Taking Advantage of Grandma?

grandma-1421329_960_720Why is it that sometimes the people closest to you – friends and relatives – feel entitled to give you a hard time over your life choices, even when it doesn’t affect them at all?

Someone I know recently told me that by caring for my 21-month-old granddaughter I’m letting my son and his wife “take advantage of me.” After all, she argued, we raised our kids without any help from an on-call babysitter. Why should our grown-up children get a break from us with their families, when we had to soldier on by ourselves?

I know some of this talk comes from envy. This person has a grandchild who lives far away. I suspect she’d be singing a different tune if she had better access to her grandkid.

But even if that wasn’t the case, the “we raised our kids now it’s your turn” argument wouldn’t cut any ice with me. Sure, I’m happy to give my daughter-in-law a break from childcare two afternoons a week by caring for my granddaughter. But that’s not the only reason I do it.  

I take care of my granddaughter because I want to. And I benefit from the time she and I spend together as much as I hope she does.

It’s important to me to have a close personal relationship with my granddaughter and any other grandchildren I may have in the future. And a close relationship is not something you can turn on at Christmas, or some day when it’s convenient for you and your grandkids are more grown up, or potty-trained.

As you do with anyone, you earn a good relationship with your grandkids by simply putting in the time to be with them. You change diapers, get some baby furniture, buy raspberries because it’s their favorite food (which you know because you help out at mealtimes) soothe them when they’re fussy and play with them whenever you get a chance, even if playing with them just means stacking blocks for them to knock down. You take the grandkids to the park or the library when you can and their parents can’t because they’re too busy taking care of their children in other important ways.

My own parents were the epitome of “we raised our kids so don’t bother us with yours.” My parents had eight beautiful grandchildren, two of whom died young. My parents scarcely knew any of them. Once their four children left home at age 18, my parents proceeded with their lives as though they never had any kids, much less grandkids. They never offered to babysit any of their grandchildren, and expressed scorn for grandparents who did.

My parents had their own reasons for their actions, which I’ve tried to understand, but mostly I’m baffled. I felt abandoned by their lack of interest in my family, and it was especially rough when I was a young mother with two children.

My folks are gone now, and as near as I could tell from what they said and did they never regretted missing out on the experience of being grandparents. Well, that’s not me or my husband. We welcome the opportunity to support our children as much as we can in their roles as parents, and we’re grateful we do so.

Maybe, at times, we do overcompensate a bit for what we didn’t get. We know we need to set reasonable boundaries, for everybody’s sake. But those will be our boundaries, not the boundaries friends or relatives pressure us to impose.

We’re acutely aware that, God willing, our lives will overlap only a portion of our grandkids’ lives. That’s just the circle of life. We plan to enjoy being grandparents and watching our grandkids grow for as long as we can.

So, do I allow my son to take advantage of me? Should I say no when I get the chance to spend the afternoon one-on-one with my granddaughter?

No way. I feel lucky that my flexibility as a freelancer permits me to carve out time to be with my granddaughter.

If that’s being taken advantage of, then I guess I’m a fool.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a tea party to attend. It’s taking place on the living room floor at the foot of the sofa, and it’s by invitation only – me, my granddaughter, Dolly, Big Dog, Puppy Dog, Soft Kitty and Brown Bear are today’s lucky guests. We’ll be feasting on Cheerios and pretend tea.

And there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

How about you other grandparents out there, reading this? Has anyone ever accused you of being taken advantage of? If so, how’d you respond?

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Babyproofing Grandma’s house

 

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Despite the pink ribbons, we don’t know yet if  our next grandbaby is a boy or girl

 

We’ve had some wonderful news – another grandchild is on the way, due this summer. Our first and currently only grandchild, who’ll be a big sister to her new sibling, is 20 months old.

 

I have the privilege and pleasure of taking care of our active granddaughter on a regular basis. I blush to say it, but my main strategy so far to keep her safe at our house involves me following her around constantly.

Now, that won’t cut it with two grandchildren. I know that just like when I was a mom raising two rambunctious boys,  I’ll get distracted and lose track of one kid or another occasionally, which can open the door to all kinds of mischief.

So I’ve realized that it’s time to get serious about childproofing Grandma and Grandpa’s house. No grandkid of mine is going to get hurt on my watch!

