Family Relationships

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Super Granny: Great Stuff To Do With Your Grandkids

Author and grandmother Sally Wendkos Olds is here today to talk about her new book. Super Granny: Great Stuff to do with Your Grandkids. It's an up-to-the-minute 21st century treasure trove of activities that help grandmothers enjoy, communicate, and really connect with their grandchildren.

Activities in the book are grouped by age, from infancy to adolescence, with something for the most computer-savvy granny and kid, along with more traditional projects. Handy icons throughout the book help pinpoint projects that suit your pocketbook, energy level, and interests. A bonus is the listing of current, informative Web sites to follow up suggestions in the book.

Especially fun for us is that Rosemary's concept of writing poems to her grandchildren is one of the 75 stories highlighted by Sally.

NR: Why did you write Super Granny?

Sally: When some of my friends have heard about a few of the things I’ve done with my grandchildren, they have become really interested and conversely I have learned so much from hearing about what my friends who are grandparents do with their grandchildren that I thought it would be fun to share some of the activities that both generations enjoy.

Also, writing about this stage of life feels like a natural progression for me – other books of mine have covered breastfeeding, working parenthood, sexual turning points throughout life, and other aspects of child & adult development.

NR: What are some things you have done with your own grandkids?

Sally: I've done all kinds of things: art in the bathtub, make-a-plate, emailing, composing on the computer, going to school for Grandparents’ Day, having a personal library of children’s books, jogging together, text-messaging with teens - even though we're so much slower than they are!

Some ideas I've gotten from other grandparents are: letting the children eat dessert first, creating art from seashells, taking a grandchild to breakfast, making a birth book or a group quilt, and of course, as Rosemary does, writing poems for and to your grandchildren.

NR: How are today’s grandmothers different from those in the past?

Sally: Today’s grandmothers are more likely to be working, to be physically active, to be technologically proficient, to have really busy lives. We’re similar, though, to grandmothers of the past in treasuring this special relationship and wanting to be emotionally close to our grandchildren, even when we can’t be physically close.

NR: How does your book help grandmothers who live far from their grandchildren?

Sally: There are so many activities that speak to the needs of these grandmothers & their grandchildren. I was especially sensitive to grandmothering across the miles because I live this situation. None of my grandchildren have ever lived closer than a 2-hour drive away, and 3 of them have lived either on the west coast of the U.S. or in Europe, while I have lived in New York. I have stayed emotionally close to my grandchildren, and so in Super Granny I emphasized some ways other grandmothers can do this. Special icons in the book point to activities especially good for long-distance grandmothering. Some examples are: email, writing special letters or poems, talking and seeing each other through services like Skype & webcams, texting, digital photos, shared vacations, making videos, family blogging.

NR: In today’s economy, a lot of grandmothers have to cut back on spending. What suggestions do you have for activities that don’t cost much?

Sally: Almost all the activities in the book cost little or nothing. These activities are specially marked as being either free or “dirt-cheap.” Some examples are: making a birth book; teaching babies to sign, playing games; fostering creativity in music, arts, and crafts; taking them shopping at thrift and secondhand stores; becoming your family’s cultural historian; sharing inexpensive sports like jogging, softball, cycling; involving grandkids in your political and civic activities.

NR: On the other hand, what are some activities worth splurging on?

Sally: Creating memories by giving grandchildren special experiences, like taking them away for a weekend or more; taking them to performances like the circus or theater; skiing, river-rafting, and pursuing other expensive activities with them; encouraging charitable giving; creating & publishing your own family book; taking them on a Segway tour. I spent a wonderful day with my 7-year-old granddaughter at the American Girl Store café in New York. Super Granny offers suggestions to make such experiences well worth the financial outlay.

NR: Why is it more rewarding to see grandchildren without their parents?

Sally: The grandparent/grandchild connection is unique. Seeing the child alone helps you forge this special relationship without having to worry about treading on the toes of the parent, or being too presumptuous, or not knowing just what your boundaries are. Also when the parent isn’t present, you’re the primary caregiver, confidante, companion. The child turns to you with questions, requests for help, and confidences, and is often freer to ask questions she/he might not ask a parent.

NR: Why is it better to see only one grandchild at a time?

