Family Relationships

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Honoring Grandmothers

Yesterday we had an informative chat with Sally Olds, author of Super Granny: Great Stuff to Do With Your Grandkids. Click on the title above to see more about Sally's books. Today we want to highlight some of the interesting comments we had from our readers about the art of grandmothering and Sally's responses.

One question was about whether or not to discuss a grandparenting idea with the parents ahead of time. Sally weighed in with her wise counsel: "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!"

In response to a question about activities with special needs grandchildren, Sally offered these words of advice: "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."

One grandmother was concerned about competition between herself and the other grandmother. Sensitive to the situation, Sally recommended focusing only on her time with her grandchild. "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!"

Another granny wanted help in keeping her teenage grandson entertained when he'd rather be with his friends. Sally gave her opinion, full of the great ideas that you'll find in her book, "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.

Jealousy between her grandchildren was one grandmother's worry. Sally's had experience with this issue too and shares her suggestions with us: "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."

Our thanks go out to Sally for sharing her special book, Super Granny, with us. You can see more about her books by clicking on the title above. And an early Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers and grandmothers out there!

We also had an interesting comment from a reader on Wednesday's post about step-grandmothers. The situation combined the issues of grandmothering after a divorce and step-grandmothering - and created a perfect storm for tension and mistrust. Luckily for our reader, the grandkids had more loving women in their lives to make up for it. Here's what she said;

"My ex-step-Mom was Grandma to my children. When she decided to divorce my Dad after 20+ years, I was understanding and supportive. And, I continued to be -- even when Dad began to jump through hoops to save the marriage. She'd already let go. I was open with her. Open for communication and told her she would be Grandma as long as she 'wanted' to be.

Things got ugly. She became non-communicative. Kids asked questions. I had to fend off the ugly. A year after, it's all finally resolved and my children have lessened the questions (now six and seven of age).

She calls out of the blue. Apology, requesting forgiveness, and I know insinuating rebuilding the relationship. I do not trust this now; my kids have come to see that she left them as a Grandma. They have my Mom and my wonderful MIL."

Although we can't control what other people do, we can decide how we want to react to them. Our reader is able to be flexible in her responses to her now ex-stepmother - inclusive, understanding, open at first; then wary and protective of her children when she needed to be; now turning to other positive influences and people in her life. As time goes on, the situation may change once more and her resiliency will be called into play again. What about you?

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