From Classroom to Playroom

Striving for the A in Grandparenting

So much has been written about motherhood and child care, especially about what new mothers can expect at various stages of child development as well as to how to handle hurdles that a parent might face, but little has been offered to a new grandparent. Those of us who continue to see our children as children find ourselves thrust into a new role without experiencing a nine-month gestation period that enables us to collect our thoughts and prepare us for a change in our former life. When and how did our little bundle of joy become capable of producing her own little bundle of joy, we asked ourselves. It almost seemed surrealistic when our child told us that she was about to make us grandparents. We joyously greeted the news, but at the same time recalled the day when we gave birth to the giver of the joyous news. Where did those years go? Suddenly it hit us; we had become our parents.

Four  years ago, my daughter gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.  I was finally a grandma. I would be the best grandmother ever. How difficult could it be? I had raised two of my own children and had taught for more than thirty years. My children had grandparents. I had seen many grandparents interact with their offsprings’ offspring. I knew what worked and what didn’t. Being a grandparent was sure to be a breeze. It certainly had to be a lot easier than being a parent.

In college, prerequisite courses are offered as a stepping-stone to taking on more in-depth study. That was college. Unfortunately, there is no prerequisite course for being a grandparent. I was about to find out that my new role was a lot more involved than I had envisioned. During the course of the more than four years as May’s grandmother, I learned my lessons the hard way, by trial and error. My daughter’s silent treatment towards me taught me that I made an error in judgment and had exceeded my boundaries as a grandmother. Her warm smile and good natured banter conveyed that I was within the acceptable range.

As a first-time grandparent I would often confuse my role with that of being a parent. When holding my granddaughter, I would have a momentary lapse of reality and my thoughts would take me back to the days when I held her mother and felt her sweet baby breath against my cheek as she nuzzled on my shoulder. This new little bundle in my arms gave me a brief respite from my growing awareness of my aging body. I developed renewed energy, mastering flights of steps with ease as I cradled my granddaughter in my arms. I required less sleep in anticipation of her awakening and took her on long walks while she napped in her carriage. The mere thought of sharing time with her quickened my pulse and brought smiles to my face.

As May grew, so did my involvement in her little life. With no malice intended, I began to verbalize concerns about my daughter’s decisions regarding May’s care. Oh, I tried to be subtle, like my in-laws before me, never making direct accusations, but rather asking those borderline intrusive questions like, “Do you think May’s dressed warmly enough? Don’t you think that she’s dressed too warmly? Should she be doing that? Is she taking vitamins?” My daughter’s silent treatment began to take voice and I eventually came to realize that I was undermining her ability as a new parent; in much the same way I had felt that my mother-in-law had unintentionally undermined mine.

After making a few, if not several mistakes in judgment, I began to see my role more clearly. My time had passed and it was now my daughter’s turn to experience the joys as well as the hardships of parenting. I had witnessed her growth from a totally dependent infant to a wonderfully competent and caring young woman. If she did things differently from me, so be it. It was time for me to let go and relax into this next phase of my life. I was the grandmother. I could put all the hard ‘stuff’ aside and be the good guy. I was the person to cook with, play games with, share laughter with, and all the other fun-filled activities that occupy a child’s world. I was a friendly Brobdingnagian in May’s jungle gym land of Lilliputians, climbing rope ladders, swinging from parallel bars and sliding down slides as she giggles over her ‘silly grammy.’ And at the end of the day, when my energy was totally spent, I could enjoy uninterrupted slumber.

May and her mother continue to teach me about being a grandparent. I have learned about ‘time-outs,’ and singing along to May’s favorite songs while driving in the car, and taking along a myriad of activities when eating in a restaurant. I have learned to take the time to watch May as she stays mesmerized by a butterfly as it moves from leaf to leaf, or sees beauty in that special pebble she has carefully chosen from the thousands of lookalikes in my driveway, or stays glued to a window as she watches a squirrel do acrobatics in its attempts to get food from the bird feeder, or walk hand-in-hand along the beach looking for sea glass, or patiently sitting by her side as she eats her ‘scabetty’ one noodle at a time. The world is an exciting place when seen through the innocent eyes of a child. How fortunate we as grandparents are to be let into that world

Nine months ago, May’s sister Eloise was born and today, when I see my lovely daughter tend to her two lovely daughters, I am filled with pride. Proud that she is so capable of raising her children with little to no direction from me and that she commends me for being the grandmother she always dreamed her children would have.

I have come to realize that my more than thirty years of teaching young children  offers my daughter and granddaughter some new insights into making learning fun. Many of the activities I developed for classroom use can be easily adapted to bring fun-filled learning experiences to my grandchildren. Now that I have chosen to move from classroom to playroom, the juices of creativity flow as I develop   memory builders for my grandchildren.

