I Am Woman, Hear Me Write

Rose Carlson: Learning how to be the best grandparent possible

Many years ago when I was a child, my sisters and I spent limitless wonderful hours with our grandparents.

My three sisters and I were so fortunate to have lived next door to my mother's parents and were blessed to learn all about gardening and cooking from them. As an 8-year-old, I could name every bird that flew into our yard and name every type of tree and flower that grew in our garden. I even had a flower named for me, a gorgeous pink and white striped amaryllis that my grandfather had propagated.

Grandpa showed us how to graft branches onto plants. He once had a huge hibiscus bush just outside his front door that had a different color flower on every one of its 25 or 30 branches. Grandma taught us to cook, crochet and play Canasta, filling in for Mom who was busy raising our two younger sisters and working full time.

I have wracked my brain to try and discover how to be a good grandmother to my grandchildren in these changed times. I want them to think of me with the same love and respect that I have for both sets of my grandparents.

But things are so different now. My children and my grandchildren are busy with their jobs, their school and activities, and their friends. And I'm busy too, working part-time, enjoying my activities and friends after retiring a few years ago. I don't stay home cooking and gardening because (in my mind) I'm not nearly as old as my grandparents were at my age (although they lived into their 90s, cooked everything in bacon fat, and didn't wear Fitbits).

So I've had to search for ways, as so many of us have, to be a good and loving grandparent without hovering, preaching, teaching and demanding too much time.

Searching for answers became easy for me when I asked my big sister for advice -- she's an experienced grandma with 12 grandchildren and another on the way. And, on top of that, she is a developmental psychologist who has written multiple college textbooks that contain sections on grandparenting in these times.

I learned that being an effective grandparent need not consist of acting as a surrogate parent as my grandparents did, but can include:

Being a financial provider, a playmate, an ad

vice-giver and a family historian. (I qualify on all counts.)

As grandchildren grow into adults, strong relationships grow even stronger as both consider each other "safety nets," or a potential source of security. (That's a role I'm proud to fill.)

Adult grandchildren represent the future to their grandparents and give them a feeling of accomplishment. (True for me!)

Their grandparents represent the past and hold the keys to personal history and identity. (I hope so. I'll ask my 24-year-old grandson.)

Adult grandchildren and grandparents are able to build on their early years and develop unique relationships in adulthood. (And THAT is exactly the assurance I need.)

In the end, I know I am blessed to be a grandmother three times over. Each of my grandchildren is special and dear to me in his or her own way, and I think they're very close to perfect. I hope and pray that our relationships continue to grow and develop, and that someday they think of me as special and kind and helpful and instructive and, and, and. ....

Just the way I think of my grandparents.

Rose Carlson, director of endowment for Saint Stephen's Episcopal School, enjoys spending every minute possible with her three grandchildren, ages 6, 10 and 24.