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Monthly Archives: August 2018

Learning to be a grandmother

 

It is often suggested that babies should be born with a manual, because it is so hard for new parents to work out how best to look after them. We, mothers, know that we managed somehow or other. But now it begins again, as we are faced with being a grandmother.

So how do we learn to be grandmothers?

Instinctive Grandmothers

Of course, some people are ‘naturals’ whether as mothers or grandmothers. It wouldn’t occur to them to look for an advice book or to ask friends – they just know how to do it.

I watch these women in awe, as it certainly isn’t me. I didn’t have a clue when my first baby was born, although I was probably a little better by the time I had a second.

Nor, nearly 40 years later, did I have much immediate sense of how to be a grandmother, much less a good one. It certainly didn’t feel natural to me from the start, as it all felt so long ago.

Learning from our grandmothers

In my book, Celebrating Grandmothers, where nearly 30 women talk about how it feels to be a grandmother, many explore this issue.

A few describe their own grandmothers in some detail. Of course, those women of the past varied hugely – not only in their social backgrounds but in their behaviour. Some were memorably strict, while others were distinctly full of fun.

My interviewees shared that their experiences of these women had influenced them as grandmothers. Especially in those cases where they had spent a lot of time with their grandmother or she had a strong personality which impressed certain values or attitudes onto them.

This is not my case. I had little to do with my own grandmothers, as one lived too far away – the breadth of the USA was a serious hindrance in the 1950s – and the other had only limited interest in the role. Neither helped me much when my time came.

Learning from our mothers

Of course, your grandmother is not the only potential influence in this arena. Our mothers, too, were grandmothers to our children, as were our mothers-in-law.

Some of the women I interviewed felt that they had learned a lot from them, watching how they had played with their children or had taken an interest in teaching them.

But I, again, did not have much luck in this situation. By the time my children were born, my husband’s mother had died, and my own mother was, again, too far away as I had moved overseas. And, as she was a very dedicated career woman, I am not sure how involved she would have been had she lived nearby.

In any case, I had little in the way of role models.

Grandmother Experts

Nowadays, we all learn from ‘experts’ on all sorts of issues and being a grandmother is no exception. There are numerous books on “how to be a good granny” – as well as my favourite, “how to be a bad granny.”

There are also a growing number of websites devoted solely to the joys and challenges of being a grandmother or touching on the topic quite frequently. Including, of course, this one.

Many of us have doubtless learned a great deal from their advice – from how to avoid saying the wrong thing to how to cope with modern equipment. But it did not occur to me to look for such information online or in a book.

For example, when I was writing my book, which is definitely not a ‘how to’ book, one friend asked if it would explain how to fold down a modern pushchair (stroller). Perhaps we have all struggled with that one.

Make It Up as You Go Along

I think that most of us make it up as we go along. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

We probably make some of the same mistakes we made as mothers. But I am sure we make many fewer, because – although it may not seem like it when the first grandchild is born – we have been there before.

Like with a second child, the knowledge is just lurking there, waiting to come out. We cuddle and burp the baby without thinking about it. We encourage the toddler to toddle and, as they grow, we talk to the grandchildren about the wonders of life, from the sublime to the ridiculous. It comes naturally.

Some do not want to take a great part in this adventure, but most of us find it enormous fun – and incredibly rewarding.

As we used to say playing tag, “here we come, ready or not” and you are probably readier than you think.

Celebrating Grandmothers is available as a paperback and e-book on Amazon and other platforms

This was first published in a slightly different form by Sixty and Me (see http://sixtyandme.com/5-tips-for-learning-how-to-be-a-grandmother/)

 

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Becoming a grumpy old woman

I would guess that most people who know me see me as a cheerful older woman, with a good life and little to complain about. All this is true. Yet, at the same time, I can feel myself turning into a Grumpy Old Woman.

There are several things that I find increasingly annoying. Unfortunately, I can’t write about all of them, so here are just a few.

Mobiles

There you are, quietly walking down the street, when someone walks into you because their head is in their phone.

Or you see them coming and you stop, completely still. They look up and say “Oh, sorry,” as if they couldn’t see that walking along blindly is bound to cause someone trouble at some point.

Backpacks

And, while on the subject of public places, I get very irritated by thoughtless people with backpacks. They are especially annoying in tight spaces, such as a bus or train, when they turn around and the pack crashes into you.

I have long thought that backpackers should be required to pass a driving test on managing body space. It might help them learn that their dimensions are extended hugely by their packs.

Going to a movie

It used to be a joy to go to a movie – you would have the odd advertisement or trailer, and then sit back and enjoy the film. Not any more.

There is the couple across the aisle who insist on unwrapping their sweets (candies) one by one throughout the course of the film. Do they not realise that doing this slowly is no quieter, but just prolongs the agony? Perhaps that has always been a problem, but I am becoming less tolerant.

But what is new at these scene are the people who must check their phone. Even if they don’t talk, the light is incredibly distracting. I do think people should be able to forget their phone for the brief duration of a film.

And everyone seems to need to eat. Some cinemas even offer full course meals to their patrons, which might be nice for the hungry person but pays no thought to the person sitting next to them.

Selfies

The very word ‘selfie’ denotes the modern generation. In our day, we never had to show that we were there, wherever ‘there’ was.

The worst is in picture galleries, where the rooms are full of people with their phones and, where allowed, phone sticks. They don’t seem remotely interested in the paintings themselves, but only in showing the world that they have seen them.

Perhaps there should be fake galleries, intended just for them, so the rest of us could enjoy paintings in peace.

Airports

Everyone seems to love to travel and to talk about the marvellous places they have visited. But they never tell you about the airport. Is it just me or are airports getting worse?

I can manage the discomfort of airplanes themselves, although there is little to recommend the time you spend strapped into a small seat.

But what gets me down is the stress of getting to the airport in time, with the underlying threat that if you aren’t there two hours in advance, they won’t let you on the plane.

The worst is the airport itself. You’re stuck there for ages, surrounded by multitudes of people. Hardly anywhere to sit down, but shops and more shops everywhere. I don’t like shopping at the best of times, and I certainly do not want to do so in an airport when I have enough to carry as it is.

And then there is the ladies room. Toilets still function as normal, but modern sinks are becoming a kind of intelligence test.

How do you obtain simple running water? Some new-fangled taps have parts to push up or down or sideways – but which? Or they have electronic gizmos that don’t seem to recognise my hands. Do the architects of such contraptions think we automatically know how they work?

Grumpy and grouchy

Yes, I am becoming a grumpy old woman. I don’t know whether I am more annoyed by other people or by the increasing presence of modern technology. All I know is that sometimes all my good cheer gets taken away.

 

This post was originally published by SixtyandMe (see http://sixtyandme.com/5-reasons-i-am-becoming-a-grumpy-old-woman-in-my-60s/)