Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What's In A Name, part 2

What do your grandchildren call you?
An article in the May 13 2007 issue of The Chicago Tribune brings up that question, and answers it with a wide variety of descriptive names – everything from Oma and Opa to Bambi and Captain.
My grandchildren usually call me Grandma Holly. I got that name when our oldest granddaughter wanted to distinguish me from her other grandma.
It fits, somehow. I like it.
I don't mind at all if they just call me grandma, though, as long as they call.
So what do your grandchildren call you - or what do you have your children call their grandparents - and why?

What's In A Name?

What's in a name?
We were sitting on the floor in front of the dollhouse when the 3 year old turned to me and said, “You're my old grandma.”
“I am?” I said.
“Yes, and boring, too,” she answered.
It's true. I'm a quiet person. Compared to her other grandma – a woman who brings fun into any room she enters – I probably seem a little boring to my granddaughter, and old, too.
If I stop to worry about it too much, I could develop a pretty good complex.
I won't though, because I think grandmas should work together for the good of their mutual grandchild.
As a child, one of my grandmothers often explained that she and grandpa just didn't give presents the way my other grandma did – they didn't have that kind of money.
I never counted presents or noticed any disparity until she brought it up. Even then it didn't matter to me.
But that subtle competition meant my two grandmothers usually were not easily comfortable in one another's company. Often there was a subtle, curious tension when we were all together.
As a child, I thought I must have done something wrong – maybe I seemed too greedy. Maybe I appeared to love my gift-giving grandmother more.
What I didn't understand was that it was more about my grandmother's feelings of inadequacy than it was about me.
Kids always think it's all about them.
That's why it's important for us to establish and maintain good relationships with extended family members, and why it's important not to take our grandchild's comparisons too seriously.
How much better it is for adults in a family to behave like adults so the children in a family don't have to!
My granddaughter's other grandma - the fun, young one - is a really neat person. I've been lucky to get to know her. She brings things to my granddaughter's life that bless and enrich her – so how could I complain about that?
Now I just need to convince my granddaughter that old and boring is really just mature and quiet, and that there is nothing wrong with that.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Privilege and Responsibility

Grandparents these days often take on a lot of responsibility for their grandchildren.
That's not necessarily a new thing.
I remember my grandmother telling me about moving into town at a very young age, leaving her parents and younger brothers and sisters on the farm. Grandma lived with her widowed grandmother in town in order to go to school – something she couldn't have accomplished if she'd stayed on the farm.
Back in those days, the loss of a parent, a difficult financial situation, or just the ability to fill in a parental gap might mean a grandparent stepped in to help raise a child. The same thing is true today.
Some of us are still milk-and-cookies grandmas, with occasional baby-sitting duties. Some of us help out regularly with responsibilities like after-school care or getting a child to the orthodontist. Some of us actually end up with custody of a grandchild.
The question is, how do we grandparents handle responsibilities that change and evolve even as our grandchildren grow up?
Here are three things to think about as you navigate your role as a grandparent:
*Start with prayer: ask God what role you should play in your grandchild's life. Seek His wisdom about how to relate to your own child, your grandchild's parent. Ask Him to make you a good example. Don't forget to thank Him for the privilege of being a grandparent.
*Talk with your child about what she expects of you as a grandparent, and be honest with her about what you are willing to do as a grandparent. Do your best to resolve any old issues between you for the sake of your grandchild.
*Look for the joy; enjoy the fun. Whether you see your grandchild only rarely or shoulder heavy responsibility for her, take time to relish the privilege even as you shoulder the responsibility.
You may have thought your days in an orthodontist's waiting room were over, or that listening to a child read a library book was something you were finished with. Life is full of opportunity, though.
Often, these days it's spelled “g-r-a-n-d-c-h-i-l-d.”

Thursday, May 10, 2007


You'll notice something new today at Grandma on Board. My daughter Julie is posting now, reflecting on the relationship between grandparents, their children, and their grandchildren.

Julie is mom to two of our grandchildren, and a writer in her own right - and as soon as she is able to post for herself, she will. Right now a computer glitch is keeping her from doing that, but we've figured out an alternative! Whenever you see the title "A Note from Julie" you'll know it's her!