23 comments on “From Classroom to Playroom

  1. Great start, granny! Can’t wait to read more. Keep ’em coming.

  2. How effective was the big guy at playing grandpa? If I remember right he didn’t learn how to tie his shoe laces until he was12.

    • Luckily for him, since those early days, they now make slip-on shoes. May has finally gotten used to his fuzzy face and cozies up to him for special read aloud times and/or when she wants that delicious pretzel covered in chocolate and M&M’s. He always did have a gift for luring the ladies. Eloise, young as she is, gives him huge smiles (and that’s without the candy). So, I guess he’s pretty effective. Perhaps he should start another blog entitled The Literate Chef Wears Another Hat.

  3. Very nice idea granny. Fine writing too. Keep it u p.

    I have enjoyed the experience with the little ones and now the adults.They educate me with new ideas and points-of-view. The catch-all is, “They think know every thing.” I have made peace (not without a struggle) with the notion that they probably do…at lest know more than I.

  4. What a GREAT way to put your excellent writing skills to work! My and you have learned to keep your opinions on how to childrear to yourself in only 4 years…I always knew you could do it. And as for Nancy being a great mother she had the best role model. We know children learn what the live!

    • Thank you for your wonderful comment. As one of my oldest and dearest friends, I take what you write to heart. You were there every step of the way. One of May’s favorite stories is the “belly button” story. She laughs hysterically when we get to the part where her mother said, “Are you an innie or an outie.” It’s hard to believe so many years have passed since you first told me about that day in Chinatown. I promised May that her Aunt Jo Ann would tell her the story in person when she visits us at the Cape (this summer?).
      My best to john

  5. Loved this especially since I am now a full time Grandma Baby Sitter. Will have to compare notes sometime. Look forward to your next installment.

  6. Nice idea Betty! The most satisfaction about being a grannie, to me, is seeing how well your children are doing rearing their children. Makes you feel as if you’ve done something right—-and the beat goes on.. Anne

    • Very true! When we were young mothers, we did things as a matter of course, never thinking how our actions would carry on into the future. Now, here we are in the future and loving every moment of of watching our children interact with their children. I feel so thankful.

  7. That was really beautiful Aunt Betty. I look forward to reading more.xo

    • Thank you, Jeff. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Spending time with May and Eloise is a real kick! I never know what May will come out with and I look forward to the days when Eloise is talking. Both girls keep me searching for ways to maintain high grades as a grandmother.Thank you also for reading it to my sister. She called with “tears in her eyes.” I am overwhelmed. Happy birthday, dear nephew. I love you mucho.

  8. great job ma!

    • You certainly are the first one! When I am with May, I often recall the times I spent with you, reading books and lining up the Fisher Price people in a parade only now May and I lone up her cars. So much for the stereotypical girl image. I love you, sweets. Thanks for helping me grow as a parent and ultimately a well loved grandparent.

  9. Betty what a great read even though I haven’t been blessed I do appreciate sharing your experiences.

  10. Betty, Absolutely loved your writing!! At times i would laugh out loud, others I would feel tears in my eyes!!! You have nailed it perfectly.. I really do have to bite my tongue with my daughter-in-law!! My son , however will tell me to “butt” out!! I guess all us “OLDE” teachers have all stumbled our way through grandparenting!!! But it is so nice, to find other grandmas feel the same way! Always a teacher at heart…I think these grandkids are mighty lucky!! We are all working on our BS in Grandparenting!! and are now starting our MS with the advent of grandchild # 2!!! Keep your writing coming…I truly look forward to more …..
    Barb Teevan ( Jim’s wife)

    • Wow! My head is spinning! What a complimentary response to a labor of love. Thank you so very much. Congratulations on your coming event. Grandchild #2 does seem a bit easier now that I am learning the ground rules. However, being human and a parent, I will probably continue to err along the way to my PHD (I feel that May has earned me my Masters). I love being a grandmother. It gives me the opportunity to act like a four year old, something I miss since I left teaching. I am so glad that you are enjoying reading about my experiences.
      All the best,

      • Thank you!! Happy Mother’s Day! Enjoy the Day!!! Please keep me on the list!!

  11. Hi Betty,

    Rich sent me the link to your first entry, and I just read it as I sit in Bulgaria with my first-born daughter and her first-born daughter! I so enjoyed it and am taking good notes! I look forward to reading more and, maybe, seeing you again so we can compare notes in person.

    All the best,
    Mary Rafferty

    • Congratulations Grandma,
      Isn’t this the best stage of our lives? Words fail to capture the feeling that comes when your daughter has a child. Tears of love and joy say it all as you hold your first born grandchild in your arms. Five years and two granddaughters later and I am still in awe of my good fortune.
      I am glad that you enjoyed the first posting of my blog. I hope that you find time to read the rest. More will follow once I get through our move to the Cape.
      My very best to you, your family and your newest addition to your family. Cherish every moment. I would love to catch-up when you return to New York.

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