To get some help in the matter (hey, it’s been a long time since I had to hide the matches from my inquisitive two-year-old son) I did a search and found some good advice at Contractor Quotes. The site has some great tips from folks who build and remodel houses on the best ways to babyproof your home. They also sent me an article I want to share with you describing how to make your home safer for children, starting in the living room.

And if you want to be really thorough, as in “there’s no way these kids can get into trouble at my house now, no matter how hard they try” check out the infographic that follows the article. It covers the house inside and out. That should take care of your little darlings, or at least slow them down!


Spend Safer Quality Time with your Baby, by Contractor Quotes

You should spend as much quality time as you can with your baby in your home, and the best place to do so is in the living room. It’s probably the biggest area in your room and should have a lot of things that can help entertain the whole family.

However, most living rooms are not safe for children. This is because they were constructed and designed with adults’ needs and preferences in mind. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean that you cannot spend quality time with your child there. With the right babyproofing steps, it can be a safe place for your child, allowing the whole family to spend safe and fun quality time in there.

How to Baby Proof your Living Room

Here are the steps to take to baby proof your living room.

  • Get down on all fours and look around.

This may seem weird, but it’s really necessary so you can see what your child will see. Look around at this eye level and try to see what may attract your child so you can see if they’re safe for children or not. Look around to see potential dangers so you can take care of them.

  • Keep small objects out of reach. Include the things that can be toppled over.

Children love to grab on small objects. This can be dangerous because your child can put them in his mouth or break them. If it’s small enough to fit inside the toilet paper roll insert, then it’s a potential choking hazard.

Also, keep vases, lamps, picture frames and the like out of reach.

  • Secure the TV and other appliances and furniture with furniture straps or anchor bolts.

The TV can be easily toppled over, especially the latest models that are very thin. This is why you have to secure them with straps. You should also do the same with lighter furniture. For the heavier ones, you have to use anchor bolts.

  • Check your houseplants.

Your houseplants may be safe for adults, but some of them may be unsafe for kids. This is why you have to do your research to find out if your house plants are toxic for your kids. If they are, you have to get rid of them immediately.

  • Check your fireplace.

On a cold night, families love to spend some quality time in front of the fireplace. Make sure it’s safe for your kid. Start by installing a fireplace screen. The sharp edges of the fireplace have to be secured with edge bumpers. Make sure to keep fire starters out of reach.

 

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Photo credit for stork image: janwillemsen via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Sharing is caring – dealing with in-laws over the holidays

xmasart_69I chose “sharing is caring” as a title to this post about sharing kids and grandkids at Christmas with in-laws because it’s a higher, nobler sentiment than what I’m really feeling, which is more like this paraphrase of what Charlton Heston’s character said in Planet of the Apes: “Get your filthy paws off my family, you damn dirty apes.”

Yes, it’s hard to smile and take a step back at Christmas when you have married children and grandchildren. You want to see them as much as possible, especially your adult children who’re visiting from out of town. And, naturally, their in-laws feel the same way – especially if you all live in the same area.

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The eyes say it all

I remember when our boys were little and we could enjoy all the holiday festivities together with them. With their marriages (to wonderful women, I must add) things have changed. I understand that our sons have their own families now, and need private time with them. I also get that they have to accommodate their wives’ families, and I don’t want to make things difficult for them with competing claims on their time.

But why is it that the paternal grandparents seem to do most of the compromising? Is it because of the old adage, “a son is a son till he takes a wife, but a daughter is a daughter for all her life”?  I hope not – as a mother of boys, I’ve always found that saying to be quite demoralizing.

I was still struggling with these grim thoughts when I happened upon an old movie on Turner Classic Movies (New Morals for Old, 1932), which touched on the subject of mothers and grown sons. It didn’t help – it just encouraged me to brood even more.

The movie featured a mother (played by Laura Hope Crews) who went into a good old-fashioned decline when her son (Robert Young) left home to try to find himself as a painter in Paris. After years of absence and career disappointment, the son finally came home and rushed to his mother’s sickroom, where she was reclining, weak but still lovely, in a rocker near a lace-curtained window (which bathed her in a flattering light – she was no dummy). He promised to never leave her again. In response, she smiled sweetly and died. That showed him!

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By Christmas night our granddaughter may be feeling like this . . .

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. . . or like this.

If it wasn’t for good friends who’ve invited us over on Christmas Eve, I’d feel more bereft and probably sink further into an abyss of self-pity.

Which is stupid, I know. You don’t have to tell me.

