My Role as Grandma: Doing My Own Thing (and Leaving the Grandkids Alone)
Letting my grandchildren live freely while I joyfully engage in other pursuits
“There’s a point in life when you realize you’ve got more yesterdays than tomorrows,” the venerable Grey’s Anatomy surgeon observed. “Maybe then, we should care more about our offspring than ourselves.”
As my friend Linda passed the popcorn, she turned her smile-creased, still-lovely face to me. “We’re past that point,” she said. “Should we focus less on our own lives now and more on our children and grandchildren?”
“Hell, no!” I thought.
“Why can’t we do both?” I said.
After the pressures and pulls of mid-life, many of us have room in our lives to enhance personal growth and promote social progress. Consider Charlotte, my friend and role model, a poster child for women redefining their “bonus years.” In her 70s, she founded a nonprofit, traveled to Russia and Myanmar and organized a neighbor-helping-neighbor “caring collaborative” in her highrise. This unstoppable woman, with her mischievous smile and slim, poised-for-action frame, viewed health setbacks like airport delays — annoying but temporary. After lunch at a Manhattan restaurant, she hailed a cab for me. Considering the 95-degree heat rising from the pavement and her approaching 80th birthday, I asked, “Want a ride?” “No,” she laughed. “It’s only 13 blocks.”
Over 60 and in the Thick of Things
Lots of us with more sand in the bottom than the top of the hourglass love being in the thick of things. We offer a rich vein of experience for our families, communities and society to mine. My oldie-but-feisty friends volunteer to serve on county commissions, organize aging-in-place neighborhood villages, tutor struggling students and form groups of kindred spirits — artists, poets and memoir writers. A homebound neighbor helps Grandmas for Good by posting social media updates. One empty nester insists she gets more than she gives teaching English as a Second Language.
What started with “I’ll give it a try,” turned into a joyful, can’t-imagine-life-without-it engagement, with extra income icing the cake. Health and circumstances permitting, many of us blend people, pastimes and pursuits into a flavorful mix, adding new ingredients to taste.
Golden agers dotted the throngs at the 2017 women’s marches. At one point, the MC announced, “We have a 92-year-old woman trying to locate her group. Please meet her at the podium.” Teresa Shook, a retired lawyer, started it all with a Facebook post. Going forward, boomers and the older, no-longer silent generation will bolster and backstop present-day leaders. Every social movement needs what we have: know-how and time.
Beyond the resistance, legions of unheralded older adults are charging through outdated age-related boundaries — continuing to work, starting new enterprises or launching “encore careers,” a term invented just for our not-done-yet, eager-for-action age cohort. Today, late life offers many of us a tantalizing menu of choices, some long-deferred — like joining a theater group — others, like a shiny new gadget at an electronics show, calling “Try me!” We’re turning our yesterdays into fun, fulfilling and posterity-serving tomorrows.
Pausing for Grandparenting
Do I think about my children and grandchildren? Constantly. Do I care about rising generations, marvel over the wild variety of lifestyles and possibilities in the world they inhabit and the challenges they face, and hope that in this fast-changing world, universal core values endure? Fervently.
I’d hit “pause” if my children or grandchildren needed me. Happily, like whitewater rafters, they flip, dip and drift sometimes, but usually manage to come up smiling. They sure don’t need me adding “What are we going to do today?” to their busy, multi-tasking lives. The fuller my life, the freer theirs can be.