Extra Pulp: Ain’t Life Grand

Laura Anders Lee recognizes the many blessings of today's modern grandparents.

When I was growing up, visiting my grandparents meant spending boring weekends in the country. While we received lots of love, life lessons and home-cooked meals, our grandparents didn’t play with us. We had to find our own entertainment.

Grandmother Doris only had three channels on her television, and they didn’t always come through clearly. Her second husband, Granddaddy Judson, had suffered a stroke and was mostly bound to his recliner. He got first dibs on the TV, and if we annoyed him too much while his Westerns were on, he poked us with his cane. So we escaped outside, crawling into the storm cellar, climbing the gate to the old barn, and throwing rocks in the creek. On rainy days, while my grandmother was busy washing dishes or preparing the next meal, my brother and I invented “Hide the Thimble.” We borrowed a thimble from Grandmother’s collection and hid it around the house for the other to find.

At Grandmother Mary’s house, my parents sat around endlessly talking. My grandparents liked to have a martini with lunch, and if we sat in the living room with the grownups, Granddaddy Richard pinched us with his toes. So instead we explored the woods with our cousins, avoiding cow patties and pegging each other with green osage oranges.

My children, Anders and William—and much of their generation—have a completely different relationship with their grandparents, who are healthier, fun and more active than ever before.

Today’s kids have actual adventures with their grandparents, whether for the day, weekend or entire week. It’s so popular in fact, that Disney has a vacation guide for grandparents taking grandchildren—my generation in the middle isn’t even invited to the party.

Grandparents today don’t want their parents’ image of spectacle-wearing, silver-haired old folks. Out are dentures and in are crowns, veneers and teeth whitening. Instead of using Pond’s cold cream like my grandmother, women today fight wrinkles with Botox. Even their grandparent names are fresh and fun. My mom is Lina and my mother-in-law is BB. We know a Mimi, Dee Dee, Tay-Tay, Honey, Docie … and the list goes on.

The exception is my dad, who proudly wears the title of Granddaddy. Now 71, he’s the first man in his family as far back as anyone can remember who lived long enough to become a grandfather.

Bryan’s and my parents live out-of-state, so we focus on quality time rather than quantity time. While I envy my friends with frequent babysitting and Sunday suppers, I also enjoy longer visits with our parents—and no unexpected pop-ins! We catch up over cocktails at night and over coffee in the morning. Our parents tuck our boys into bed, then relish pajama snuggles before breakfast.

Both our parents have generously taken our children on trips without us, and they’ve allowed the two of us to take vacations while they babysit.

The time Anders and William spend with their grandparents is magical. My mother-in-law is remarried so my children are blessed with three grandfathers. Big Daddy throws them across the pool, Pops takes them on ATV rides at his hunting camp, and Granddaddy pulls them behind his boat in the tube. Lina seines for fish and conducts science experiments, while BB takes them to the arcade and to ride go-karts. Our parents go out of their way to spoil our kids, building LEGOs, going fishing, playing putt-putt, building them a treehouse, taking them to the toy store, going to the beach and throwing the ball.

My mom says being a grandmother is even sweeter than being a parent. With her own children grown, she can enjoy the fruits of her labor. No longer in the trenches of discipline, doctor’s appointments and homework, grandparents can simply enjoy the good stuff. Now they are the ones rebelling against our parenting rules, stuffing our children with Oreos and Cokes and letting them stay up way past bedtime.

Parents must raise children while simultaneously working, doing chores, paying bills and running errands. We often don’t have the luxury of giving our children one-on-one attention. But when their grandparents come in, everything changes. They give our kids the precious gift of being present.

When our kids come home hung over from sugar, completely off their routine and with way too many toys, I let it go. I remember their special bonding time and appreciate the much-needed break Bryan and I received. The African proverb says it takes a village to raise a child, and there’s no better village than fun-loving grandparents who love our children unconditionally.

Categories: Community