A Note from Julie

The box of grandma’s homemade chocolate-chip cookies arrived just before our son’s kindergarten debut. My mom’s attached note recalled her experiences with me when I started school:
“I never knew, from day to day, if you’d come home quiet and tired (a milk, cookie, nap day) or exuberant (a milk, cookie, chat day) or stressed and pressured (a milk, cookie, lap day) – but milk and cookies are always good,” she wrote. “Now it’s his turn, and I’m sure he will love school as much as you did – and I hope you will enjoy it all over again, with him.”
Indeed kindergarten and grandma’s cookies have been popular in our household. What’s amazing though is how one day you are waving goodbye to the yellow bus carrying your child off to school, and the next day, you are mailing cookies and encouraging your grandchildren as they walk up the steps towards eventual independence.
Grandparents hold an evolving role in today’s families. Distance proves challenging for many families, but camera phones, video recorders and even the U.S. Post Office can bring grandparents closer despite the miles.
Thankfully, close proximity was our lot growing up. We grandkids soon realized how each set of grandparents offered us a different kind of love.
Our younger grandparents visited often and took us places – air shows, the State Fair, the birthplace of Herbert Hoover …? The older set preferred to visit quietly and play dominoes or board games. From each household we learned how people live their lives differently, not right or wrong, just differently.
Of course some grandparents wait a lifetime for their grandchildren, pestering their offspring to reproduce so they can enjoy the baby smells and smiles (without the sleep deprivation and toilet training responsibilities).
Others fall into their role more unexpectedly, stepping up to provide childcare, financial assistance or even a place to stay for a new family requiring extra resources.
Some veteran grandparents swoop in and provide essential assistance. My mom came and helped us out for a week after the birth of both of our children, cooking meals, doing laundry and rocking the baby. I’m not sure who cried harder when she left – me, my husband who loved her cooking or the squalling child.
Relationships are rarely without challenges though, and occasionally even a grandma needs a nudge, as a friend of mine discovered with her husband’s parents.
“I took the first step and called,” she remembers. “When she is with my kids, she does things with them. They go to the park; they play; they do crafts together. But once we are gone, she doesn’t call. So I call them.”
That’s not such an issue in our family. Our kindergartener plays a mean game of shuffleboard with my husband’s father who turns 86 this year, while his sister enjoys the sweet treats grandma hands her on the sly.
Meanwhile, my younger parents provide additional hands-on activities – dismantling things to put them back together again or baking and icing sugar cookies. They have more patience for the time-consuming tasks I usually shun as too complicated or messy to embark upon.
But the best part for kids everywhere is that grandparents aren’t constrained by the structure and rules we parents have to live by. They show their love just by being there, whether they are in the stands, on the phone or sending smiles over the Internet.
And the endless supply of candy in their pockets doesn’t hurt either.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Skill Sharing

One of the nice things grandmas do is share their skills with their grandchildren.
One grandma I know specializes in showing her grandchildren how to build birdhouses - complete with a lesson in power tool safety.
I tend to be more traditional, utilizing kitchen time to show my grandchildren how to make pantry salad or roll out pie crust. Those are some of my favorite times, and I think the kids enjoy them, too.
It's not just fun, though - it can be challenging to share your skills with your grandchildren. Here are some ways to meet the challenge:
* Set aside enough time for the activity. Making a pantry salad together involves inviting the child over for lunch, as well as time to actually make the salad. You don't want to rush through learning a new skill or enjoying the result of your labor.
* Choose something you enjoy doing, and are proficient at - or don't mind learning along with your grandchild. This past week-end our oldest granddaughter and I put our heads together to practice sewing up small sachets, even though I'm just a so-so seamstress (so to speak.) We both learned a lot and had fun, too.
* Any skill or hobby has elements you might share with your grandchild - sports, photography, scrapbooking, embroidery, nature walks/journaling - think about how to break down the activity into its parts, and show your grandchild how to manage one piece at a time til he is able to complete a project.
* Be sure you have everything you need on hand. There is nothing so discouraging as to get half-way into a project and realize you need another ingredient, piece of material, or supply.
* Affirm your grandchild's effort. Smile and laugh together. While acquiring a skill is part of the goal, so is the pleasure of one another's company.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Letters from home

Parenting is challenging work, especially for the parents of small children - or of teen-agers. It's easy in the midst of managing meals, car pools, and messes, to feel as if you are spending yourself down to nothing.
Parents can use encouragement and nurturing, even as they encourage and nurture our grandchildren.
Sometimes as grandparents we are so enchanted with our grandchildren, we neglect our own children.
When we phone, we ask about the grandkids first; then we want to talk with them. We might not take much time to visit with our own son or daughter in our rush to communicate with our grandchildren.
When is the last time you sent your son or daughter a personal note?
Adult children benefit from our interest and attention. Letters, notes, and postcards are one way of expressing that interest.
When you write, don't ask about your grandchildren first - ask how your son or daughter is doing. What child wants to feel their only value to their parents is as a grandchild's parent?
Write about things of interest to both of you. Include news of what you are doing, and ask about what your child is doing aside from her parenting responsibilities.
Enclose a photograph of something you've done lately, or write a note on the back of a program you've enjoyed recently. Share a recipe, a pattern, a funny story, or a book title you think your child will appreciate.
Most of all, express your love, appreciation, affirmation - leave out the criticism and the complaints. Share a good memory or tell a story of something from your own past.
Unlike a phone call, a note or a letter is something your child can hang on to, re-read and look at again. It can be an ever-present reminder of your love, support, and encouragement.
It can be a gift of the heart.