I'm Not the Nutrition Grandmother
Marcia McGreevy Lewis
Copyright 2021 by Marcia McGreevy Lewis
always knew my grandmother loved me,” says my friend in the
midst of her analysis of her neglectful parenting. “She saved
me, gave me any confidence I have today, and her chocolate chip
cookies were the best.”
we seldom hear from this underrepresented segment of the population,
grandparents are an essential ingredient in society today. Their
impact is powerful. They share family history and teach our children
values. Their need to find a voice is imperative.
both parents are working, and mom is
over-stressed. Any number of changes
family life, such as divorce, single parenthood, changing job
locations, military deployment or joblessness can lead to engaging
the grandparents’ help. We’ve always appreciated
our grandparents, but we haven’t relied on them like we do now.
Grandparents are driving students to classes and practices, mending
ripped clothing and going to the games.
study estimated that one in 10 children in America is being
raised by his grandparents. The children
include such noteworthy contributors to our culture as Maya
Angelou, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Grandparents dedicating
their time to the generation-once-removed is their gift. Let’s
be crystal clear. We need them.
joys in grandparenting, besides the closeness the grandparents
develop with their charges, are feeling younger, keeping current and
gaining a renewed sense of purpose. Though I don’t have
grandchildren full-time, I am among those who are joyful about the
privilege of interacting with amazing little people in my life.
wasn’t one of those moms pining away for grandchildren. I loved
the freedom of retirement, fulfilling volunteer work and traveling
the world. When my daughter announced that she was expecting, I
paused. I’m sure I disappointed her when I took that long pause
to reflect how I might get my wings clipped. I did recover in time to
congratulate her and then to congratulate myself for not exposing
what a selfish person I am.
wise move by my daughter and son-in-law was to invite me into the
birthing room. I became a reformed woman when I held my new grandson.
When they had their second son, I paused again because I was in love
with the first one. Cuteness won. Soon other grandchildren were born,
and I determined that I was going to be a rock, my grandchildren’s
solid grounding. I wanted to help them feel their extended family’s
embrace and ensure that they used correct grammar.
I knew it, my grandchildren were racing down the hallway of my
condominium to hug me when they arrived. That same hallway gets
transformed into a runway for jets, a race course for matchbox cars
and a batting cage. The boys are hardly delicate in their use of my
the condo, my female grandchildren place baby dolls to sleep in
closets or on my computer desk chair where I accidently
the dining room table is where we set up a grocery store and have
snacks. The dolls are our faithful companions for tea parties,
and I am thrilled to hear words straight from my granddaughter’s
mouth to her doll, “Remember to say, ‘May I please’?”
grandchildren and I plant vegetable gardens, laugh at Snail
delivering very slow mail to Frog at the Children’s Theater and
rally for the Pirates of the Caribbean at the many movies we see.
Soon they will want to see movies with an actual plot. I will
probably have to beg them then to go with me.
game they most often choose to play is hide-and-seek. I hide with
them and discover hidden burrows -- under sheets in the linen closet,
behind clothes in the closet and under couch cushions. The game I
enjoy is gin rummy. I teach them to play, and now that’s our
walk to the bakery and bike to the park. I have five different-sized
car seats, so we are ready for any-sized bottom as I drive them to
endless practices, play dates and lessons.
kids, young and old, invent rituals. Cracking nuts with the
nutcracker and serving those nuts to our holiday guests has become
traditional. When my grandchildren stay overnight, we have their
favorite foods—spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, cinnamon
rolls when they wake up and pancakes for breakfast.
often have cooking sessions. Following recipes reinforces reading, so
I am the sous chef. We make iced-and-sprinkled
gingerbread men and blackberry cobblers. They enjoy picking the
blackberries with me first. What makes them swell with pride is
bringing their creations home to their mothers -- who work equally
hard to reinforce nutrition. Oh well! I’m the reading
grandmother, not the nutrition grandmother.
grandchildren enjoy hearing stories of their parents as children, so
I heap on the stories. We “pass the story” where one of
us starts a story and the other picks it up. While I work hard to
insert values in my stories, my grandchildren relentlessly undermine
my efforts by killing off the heroes.
sometimes write their stories—often with their
illustrations--in a “book.” If a grandchild is small, he
or she dictates the story, and I print the words. Either way, I take
a picture of the author, paste it on the last page and feature the
child on the author page. The author comes up with his or her own
profile which can be as short as “I like dogs” or long
enough to include a preference for mint ice cream.
the time they were very young, I have taken the grandchildren on
Summer Snoop excursions. The boys crave riding things—the city
bus, monorail, light rail, double decker bus, the Space Needle
elevator and horseback riding. The favorite for all the grandchildren
is fishing, so each summer finds us at a fish farm where the fish
almost jump on their hooks. As they get older, we go to car museums,
the science center, art museums and on overnight outings.
of our best excursions was a hike on Mt. Rainier and staying at a
train caboose motel at the base of the mountain. Our family lives in
Scottsdale and Santa Barbara besides Seattle, so we visit cousins. My
grandchildren love family reunions, their contribution to the
reunions is always Jello because we read together in a book that
Jello is what people bring to reunions. Everybody humors us.
often fly to visit my distant grandchildren. I get to the
Christmas programs where they are lambs or shepherds, to the concerts
where they attempt to play instruments like trombones and saxophones
and to musicals where they actually sing quite well. There are
endless grandparent days, swim meets, ballet recitals and games of
tennis, basketball, soccer, baseball, lacrosse, etc., etc. Meeting
them on the playing fields is one of the best ways to gain access to
their time as they grow older.
grandchildren need to express their opinions, and my job is to
listen. I’m still learning. My biggest challenge is to keep
opinions to myself. My children are doing incredible jobs as parents,
and I need to remember that as I think I have something important to
influence you exert [on your children] is through your own life and
what you’ve become yourself,” says Eleanor Roosevelt. So
I try, perhaps unrealistically, to be the person I would like
them to emulate. They have picked up my travel fixation, so there is
my grandchildren turn 13, I take them on a trip. My oldest chose the
Galapagos, and my second oldest chose Costa Rica. Besides snorkeling
with sea turtles, we learned about respect for the environment. These
were the perfect setting in which to bond even more deeply.
grandchildren unconditionally is the gift a grandparent can give.
Their parents get to work out the kinks. Another gift is keeping baby
books and grandchildren’s histories for the parents who are
often too busy for this task. Two of my grandchildren recently
received their overstuffed baby books, and they relish
grandparenting job isn’t complete. What I’ve learned is
how significant grandparents are to their offspring
not-clipped wings have strengthened as they accommodate the sparks of
life my grandchildren give me. I am an integral part of their
ultimate departure on their own wings.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Marcia's story list and biography
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