What’s a Grandma to Do?

What’s a Grandma to Do?

From Chicken Soup for the Grandparent's Soul

What’s a Grandma to Do?

What’s so simple even a small child can manipulate it? Grandma.

Janet Lanese

One of the most pressing problems for grandparents these days is knowing how to be a grandparent. I certainly don’t wear cotton flowered dresses and big full-sized aprons and bake molasses cookies every week like Grandma Kobbeman did. I don’t sit on a porch swing and rock the evening away or watch soap operas like my Grandmother Knapp did. When I was fifty and a grandmother, I water-skied behind my brother’s boat in Kentucky and snorkeled for hours in the ocean off the coast of two Hawaiian islands. The next year I rode every scary roller-coaster ride at Disneyland.

Grandparents are different nowadays. We have full-time careers. We run corporations and marathons. We belong to clubs, watch the stock market, eat out a lot, exercise regularly and still have the energy to do the Twist at wedding receptions.

My five grandchildren live out of town, and I don’t see them on a daily or weekly basis. In fact, since their parents have busy careers and whirligig lives like I do, I’m lucky if I get to see my grandchildren once or twice a month.

When Hailey was four years old she came for her very first “all alone” visit. She would be alone with me Saturday night, all day Sunday, all day Monday and half of Tuesday before her mother arrived to take her back home. Saturday night and Sunday were a breeze. Hailey, her favorite blankie, latest Beanie Baby and I, snuggled together in my big bed. We slept just fine until Hailey sat up in the middle of the night and whispered, “Gramma, you were snoring.”

All day Sunday we kept busy with my daughter-in-law and other granddaughter who were visiting for the day. But on Monday morning when Miss Hailey and I woke up and she assured me that I didn’t snore at all that night, I began to fret. It’s Monday, a workday. I have books to read and review and a book proposal to get out. I need to be in my home office! How am I ever going to get it all done if I have to entertain Hailey all day?

I’ll worry about it later, I thought. For at that moment there were little girl hugs to be had, waffles to toast, and birds to feed on the deck with my four-year-old helper.

And so we hugged and rocked and ate, and I held the bird feeder while Miss Hailey scooped up six big cups full of tiny seed into the feeder and only a half-cup or so landed on the deck.

As we sat in the glider swing on the deck watching the squirrels eat the bird feed I began to worry again. I have a column to write and a talk to prepare. And yet I wanted to be with Hailey. After all, we only had a day and a half left before her mother came. But my work. I needed to work. Or did I?

“Grammie, can we put up the hammock? We could take a nap in it!”

“Let’s go to the shed and find the hammock,” I said gleefully. We hung the chains on the hooks in the big trees in the backyard and hopped aboard. As we watched a yellow finch and two cardinals flit around the branches high above us as we lay on our backs in that big double-wide hammock, I knew for certain that I was taking the next day and a half off work. Completely.

Hailey and I drew huge pictures on the driveway, using up a whole bucketful of sidewalk chalk. Then she wanted to climb up into her Uncle Andrew’s old tree house. She swept all the leaves off the tree-house floor and only about half of them landed on my head. We took a long bike ride on the bike path near my house. I walked while Hailey rode her tiny two-wheeler with the training wheels.

“Grammie, can we go down by the creek?” Miss Hailey squealed when she saw the water.

“Sure! Maybe we’ll catch a frog!”

Later that morning we jumped in the car, went shopping for shoes and found just the perfect pair for my wide-footed grandchild. Then we headed to the playland at McDonald’s for lunch. Later that afternoon we ate Combos and candy at the $1.99 movie as we giggled at the funny songs in Cats Don’t Dance.

“Grammie, are you sure there aren’t any rules at your house?”

“I’m sure.”

“No bedtime?”


“I can stay up until you go to bed?”


“Until late?”

“Sure. We can sleep late tomorrow. You just sit here in my lap so we can snuggle, and I’ll read you a couple of books.”

“I love you, Grammie.”

And so, that’s how I learned the true meaning of the words I have laminated on top of my computer: WRITE THINGS WORTH READING OR DO THINGS WORTH WRITING.

I learned that doing things like spending an entire day and a half playing with a granddaughter is infinitely more important than sticking to a work routine and getting things done in the office. I learned that grandmothers today often need to abandon their schedules, meetings, clubs, activities, workload and appointments, and sometimes spend hours at a time drawing silly animals on the driveway or staring at the leaves from a hammock with a four-year-old’s head snuggled in the crook of your arm.

Patricia Lorenz

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