, both Old and New….thank you. We wouldn’t be who we are without you…

1 comment:

  1. Great Blog! Unfortunately, it's not the "time period" or "era" that makes a grandparent. It's the person! There were plenty of the "New" grandmas you described here back in the old days, as well. And there are still plenty of the "Christmas Sweater" grandmas today. I know because I am married to one. In fact, I'm one of those old grandpas, too!

    And the greatest thing, when we take our trips, we bring the grandchildren with us because the joy we see in their faces from their experiences is far greater than the fun we would have on the trip alone. We have a special closet in our home for the grandkids toys so when they come by, they know just where to go to get them. And they are so excited to come over to grandma and poppies' house and sleep over. We also look forward to all the days we can watch them and spend time with them.

    No, I don't think you were describing the grandma of today, just a different one, who can still love and give enough to her grandchildren that they know they are loved. Now remember, look at your children and remember you have the choice to be whichever grandma you want to be! Take it from me, though, there is no greater joy about aging than to see the sparkle in your grandchildren's eyes when they see you, spend any time with them, wake up in the morning and help make pancakes with you, and when they say things like, "Gamma, it's been a few days since I saw you. I like coming to your house and staying over."

    There are all sorts of grandparents today who give love in all different ways, today, yesterday, and for eternity!