We’re lucky. Too many grandparents don’t get to see their kids and grandkids at all over the holidays, either because of distance or estrangement. And I know when our sons were young we worked hard to establish traditions for our own little family without the pressure of big family gatherings. That didn’t create any problems in our extended family because neither set of grandparents made much of a push to see us at holiday time.

But flash forward to now, and that’s no longer the case. During the holidays our kids, and especially our granddaughter, are like rock stars on tour. Everybody wants a piece of them.

So, I’ve decided that if it’s our lot to host an end-of-day Christmas celebration, it’ll be a fun one. We’ll have Christmas crackers and games and a delicious holiday buffet. I’ll do my best to be generous and respect the needs of our in-laws and the juggling our sons and daughters-in-law have to do with their time. After all, the folks in some countries celebrate 12 whole days of Christmas. We don’t have to cram all the jollity in on Christmas Eve.

Doesn’t that sound mature? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go punch a Santa Claus.

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Images courtesy of Pixabay

 

Ouch! The baby broke grandma.

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This photograph from a 1917 National Geographic Magazine illustrates exactly how I hurt my hip.

Carrying a baby around on your hip is fine when you’re a young mother. It’s a classic maneuver, convenient and comfortable for you and the kid.

But when you’re a grandmother of a certain age, hip-hauling a baby can be hazardous.

Especially when said baby is actually a 20-pound toddler and you’re carrying her through a throng of revelers at a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, where you can’t safely put her down to toddle for at least an hour, and of course you forgot the stroller.

As your hip aches the next day and for many days after you may have to face the brutal fact that you’re not as young as you think you are. As Shakira says, “Hips Don’t Lie.”

 

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Yes, there were puppies like this at the tree-lighting ceremony, providing another reason for my granddaughter to try to squirm out of my arms

When I’ve thrown my hip out yet again (mopping the floor will do it, too, which I think is an excellent reason for me to retire my mop) I rely on the aptly-named yoga pose “Happy Baby.” This has got to be the most undignified exercise ever, and that’s saying a lot when you consider how other yoga poses look.

But Happy Baby works like a charm  – not just for my hips, but for my lower back as well.

In fact, ever since I started caring for my granddaughter on a regular basis I’ve been forced to create – and stick to – a morning exercise routine. It’s a simple matter of self-defense – grandkids can be murder on your joints.

I don’t dare skip my morning stretches: I used to stretch for fun but now I stretch for survival. Daily stretches are that only way I’ve got any hope of getting back up when I go down on my haunches to play with the baby.

 

In addition to Happy Baby, every morning I try to do a modified  Sun Salutation (it looks a little like this, but I don’t do it nearly as well), a gentle back bend and my favorite stretch, Child’s Pose, which is great for my knees. For a while, I toyed with adding the FiveTibetan Rites, which are much like yoga, but I haven’t really gotten into those yet. The first rite, which I call the Spinner (you turn in a circle) makes me dizzy. I guess it’s tougher than it looks to be a whirling dervish.

What about you? I’d like to hear from other grandparents of small children about how you stay flexible. Do you have any tips for keeping in shape for your grandkids?

And now, here’s our gal Shakira with some musical inspiration to help us keep our hips and other joints moving smoothly:

 

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Pixabay

 

A Smother of Grandmothers

Mary_Cassatt,_Interior_of_a_tramway_passing_a_bridge,_1891_-_Library_of_CongressOne of wonders of the English language is that there’s a specific – and usually colorful – term for multitudes that pertain to every occupation or type of creature. You’ve probably heard of a congregation of worshipers, a fleet of ships, a school of fish and a pride of lions. And if you’re a word nerd like me, you might’ve also heard the terms cowardice of curs or clouder of cats.

But what’s a good term for more than one grandmother? In a moment of idle curiosity I asked my son this question, as I was doting as usual on his baby daughter (who, I might add, is fortunate to have two very involved sets of grandparents).

“How about a smother?” my son replied without missing a beat.

A smother of grandmothers? The term is catchy, if a bit insulting. And even though it’s a new one, it just might catch on, like the term coined in 1970 by actor, producer and academic James Lipton – a slouch of models.

As the models clearly illustrate, these “multitude” terms tend to mirror characteristics of the group they describe.

