I don’t have vivid memories of moments or activities with my grandmothers. I don’t recall specific foods they made, hobbies they enjoyed or shared with me, lessons they taught me. My own children have just a handful of those kinds of memories with their grandmothers, as well.
I often read of such things, hear recollections of such memories. Hearing the joy-filled recollections highlights their absence in my life. But it also makes me determined to create similarly joy-filled memories with my own grandchildren, to be one of those memorable grandmothers who stand out in a child’s mind no matter their age. It just takes a little more work than simply reaching back into my memory or turning to my children’s grandmothers to do so. It takes being intentional — intentional about being a memorable grandmother, intentional about accumulating the resources to do exactly that.
Because I don’t have a model of exemplary grandmothering in my life, I buy books written by grandmas, books filled with grandmotherly advice. I read blogs of grandmas excelling at the grandma gig. I nurture relationships with the grandmothers in my circle of friends, look to them as mentors, ask them for advice. And I even home in on fictional grandmother characters in books and movies. I file away for future use the things they do, say, and are that I as a grandma want to do, say, and be.
Mostly, though, I simply listen. People love to reminisce about their beloved Nana or Nonnie, Gramma or Grammy, women who delighted in them as children and who influenced the adults they became. I seek out and I listen to those stories of beloved grandparents who doted on them, supported them, taught them. Then I take bits and pieces of their memories to forge plans of my own.
Influenced by such stories, I plan to dote on my grandchildren by always — and in all ways — being available to them and for them. That may be in person, on the phone, over the computer, through the mail. Some days it may be all of the above; always it will be in thought, mind, soul. I will tell them honestly and often how lovely and amazing they are, inside and out. And I will never, ever hold back an “I love you” for fear it may embarrass them… or me.
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I plan to support my grandchildren’s dreams, hobbies, activities, and goals. I will respect them when they speak their one true voice loud and proud, or when they march to a drum different than the one beating in my heart. I will clap and brag, and whoop and holler, and let it be known without reservation that that right there is my grandchild!
And I plan to teach them. I will teach my grandchildren small things — how to peel a pomegranate and make a whistle out of a blade of grass — and big things, like the importance of letting go and letting God. In between the small and the big will be moments of teaching through example, subtle lessons on kindness and caring, giving and sharing, and being the very best that we humans can be.
Bottom line: I plan to make memories. Because what I’ve learned from all the grandmas who were not my grandmas is that making memories is what being a memorable grandma is all about.
Though I may not have had that, I’m all the more determined to be that.
Lisa is a Colorado-based freelance writer. She publishes the Grandma's Briefs website, where she shares bits on life's second act and strives to smash the outdated "grandma" stereotype. Lisa has been married to the same man forever; together they have three adult daughters, one son-in-law and three adorable grandsons — children of the middle daughter and her husband. Lisa is easy to find online as she's known as GrandmasBriefs wherever she goes: Twitter (@grandmasbriefs), Facebook, Google+ and elsewhere.