I HAVE A FEW LITTLE CONCEITS when it comes to wooing my grandchildren. I unashamedly admit that I want them to want to be with me. I want their faces to light up when they see me. I want them to occasionally phone – just to keep in touch or to say, “Gammy, isn’t it time we had lunch – just the two of us?”
I made superficial changes to woo them when they were babies, such as always wearing a little perfume so they would think “Gammy always smells nice.” I laugh a lot and share secrets with them. I ask questions they will enjoy answering. (One that works: “What was the best thing that happened to you this week?” We all have to answer – kids and adults alike.)
The youngest in the family, barely two years old, demands a ‘Gammy walk’ when he sees me, because as soon as he was on his feet, I began walking around the block with him. Just the two of us. I called it the ‘Gammy walk’ – a name he quickly adopted as his own.
It’s all pretty easy when they’re little, but my concern relates to the older kids. They’re tuned in to their peer group. They’re hooked on the Web after school. And it seems to me, they spend all weekend with MySpace or Facebook. I think I’m becoming irrelevant.
AND THEN THERE ARE THE GROWN-UPS
This spills over to my relationships with my adult children. I’m not as technologically savvy as they are. I’m not tuned in to the new nightclubs and the new music and new groups. I don’t want an iPod to download 200 current tunes – none of which I want to listen to once, let alone a dozen times. So I’ve allowed myself to get out of touch.
I must have made a subconscious decision some time ago to stay on top of the fields in which they know I’m well-informed and let go of those areas in which I would have to fake an interest.
My kids know I’m addicted to politics, for instance. (I’m hooked on American politics. I love the candidate debates and shows with arguing political pundits. It’s the best long-running soap on television!) So it’s satisfying when my kids say, “I haven’t stayed on top of this. Can you fill me in?”
My idea of being current is getting hooked on a new television series. I go to movies – a lot. I read all the news magazines. And sure, I want to know whether Jennifer Aniston will ever get back with Brad!
MY MOTHER’S EXAMPLE
My mother set an example of which, today, I stand in awe. She was a product of a generation that put a high priority on good manners, achievement and a civilized, moral life. She set such high standards that I frankly felt I never quite measured up. So imagine my surprise when – almost 40 years ago – she suddenly started talking to my young son about hockey and wrestling!
My son was fascinated. His grandmother was so much more tuned in than his parents were. She knew all the players and who won and lost. What a bond they developed throughout his teenage years! Of course, her interest level in both activities (I refuse to call wrestling ‘sport’) was faked beyond belief, but she pulled it off.
My kids all wanted to impress this formidable woman and I’m still not sure if all this resulted from her high standards or if it was that damned wrestling! Nevertheless, she went that extra mile, just to maintain the grandchild connection that was important to her.
SO WHAT’S THE ANSWER?
I don’t know to what lengths I’m prepared to go to stay connected with both my children and grandchildren. I don’t think I want to fake an involvement in something that holds no interest for me. And frankly, I’m not as good an actress as was my mother – a consummate performer. She could be whoever she wanted to be, and everybody bought it.
I can’t pull it off, as she did. But I would love to know how other grandmothers stay connected with both their grown kids and their grandkids. And how they maintain that connection without preaching or giving unasked-for advice. Connected as friends. Connected as people who choose to be together. Without any feeling of obligation. Without them saying, “I guess it’s time to have Mom for dinner.”
There must be an answer. But I just haven’t yet found it. PC
Published in Winter 2007