By Ann Boutcher
There is a new sound in my life…N A N A !!! shouted at a deafening decibel level from a tiny two-and-a-half-year-old that has invaded our lives and turned them upside down. I am not the NANA in the shout…I am only the great aunt who gets to go along for the ride while the real NANA is watching the little guy.
Grandmothers, Nanas, Nona’s, Bubbies and YiaYia’s were in short supply when I was growing up, both of mine having passed long before I was born. A couple of the cousins had Grandmas, so the rest of us shared them, but it was never quite the same as a real Grandma. Our doting aunts filled the Grandma void for those of us without one and it was not until we were all much older that we realized how different our childhood’s might have been if a loving older lady was in our lives.
Grandpas were the ‘go to’ relative for all my cousins and me. My maternal grandfather lived with us until he turned 92; walked my sister and me to school every day and picked us up…yes, we walked… to and from most days and home for lunch every day and he supplied us with cash…$0.15 a day while we were in grade school and $0.25 when we went to high school. Who had it better than us? There was a local bar across the street from the grade school and much to our mother’s displeasure, gramps would often take us there for a $.05 Coke before we went home.
My paternal grandfather was a dapper gentleman who drove a convertible and took great delight in occasionally, picking all eight of us from school, top down with the cousins hanging out of the car and yelling…no car seats back then. He passed when I was 11 so I made it nearly to high school with two grandpas.
Our moms were stay-at-home…there was no other type when I was growing up. If you needed a second income in the family, dad simply got a second job or mom did something called ‘piece-work’, which was sewing at home for a dress or shirt factory. I remember seeing boxes of sleeves at my aunt’s once and wondering where the rest of the shirts were. It occurred to me recently that all the women who worked in the TV sitcoms of the 50’s & 60’s must have been single, with the exception of Lucy and Alice…and by the way who watched little Ricky when they were in the chocolate factory????
For us Daycare meant grandpa sweeping in to rescue you just before mom hurled her slipper across the room in your general direction-We did not have time out. We also benefited from our maiden aunt taking time off from the sweat shop or the yet unmarried sister dropping by to help out. Life is so very different today. Young women want a career and a family; two income homes are a necessity, not a luxury and kids go to day care…. that is unless they have a Grandma. In that case they might be eligible for Nana Care….a recently coined term that I don’t think has yet made the leap to Webster.
Most of my first cousins as well as my sister, all in middle age, are providing some level of Nana Care for their grandchildren and except for being a little tired most of the time, are none the worse for the wear and in fact, are thriving with a new sense of purpose. Their lives are full. They laugh more. They are caught up in a great adventure…helping to shape the lives of yet another generation. Although watching the kids is not without consequence…the dog lives in mortal fear of the inevitable toilet bowl bath and the cat has found even more obscure places to hide….and grandpa needs to fend for himself as he relinquishes his role as king of the castle when the little ones are there.
Of course anyone under ten helps us to forget our aches and pains for at least part of the day. They remind us of the gourmet quality of Peanut Butter and Jelly. How a blanket thrown over the couch still makes the best fort and a snuggle for story time can brighten even the darkest days. They challenge us to be as good as they are on the computer. They live to make us laugh and think we are hysterical when they watch us struggle with the pop-up tent that refuses to fold back into itself no matter how many times we watch the video.
My favorite is when they hide in plain sight and think that we don’t see them if they close their eyes. They provide unconditional love and hugs on demand….other than the dog, no one gives us that!
Of course, watching your grandchildren is not always perfect as you have to deal with your children who sometimes forget that we raised them so DUH we know how to do this. As with any advance in science there are some things to learn, for example, back in the day there was only one size Pampers, Gerber only made jar food and if our kids wanted a cookie they got something called a Zwieback that they sort of gummed to death. Today baby food is a big business, with an emphasis on organic offerings and retail sales reaching $55 Billion two years ago and continuing to rise. Diapers now come in about six different sizes and that is if you don’t count pull ups and swimmies. There is a line of Gerber foods called Gerber Graduates, which is given to children about the time our moms ‘graduated’ us to eating whatever everyone else did.
Of course, none of us would ever repeat the adage that our own mothers taught us that ‘kids eat a pound of dirt in their lifetime’-our kids would be appalled. We take extra care to make sure that our little charges do not go near the dog’s dish, lest the dog, who is probably as clean as the kid, share his germs. We make sure that they wear UV rated clothes in the sun for obvious reasons but they also benefit from never having to bear the embarrassment of the smell of Noxzema on freshly sunburned skin. We make them wear helmets on a three-wheeler even though grandma hesitates to wear hers when she rides.
You get the picture…we have been accused of treating them better then we treated our own children, which is true and makes perfect sense. Raising our own was much more difficult. We had to worry about dental bills, keeping up their grades, girlfriends, boyfriends…these little darlings are perfect AND they go home every day!
Which allows the dog to safely venture back to the couch, the cat to surface and the caregiving grandparents to have that wonderful moment when the house is quiet …….that is until grandpa starts snoring in his chair. So, as we celebrate Grandparent’s Day, the ultimate Hallmark Holiday, here’s to the Grandma’s and the Grandpa’s too, who make life wonderful for a whole generation of little guys. What happens at Grandmas stays at Grandmas.
Ann Boutcher has a knack for finding insights and humor in everyday moments. Until now, her published writing has been limited to work, but now, thanks to this wonderful opportunity as a guest editor, the world will get to witness firsthand her humor, life experiences and the gift of gab she brings to the pages of The Three Tomatoes.