Today’s grandparents are not your mother’s grandmother! (Not that there was anything wrong with her!) When I learned I was about to be a grandmother it didn’t make me feel old. My friends who are grandparents still work and play hard. So I was okay being a member of that club. But then I met the “2-D” grandparents.
I love reading to my grandson, but in doing so I discovered something. No one I know fits the typical “grand” profile. While in real life my “grand” friends are everything from aviators to zoo keepers, and they look amazing and diverse, in books they all fit a similar profile– they bake, they rock (only in chairs, not in a good, rock and roll way), they sit, they garden, they fish or golf, and they do it all with paunches and ponchos and very little panache. But the world of real grandparents is so much more interesting, richer and fabulous than what kids learn in their literature.
Their own grandparents are way more fantastic than any they see in books. Boomer Grands work and play like no “grand” generation before. We redefine the image of grandparents every day. Yet, in the books we lovingly read to our darling little ones, we passively agree to reinforce the image of “Grandma and Grandpa” who walk with canes, have white hair (Which the women mostly wear in buns and when was the last time one of your friends put her hair into a bun?) and do not very much of interest.
In real life, we don’t even let our little ones call us by many stereotypical names. I got an email from a friend who was about to become a grandmother. “Which of these names best suits my style?” she wanted to know. The list included Gigi, Gaga (hey it works for the rock star) Gogo, Glamma (oh how I hate that one. There is nothing “glam” about the name Glamma.), Babe, Grandy, Didi, G-mom, and a few others. (I kept thinking G-man and I don’t think she was an FBI agent.) What name suits her style? Can you imagine your grandmother asking that?
Yet, we sit back, snuggle our little ones in our laps and read them books showing silly Grandma who knits and bakes and is really nice but is never seen running a marathon or at work doing something important. We show children Grandpa showing up at the door stooped over, with a comb over (Absolutely not one of my friends has a comb over!) and a red nose.
He’s not found working in a lab or building a house or riding a bike as many actual grandfathers do. We see grandparents bouncing babies on their knees but we don’t see them on the basketball court bouncing a ball and shooting hoops with their grandchildren. We see Granny with the glasses balanced precariously on the tip of her nose dressed in an oversized Mumu or an ugly skirt and sweater but not often in a form-fitted suit or killer cocktail dress and stilettos. I still love my high heels and damn it, I’m not letting being a grandmother put me in ortho shoes!
I decided something had to change so I began asking people who were grandparents to send me recent photos of themselves doing whatever it is they do, at work, at play or even at home. The photos arrived and they were enlightening.
Grandmothers who earned pilot licenses are in the skies, folks. Grandfathers are running marathons around the world.
Real Grands (my coined term to describe what I’m seeing) are riding motorcycles in full leather regalia.
They’re hanging art installations in big venues.
They’re writing books and ministering to peoples’ health needs.
They’re advocating for rights in court. They’re writing and performing one-woman shows about their careers in teaching.
They’re surfing and stand-up paddle boarding.
They’re volunteering in soup kitchens and developing recipes for new soups.
They’re laboring in offices and heading up companies.
They’re dressing in designer duds and in ripped jeans and spandex and they look fantastic.
They’re doing yoga; they’re meditating and mediating.
In other words, they’re living full lives. In real life, that is. In children’s books, they’re passing time. It’s time for a change.
Deborah was inspired by today’s grandmothers to write a children’s book titled,
“Real Grands: From A to Z, Everything A Grandparent Can Be.”