I don’t care what handle you go by … Grandma, Granny, Nana, Oma, Baba, Nanny, Grammie (that’s me), or, as my one friend’s grandchildren call her, Guggy … I know that as a grandma you have the opportunity to play a vital role in a child’s life (yes, even if they call you Guggy).
I feel that grandmotherhood is evolving.
Now that I have become a grandma, my own Grandma Chubala seemed like a different breed of grandmother 50 years a go. She was a rotund, dark-haired woman whose grandparents had come to Canada from the Ukraine. She married my grandfather, an Polish immigrant, when she was 16 years old and he was 32. She worked hard on the farm, raising seven children in a house with a hand pump in the kitchen and an outhouse in back. My parents and brother and sister and I would go to visit her in the summers once school let out, making the long drive to her farm in Lampman, Saskatchewan in our orange station wagon. I spent my days there climbing on the hay bales, sitting on cows as they were milked, eating strawberries from the garden, and catching frogs.
I knew my grandma loved me (though I don’t recall her actually ever saying it) but I never really did anything WITH her. She made delicious perogies, cabbage rolls, and her world-class cinnamon buns, but she never invited me in to teach me how to make them. She shooed me out of the kitchen and outside into the yard when it was time to cook. She never read me stories, or sang songs with me, or took me to a movie, or went riding bikes. The only thing I remember doing with her was accompanying her to church on Sundays, and I once watched her play Bingo on her small black and white TV. I loved her to death and was so excited to visit, but I don’t have a bank of memories of doing stuff with her. And maybe you have vastly different experiences in your childhood, but 50 years ago, this is how many children experienced their grandmothers.
Enter the present day grandma.
One of the reasons I decided to call my blog “Gung Ho Grandma” was the definition of the word gung ho …
Yup … that word describes how I feel about my grandchildren. I am a gung ho grandma.
But it also describes how ALL my friends feel about becoming grandmas (and if you are reading this blog, I assume you do, too). Most grandmas nowadays are besotted when they first lay eyes on that newborn baby (though I do realize that there are exceptions … uninterested, absent, and dysfunctional women also become grandmas). All those women who belonged to the Baby Boomers (women who were born between 1946 and 1964) or Generation X (women born from about 1964 to 1984) have understandably grown older and have started to become grandmothers.
Leslie Stahl, the journalist I have always admired on 60 Minutes, said that the most vivid and transformative experience of her life was not covering the White House, interviewing heads of state, or researching stories at 60 Minutes. It was becoming a grandmother.
And most of us are not like my Grandma Chubala.
Below are four ways that gung ho grandmas are an evolving breed:
We WANT to be with our grandchildren, as much as possible. We want to babysit them, go to their dance recitals, rock them to sleep, help take them trick-or-treating, introduce them to new things, read to them, go on bike rides … just make memories with them. It feels a little like when we were raising our kids, but this role seems freer. We don’t have to worry about being in charge of these little people’s day-to-day upbringing, we just want to love them and enjoy the ride.
I have no memory of my Grandma Chubala ever even seeing a computer, let alone touching one. Today’s grandmas use Skype and Facetime to visit regularly with grandkids who live across the country, sometimes even reading them stories through the computer while their moms are cooking supper. If we do not live nearby, we can still see first steps, first teeth, and gush over first words, all through the miracle of that magical screen on our computers and phones. We google places to take them in our hometowns when they come to visit. We write an email or send a text message to a teenager to wish them good luck on a school test. We take selfies with our grandkids and post them on Facebook. We read blogs, like this one, that give us ideas and inspire us to be a more enriching person in our grandchildren’s lives.
3. Disposable income
I am not saying you should spend a lot of money on your grandchildren, but we often have more disposable income than their parents. There is a saying that I love, “The worst thing you can give a child is everything they want,” and there is a danger in going overboard with gifts. But I love grandmothers who spend their money on experiences instead of things … a night out enjoying a play at the theater, dance lessons the parents can’t afford, a trip to a see a historical site, the latest exhibit at the science museum, going on a trail ride, or traveling somewhere new. This is money well spent (and the occasional adorable outfit, a wished-for doll, or new book is pretty great, too).
We are a pretty talented bunch, and as gung ho grandmas, we want to share our interests, skills, and talents with our grandchildren. We want to teach them how to bake cream puffs, understand the strategy of poker, crotchet a blanket for their mom, play a duet on the piano, sew a dress for their doll, swim the butterfly, and an endless list of all the things older women could have learned through a lifetime of living and want to share.
So gung ho grandma, enjoy this new phase of life with these precious little people. They will help you rediscover laughing, adventure, and falling in love all over again.
How have you actually seen grandmahood change over the years? I would love to hear your views, so leave me a comment below…
And if you like the idea of gung ho grandmas, please share this blog with your friends!