Saturday, August 14, 2010

Multigeneration Fun!

I love being a gramma! My spell check always flags that word, wanting me to put grandmother - which I'm not - or even grandma - but I'm really just a plain old gramma. My youngest grandchildren can say that word easily and it isn't as pretentious and formal as grandmother. So that is the moniker I choose.

All summer I've been playing with grandchildren. I've taken them to skating parks and applauded their blossoming skills on skate boards and razors, and bandaged scraped knees and elbows. Fortunately, we didn't have any broken bones while I was in charge. I've been drowned by squirt guns in the swimming pool, made innumerable batches of cookies, dished up gallons of ice cream, counted tokens from video games, and chauffeured countless miles. That's just one set of three grandsons. We also took two of them with us to Bear Lake to the family reunion and tried to keep them entertained on the long drive from California to Idaho - no small feat. Thank heaven for books on CD since my car isn't equipment with TV as theirs and my daughter's is. (C. S. Lewis, thank you for your incredible imagination!) They laughed when I fell off the jet ski and begged me to take another picture of their magnificent sand castle to show their parents.

Two weeks ago, I went to the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana with my two youngest grandchildren and their parents to see a Silk Road Exhibit, complete with mummies and lots of fun artifacts. Five-year-old Violet was entranced with the little girl mummy, and the jewelry and things found with her. Nineteen-month-old Julian liked the Fu Dogs at the entrance to the China exhibit much better. He pointed and babbled and laughed, and was very good as long as I was pushing him. I think I got in about 1000 steps that day keeping him entertained in his stroller while his parents actually saw the exhibit.

The first weekend in August, Violet, Julian and their Mom met me and my Las Vegas daughter and her four kids at the Getty Villa Museum in Malibu where we spent two hours enjoying the incredible treasures J. Paul Getty collected. The Family Forum room was so entertaining and educational the kids didn't want to leave. Then we hit the beach. Tailgate picnic, collecting rocks and seas shells, running in the surf (I didn't join my 14-year-old grandson body surfing this time - the water was FREEZING!)

This week, I drove to Las Vegas, spent the rest of Wednesday helping my daughter hang all her certificates and memorabilia on her wall, mending, remodelling some clothes for the kids. Thursday we drove to Cedar City and took in a Shakespeare play while the kids did the movies. We all went swimming at our hotel, walked a mile to eat, walked back to the Festival and laughed till we were exhausted at "39 Steps." Who'd have thought they could turn that Hitchcock mystery into something almost slapstick? It was pure delight.

We walked back to our hotel in the dark and talked about the play, about the funny things in the shop windows, and plans for tomorrow. My almost-8-year-old granddaughter slept with me in my king-sized bed and managed to end up finding me clear on the other side of the bed and snuggling with me before the night was over.

Why do I tell you all this inconsequential "stuff" of my summer? Because, first of all, it was tremendous fun for me. And second, I believe it is extremely important to stay connected to the next generations. I remember my grandmother. I knew she loved me more than my own mom at times (or so it seemed.) After all, she didn't have to discipline me. She could just love me.

I believe all children need to know there are other people in this world that love them as much as their parents. I believe that we have gained much insight in our many years on the earth that can help those of the younger generation see things in a different, maybe more positive light. I believe it is our privilege and responsibility to pass on some wisdom we've acquired that they might not experience for many more years.

I tended my three grandsons for a week while their parents celebrated their 20th anniversary. The 15-year-old pressed-to-test a couple of times, wanting more freedom than I knew he should have. It could have gotten sticky if we hadn't already established a great rapport during the years. But he knew how much I loved him, and we made a couple of compromises that kept us both happy. He will probably get to the point where coming to gramma's isn't the cool thing to do, but until then, we enjoy each other. (By the way, Rat-A-Tat Cat is the most fun game for kids!)

During all those hours and days I've spent with my grandchildren this summer, I've been able to interact with each one individually. At the museums, I've told stories about the man who carved the statue we were observing, or pointed out something I knew this particular grandchildren was interested in that they had missed. Their moms can't answer all their questions all the time, and if we divide the group, we can give them a more personal view of what they are seeing.

At the play, I kept whispering quietly to my granddaughter the Hitchcock titles that were visual jokes, explaining why black birds were falling out of the sky, (The Birds) or someone climbing a high ladder was terribly afraid (Vertigo) or why a bi-plane was straffing the character (North by Northwest).

I ask lots of questions about their interests so when I run across something they like or that fascinates them, I can send it to them, or call them to talk about it. We can stay connected.

I truly believe grandparents can make a tremendous difference in the lives of their grandchildren simply by being interested. One of our granddaughters is graduating from high school in the spring. She has lots of decisions to make. We can help guide these young people so they don't have to make all the mistakes we made.

And besides, there isn't anything that compares with having one of them throw their arms around your neck (or legs) and say, "Gramma, I love you!" It just doesn't get any better than that.

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