Can’t you just picture a trembling of goldfinches, with their wings fluttering and hearts beating fast? And isn’t it easy to feel the joy of an exaltation of larks, or see the stately gravity of a parliament of owls?

bird-pet-peacock-animal-nature-domestic-adorable-1An ostentation of peacocks, a leap of leopards and a crash of rhinoceroses are all pretty self-explanatory. And I’m sure there’s a story behind a deceit of lapwings and an unkindness of ravens.

But a smother of grandmothers? It makes me picture kindly old ladies descending on an innocent baby, cooing and clutching the hapless child to their pillowy bosoms after wrapping the helpless infant in layers of hand-knitted and crocheted blankets.

And just how many grandmothers comprise a smother? Is two enough, or do you need a bevy of them?

I know my son thinks he’s being funny. But he’d do well to reflect on another group of birds – crows – who collect in a murder.

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I’ll bet crows assembled in perfectly charming groups at one time, till one of their chicks made one-too-many wise-cracks. Indignant cawing probably ensued, which must’ve gotten a little threatening – enough to earn the much-maligned birds the “murder of crows” tag.

Take a lesson, parents. Tick off a group of grandmothers and who knows what’ll happen.

After thinking it over, I guess I’m proud to be part of a smother. To my way of thinking, a smother of grandmothers can only mean more love for grandchildren. And unlike a nest of vipers or a swarm of insects, a smother of grandmothers is one multitude that some people may actually welcome.

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Images: Mary Cassatt’s print (interior of a tramway passing a bridge, 1891) courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; peacock photo via Visual hunt; crow photo via Visualhunt.com; innocent baby laughing by D. Sharon Pruitt, Wikimedia Commons. 

Glammas

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As more boomers become grandparents many different types of grandmothers are making their presence known in our modern culture.

At one end of the spectrum are the hands-on grandmas who provide regular or even full-time care for their grandkids, like Michelle Obama’s mom, Marian Robinson. She retired early from her job to move into the White House to help care for Malia and Sasha.

Then there are the glammas. Glammas are “glamorous grandmas” and they’re giving the concept of what it means to be a grandmother a makeover.

Think Goldie Hawn, or other celebrities like Sally Field and Susan Sarandon. They may have grandchildren, but these glamorous movie stars are not likely to fit the grandmother stereotype anymore than Mick Jagger’s anybody’s idea of a grandfather/great-grandfather (and he’s now about to be a father again).

Some observers see the “glamma” phenomenon as just another way older woman are trying to deny aging, like using Botox, dying their hair purple or getting a tattoo. (Oddly enough, you don’t hear about “glampas.” Either men don’t care about being glamorous or they don’t want to get confused with the luxury camping trend known as “glamping.”)

And certainly there’s something odd and even distasteful about the notion that there may be grandmothers who equate their important role in their grandchildren’s lives with being old and thus try to duck it somehow. Let’s face it, grandparenthood isn’t inherently glamorous, anymore than parenthood is.

At their best, grandparents nurture not only their grandchildren but their grown children as well, and that’s not especially glamorous. And becoming a grandparent is a milestone that comes with a time stamp, because you can’t be a grandparent unless you’ve been a parent. And being a parent generally means you’ve spent decades ushering another human being into adulthood from infancy.

But let’s pause a minute to give glammas a break. For there may be another reason why today’s new grandmas are rebelling at the traditional grandmother stereotype. It may go back to how those of us who grew up in the 1960s and 70s were influenced by what we saw on TV during our formative years.

We saw grandmothers like Granny Moses, Jed Clampett’s mother-in-law in The Beverley Hillbillies. Granny never used her first names (Daisy May) and was made up to look about 100 years old. She wore frumpy clothes from a bygone era. The woman collected road kill to make stew. I wouldn’t be surprised if she single-handedly birthed her grandbabies, Jethro and Elly May, by herself using her back-country skills and homemade remedies.

There was Laura’s mother-in-law, Clara Petrie, on The Dick Van Dyke Show. As far as I could tell, neither she nor little Ritchie’s other grandparents interacted with the boy in any way. These seniors were formal and remote – you couldn’t see Grandma or Grandpa getting on the floor and busting out a game of Candyland. The elder Mrs. Petrie sported dull dresses and brooches, and she wore her grey hair short and lacquered. Clara was another grandmother made to look old beyond her years.

