Wednesday, December 06, 2006


I was reflecting on grandparent/grandchildren relationships today.

My kids have a great relationship with my husband's parents. They're friends. When my kids go over there, they hang out and do things with Nana and Papa. They show them their dance routines and curl up with them on the couch to talk about school and their friends and the movie they saw last week. They are less close to my father and stepmother only because of distance. They only get to see them once a year. But even then, it's an easy, open relationship. They were both very close to my mother before she died, mainly because my mother, also living far away, cultivated that closeness.

Our lifestyles feed that relationship now. I've had difficulty finding babysitters, so it's usually Nana and Papa who take that role. Number Two's elementary school is having Grandparents Day on Friday, with two hours of events. Number One had a grandparent luncheon that brought 400 parents and grandparents to the middle school last month, and next week are having a special grandparents concert. Since they do dance and soccer, there are also regular events for the g-ps to watch.

It was really different when I was a kid, and I don't know if it's generational or just my particular grandparents.

We had dinner at my father's folks on Sundays. When I call those grandparents to mind, I think of them as old people sitting in easy chairs in their apartment. That wasn't the ONLY way I saw them, of course. They took me to the library, I remember, and there are pictures of us outside. But we didn't do a lot of direct interaction. The adults played cards while the kids read the funnies and watched TV or played games in the bedroom.

My mother's mother died when I was seven, and her father and stepmother lived out of state so we didn't see them often, either. They were larger than life, especially my grandfather (who lives less than two hours away, yet I have to go to a wedding in Cape Cod to see him), and again, the kids played elsewhere while the adults visited. I heard stories and adored them, but can't say I was ever close to them.

The grandparent who had the biggest impact on my life was Nanny. She was my mother's maternal grandmother and died just after I graduated from college. There was a time when my brother and I hated her. I'm not really sure why. Maybe it was because my mother dropped us there sometimes when she had a date, and I had unknown resentments for that (it never bothered me that she dated). It could have just been being a stupid kid who didn't like the way her apartment smelled or the wig she wore (her hair was thinning but a lot prettier than that hideous rug), or the way she sang the words to a song after the singer on the radio did. I appreciated her a lot more when I got older. She was wise and tough and funny and sweet and so independent, her entire life.

In fact, she's the only person whose presence I ever felt after they died. One night I was driving from PA to MA alone, and all of a sudden I felt her in the car with me and burst into tears. I sobbed for about ten minutes, and then it was over. I am certain she was checking up on me. It happened three more times, and then she must have been satisfied, or moved on, or whatever. Even with that, though, I was not close to her like my kids are to their grandparents.

I like that they have a richer, more fulfilling relationship, and I hope it lasts for a really long time.


Anonymous said...

Hi Natalie:
My mother's mother was the human being I was closest to my entire life--ever. I had very active grandparents--I spent summers with them, and we always did things. They encouraged me to read, do crossword puzzles, but we also took trips together, cooked together . . . the oasis of love in my life. Just wonderful people.

My kids are very close with my parents. My husband's mother, however, disowned me and the kids and my hubby eight years ago because she would rather have no contact with her only grandchildren--the ONLY ones--than have anything to do with me (she has hated me almost from the moment we met). I actually think about grandparenting a lot because of that situation . . . it's a puzzle to me to not want to know these great kids . . . and it's such a loss--hers. But theirs too. They don't even know that side of the family--if she stood on our porch tomorrow, they would have no idea who she is. Yet, I think the grandparent-grandchild relationship--because of how great mine was--is a sacred thing.


Natalie Damschroder said...

My mother's mother was the human being I was closest to my entire life--ever.

So I guess it's not generational. :) I think that's wonderful.

. . . and it's such a loss--hers. But theirs too.

Hers, obviously, but are your kids suffering for not knowing someone that petty and foolish and mean? They're probably better off, IMO.

Anonymous said...

Hi Natalie:
Oh definitely. I agree with you. But I feel sadness that the cultural heritage and some of the traditions that really only a grandparent can so wonderfully pass on will be lost. So . . . we don't have a lot of "Mexican" touches to our celebrations, for instance, but we go crazy with a Polish Christmas from my side. :-)


Anonymous said...

Mmmmmm, good point. I hadn't thought of the broader perspective. That would sadden me, as well.