Sally: It enables you to have a more intimate relationship than when more than one grandchild is present. You don’t have to worry about lavishing too much attention on one child rather than another, or choosing among activities for different ages. You can devote yourself totally to the one you’re with.

NR: Thank you for joining us today, Sally. We agree that Super Granny is the ultimate resource for today’s super grannies, with super-powers to captivate the grandkids! If any of you have questions for Sally or want to share your own ways of connecting with your grandkids, send them in and Sally will respond today or tomorrow. And click on the title above to take you to Sally's webpage highlighting all of her books.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wonderfully refreshing idea. Thank you for writing the book. I have looked for a special activity to do with my grandchildren and your suggestions have kindled an idea that I think will work out well. Do you usually suggest discussing these ideas with the parents of the children?


1:34 PM  
Blogger Sally Wendkos Olds said...

For some of the more elaborate and time-consuming activities or any that call for advance planning, yes, you want to bring the parents into your planning. One time I wanted to take a granddaughter to a show on Broadway, and her mom said that she had planned to do that and was looking forward to it, so I backed off. You want to offer special treats -- but not in a way that you'll tread on the parents' delicate toes!

5:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about for special needs kids?

5:44 PM  
Blogger Nourishing Relationships said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes I feel like I have to compete with the other grandmother. Do you think the grandkids see it that way?

6:01 PM  
Blogger Sally Wendkos Olds said...

Yes, special needs kid require special thinking about activities that will be fun and rewarding for both of you. I'll be happy to give you some specific suggestions if you tell me the ages of the children and the nature of their special needs. Although my book is organized according to age levels, these categories are flexible and will differ according to individual children.

6:31 PM  
Blogger Sally Wendkos Olds said...

This issue of competition with the other grandparents is a biggie for many people. Every grandparent is different and has different things to offer to the grandchildren. I think that if YOU don't see the situation as competitive that your grandchildren won't either. It's hard to avoid the sense that you have to give gifts that are just as expensive or take the kids on outings that are just as strenuous or do other things that the other grandparents do. But if you're enthusiastic about an activity, the kids will pick that up and will enjoy doing it. Like one granny in my book takes her grandchildren fishing near her home. Doesn't cost a lot of money, doesn't take a huge amount of energy, but she loves it -- so the kids love it too. Just pretend (in your own mind) that the other grandparents don't exist, and make your grandkid plans without even thinking about the other grands!

6:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that my grandson is a teenager, he wants to be with his friends all the time - never me. Do you have any suggestions about what a Granny can do to interest her teenage grandson?

8:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of my grandkids lives down the street and we get to see each other a lot. But my others moved to the other side of the world and we only get to see them once a year. So we do different things with them. But now they seem to get jealousy over what we do with each of them. What can I do?

8:38 PM  
Blogger Sally Wendkos Olds said...

Ahhh, the dilemma of adolescence! Yes, to teenagers their friends are the most important people in their lives -- for the moment. But you'll be there for the long haul, and as I wrote in SUPER GRANNY, "there will always be a place somewhere in their lives for a loving, interested, supportive grandmother."
Some ways to spend time with your grandson could include taking him out for breakfast before school -- an hour when he won't be doing anything else (except sleep), being the legally required adult in the car while he practices his driving, either sharing a sport or taking him to see one of his choice, taking a city tour on a Segway (google to find the closest available city for this), or asking him to teach you how to text, make a video to put on youtube, or some other technical task.

6:57 AM  
Blogger Sally Wendkos Olds said...

It's hard when grandchildren live so far away you can't see them more than once or twice a year. I know because I'm in this situation. And like you, I also have grandchildren who live much closer. You mention that the different sets of grandchildren get jealous because of the different activities you do with the nearby ones and the faraway ones. If they're old enough for you to explain the difficulties of doing the same things with all the grandchildren, you can be upfront in telling them that this is not what you have chosen, but that you love them all and you want to do as much as possible to show this. You can then ask both sets of grandchildren to tell you what they would like to do with you, and then do everything that you can to fulfill their requests. I just asked my 12-year-old granddaughter whom I see only twice a year to email me a list of what she wants to do when she and her family come to visit this summer. I got a good list -- and everything on it is doable. It's often surprising how modest the children's requests can be.

7:06 AM  

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