Grilled Grandma: Ronda Kay

How many children do you have? I was blessed to bring five into the world, and then when they married I got another bonus five, and my dream of having ten children came true!

I started with my three daughters and two sons, and got used to the ‘more girls than boys’ status. Then they all got married and I find it perplexing that we now are even – five and five! It’s like one of those bizarre mathematical riddles I can’t comprehend, either.

How many grandchildren? What are their ages? I now have nearly twenty – they came quickly, in batches, and the oldest are only seven!

This winter my three daughters gave birth almost simultaneously – with only a couple of weeks between their births! I’m always naturally nervous during a pregnancy, and to have all three of them carrying at the same time was very challenging to my nervous system! And they each had three little ones at home, so it felt like the Grandmother Olympics, and I was definitely positioned to ‘go for the gold’!

Any great grandchildren? Apparently I have a while until that blessing, although my best impetus to working on my health is the dream that I’ll get to hold these grandbabies babies…

What do your grandchildren call you? ‘Savta’ is grandmother in Hebrew, so I feel that I lucked out. I’m among those who can’t even begin to identify with the ‘grandmother’ words, let alone the stereotypes. I sense that we all want to be grandparents, but we surely don’t want to be called that!  My mother is “Grandmother,” at 92, and proud of it. I think we GrandBoomers are the first sandwich generation who are deep into our grandparenting while the older generation is still with us… so it doesn’t seem time to step into the top rung yet.

Some of my grandchildren have a second grandmother called ‘Savta’ too, so then I’m Savta Yerushalayim, Yerushalayim referring to Jerusalem, where I live. This is a dream come true for me, since I mostly raised my kids in the US, dreaming of returning one day to Israel, which seemed like a distant hope.  I just celebrated my 10 year anniversary living back in Israel, and it’s still a dream come true to be here, and having grandchildren call me (the equivalent of) ‘Jerusalem Grandmom’!

How often do you get to see your grandchildren? One of the advantages of being single and having mobile work is that I created a crazy lifestyle that allows me to see everyone, often.

Miraculously, since I was literally penniless when I arrived in Israel ten years ago (although being at ‘break even’ and no longer in debt felt fantastic), I have made it back to the US every three months! I go for about three weeks, dividing my time among the three kid-families and my parents – usually with a color-coded excel spreadsheet that I send out to everyone, detailing where I’ll sleep each night, and juggling revisions until it suits everyone’s schedules.

Perhaps because I am single so when I visit I sink into their lifestyle totally – perhaps because I stay usually at least four full days/nights – whatever the reason I manage to get up to date on all the big and small dramas of their lives, and stay in tune in between. So the babysitters all know me, and I manage to show up for a good number of school plays, cupcake birthday parties, and other important occasions. And, to have plenty of late night chats with my kids about their parenting concerns, school and camp decisions, and career issues. It’s a miracle!

And for my two daughters and their families here in Israel, I’m usually there once a week. For the last three years I’ve had it easy, as they live across the street from each other and co-parent all day. Now they are both moving though, as are some of the kids in the US too, so a new phase is beginning.
Never a dull moment, that’s for sure…

What is the best thing about being a grandma?
The best surprise is having some time to think, recharge, and reflect. It’s like parenting, with a hold button. Sometimes I feel that our privilege as grands is to have resource to do some of the great things we thought of as parents, but didn’t have time or energy to do. Not being sleep-deprived gives a new perspective.

What is the most challenging part of being a grandma?
I wonder who took my common sense away and when I forgot the difference between right and wrong. [Editor’s note: What follows is a partial quote from an article Ronda recently wrote, quoted per her request. Lisa] I thought grand-parenting would just be ‘parenting, again’ Like bike riding: A skill you never forget and just get back on and go. So what a shock to find out that my parenting bank account had been cleaned out – for even simple tasks, let alone the tough ones. And the rules today are a moving target: Now we need to worry whether toys are toxic, the car seat has a five-point harness, or the baby bottle is leaking PVC. Will I ever catch up!?!

What is your favorite thing to do with grandchildren who visit your house? Observe them find the treasures I’ve hidden all over for them – and share their excitement… I have a ‘work cabinet’ for them – a set of plastic rolling drawers jam packed with broken electronics stuff (old computer mouses, cell phones, walkmans, etc.) and other hiding places they love to dig in to see what’s new… little inexpensive stuff I find and hide, and sometimes forget myself! I love overhearing them discover stuff from another room and then seeing their shining faces as they run in to show me their discoveries!

What is your favorite thing to do when visiting grandchildren at their house?
I love letting their parents get much needed rest in the morning, and having them all pile into bed with me for extended wake-up time cuddles…

How do you maintain the bond between yourself and your grandchildren between visits?
Excellent question! And the answer changes, as I experiment with different options….and as they grow… the number one ingredient is consistency, but I can’t say that I’ve managed that… I believe that a mix of snail mail (which I think we grossly underestimate, since it’s personal and highly valued by kids), phone/webcam, and email ‘stuff’ like e-cards and all the wonderful stuff continually being added to cheap and easy long-distance media would provide terrific bonds, if I could keep it all going!

What do you most want to pass along to your grandchildren?
Character building values like self-esteem, self-respect, and insatiable imagination.

What is one word you hope your grandkids think of when they think of you?

You can visit Ronda Kay any time on her website: GrandGifting.