Grilled Grandma: Barbara

How many children do you have? 3

How many grandchildren? What are their ages? I have 11 grandchildren ages 19, 18, 17 (2), 15, 13, 11, 7, 3, 2, and 1.

Any great grandchildren? No and I hope I won't be for a while. I want my grandchildren to grow up before they begin to raise children.

What do your grandchildren call you? Grandma (Grandma Barbara if there is more than one grandma in the room.)

Other than the initial elation, what was your first concern upon hearing you would be a grandmother? Because I lived across the state from my children, I was concerned that I would not be able to help them. It was an unfounded worry...they knew exactly what to do without me. They are all wonderful parents. After we retired, we moved to the city where they live.

How often do you get to see your grandchildren? In the summers I see grandchildren almost daily. In the winter once every 3 months. This is a wonderful arrangement for my family. We love to be close but, as with any relationship, distance makes the heart grow fonder.

What is the best thing about being a grandma? I was surprised at the initial reaction to being a grandparent helping in those first few days with the newborn baby. It was almost a primal, tribal kind of feeling. I loved that baby more than you could ever know but I found the greatest joy in putting the baby in my children's arms and watching them become a complete bonded family. The grandmother's place in the family became very clear right at the outset. It was perfect.

What is the most challenging part of being a grandma? Keeping my mouth shut??? Really, I was not a perfect parent. So when I see my children doing things I know are not perfect but will do no harm I am quiet. I save my comments for safety issues and answers to their questions. I am older and I have seen too much so I could be a huge black cloud...I really do not want to do that. It is a challenge to say the least.

Describe a recent time that one (or more) of your grandchildren made you laugh out loud. My granddaughter (13) went through a "privacy" phase recently and did not want her mother and I to talk about her when she was out of the room. Still that girl was so funny. She came up with the idea of putting the ear buds for her ipod in her nostrils...her throat turned into a speaker for the ipod when she opened her mouth. She thought it was fun and we laughed. As she left the house to visit her friends her last words were "Don't talk about me while I'm gone!" Well, I ask you, how could we stop talking about her!

What is your favorite thing to do with grandchildren who visit your house? The little ones love grandma's toy box. Because they are little, they only want us to watch them play. The older the children are, the more we talk and play games. An old game of Bonkers is their favorite. I also let them use my computer to do crossword puzzles and draw pictures. We have a small park less than a block away and we go there to play or walk together. But of all the things we do, my favorite is to make cookies or macaroni & cheese (macky cheese my grandson calls it).  Then of course I just hug the stuffings out of is a running joke with them all! When the boys were little and in trouble, I would tell they had better be good or I was going to kiss them all over their faces. They would laugh and straighten up!

What is your favorite thing to do when visiting grandchildren at their house?
(Clean???) I cared for two of my grandchildren for several summers. I cooked their lunch and breakfast, allowed them to play at home and watched them at bicycle activities and sports events. Children are in daycare a great deal of the time and "just being at home" is a great treat for all of them.

How do you maintain the bond between yourself and your grandchildren between visits? We have been using Skype for several years. We can visit with the family for an extended period of time, see the look in their faces and we actually even hug the computer. Once in a while I catch a grandchild alone and we will visit early in the morning or in the evening. My husband and I get a lot of comfort from these connections. The grandchildren really don't even think of us as being "away". Skype is a grandparents' miracle I think.

What do you most want to pass along to your grandchildren?
One of my grandchildren once told me I was a world traveler...I did not think they had even noticed. Since then I have come to realize that they know we are travelers, well educated and always with them no matter what. I want to pass that sense of family accomplishments along to them. Discussions at our table when they visit, include the children and we can talk about a variety of subject with ease. Hopefully, they will take those experiences with them into a family of their own.

What is one word you hope your grandkids think of when they think of you?
I Love you!...the end of every conversation.

What is one thing you wish you had learned earlier as a grandparent? I think all grandparents wish to be wiser! But then experience is the best teacher and we don't get any redoes. Sigh!

What one bit of advice would you give a new grandma? Please, please don't be judgmental. I have hear so many grandmother tell a story about giving a daughter-in-law their favorite _____fill in the blank________ and then be outraged when they didn't see it being used. If you quarrel with your children or in-law children, you will be the loser. Being close to your grandchildren requires that you step back and become supportive.

Does Barbara have a website or blog? Of course! She says, "I write a blog called Retire in Style Blog for retirees. I also write a blog called It Crossed My Mind Blog where I write stories and musings."