And then there was Endora on Bewitched. A glamma before there was a name for it, Endora wore beautiful flowing clothes accessorized with fabulous jewelry, her dyed hair perfectly coiffed and her makeup dramatic. She jetted to exotic locations and popped in occasionally to her daughter’s house in the suburbs to bust Darren’s er, golf balls and remind Samantha that she could have done better. We never saw her change a diaper or feed a baby. She was not a particularly welcome visitor, but she was a force to be reckoned with and impossible to ignore. I loved Samantha but was fascinated by Endora.

Given the choice of role models between Endora, Clara Petrie or Granny Moses, which one do you think would most appeal to a little girl? Endora, of course. The image of little Tabitha’s glamorous grandmother was tucked away in the back of our minds as we became teenagers, young woman and then mothers.

And now that we’re grandmothers, we’re all too aware that the world sees and treats us differently than it did when we were younger. Any older woman will tell you that we can get increasingly overlooked as we get older.

If, in addition to our age, you tag us with the grandmother label we might as well return that special cloak we got from the Harry Potter wizarding store, because we won’t need it. We’ll already be invisible as far as many people are concerned.

No wonder some of us want to project a different image of grandmotherly-ness.

So, to glamma or not to glamma? If glamma is your code for “Get that poopy diaper away from me, I’ve changed enough of those to last a lifetime!” you’ll miss out on not only the muck and mess of caring for your grandkids but also their sticky-fingered hugs and jammy kisses.

But if you’re willing to roll up your designer sleeves and get down and dirty with your grandchildren, then what’s in a name?

A grandmother can love her grandchild wearing chiffon as well as denim. What counts most is not what’s on the outside of a grandmother but what’s inside her heart.

But before you get too carried away with sitcom role models, remember that glamma or not, Endora could be a real witch.

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Welcome

Welcome to my blog! There are plenty of great blogs about parenting and grandparenting on the web. So why am I starting this one?

Frankly, I need help.

I’m a journalist by trade, and my approach to any issue is to gather information to make sense of it for myself and others. I’m also part of the Baby Boomer generation, born between 1946 and 1964 – one of about 77 million, according to Pew Research Center data.

Coincidentally, that’s about the same size as the Millennials, the generation born after 1980 and so-called because they’re the first to come of age in the new millennium.  And Millennials are becoming parents, as my husband and I know first-hand.

As boomer grandparents, we’ve got lots of company. The oldest of our generation turns 70 this year, and the youngest 52. Given our age, it’s no surprise that many of us now have grandchildren. And, as is typical for our generation, we’re determined to break down stereotypes. No rocking chairs and knitting needles for us – unless of course we’re crafters, and that’s our thing.

And we’re not just playing with the baby, either. According to a recent MetLife survey:

  • 13% of grandparents (or 1 in 10) regularly take care of at least one grandchild.
  • 32% of that group watches over their grandchildren five days a week.
  • 15% of the caregivers have taken on the job full-time, raising one or more of their grandchildren.

Grandparents become “granny nannies” for many reasons – including helping their adult children financially. Childcare can be prohibitively expensive, especially for young parents trying to make ends meet while saddled with school loan debts.

In addition, a lot of us spend time with our grandkids simply because we want to. It’s a miracle to hold your child’s child in your arms. And some of us want a closer relationship with our grandchildren than our parents had with our kids.

But taking care of a child is not just a joy, it’s a big responsibility. If you’re like me, it’s been a long time since you changed a diaper. You may worry about being rusty when it comes to taking care of kids, especially since a lot of child-rearing practices have changed over the years.

For example, as a young mom I was told to lay my babies down on their stomachs at bedtime. Now doctors say the best away to avoid SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is to lay them on their backs. Blankets, pillows and crib bumpers are out (potential smothering hazards) in favor of zip-up sleep sacks.

I’ve had to do some work to get the latest medical advice on these and other matters. Yet I’ve found that how to soothe a fussy baby came right back to me. It’s like riding a bicycle – some things you never forget.

So I’m writing this blog to:

  • Share my thoughts and experiences and listen to others, too, as I ride a new learning curve.
  • Report the latest information on best practices in childcare – especially news grandparents can use.
  • Provide a place for parents and grandparents to share anecdotes and tips to raise happy, healthy children.

 

Yes, there are other grandparent blogs out there, but I’m happy to be the new kid on an already-fabulous block. Topics like child nutrition, setting limits, recognizing and treating postpartum depression (to name just a few) need lots of coverage. And I hope to have fun, too.

So, whether you take care of your grandchildren once in a blue moon or you’ve got a standing arrangement with them every week, please join me! I need all the help I can get exploring this new frontier.

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