Grilled Grandma: Mary

How many children do you have? Two daughters, age 43 and 45.

How many grandchildren? What are their ages?
Two step grandsons, 22 and 18 and one granddaughter, 8. The boys were 6 and 8 when their father and my daughter got together.

Any great grandchildren? no

What do your grandchildren call you?
The granddaughter calls me Grama or Grama Mary. The boys call me Mary

After the initial elation, what was your first concern upon hearing you would soon be a grandmother?
My daughter's health.

How often do you get to see your grandchildren? I see the grandgirl quite often; her parents live in a city an hour's drive away. The boys are both in a city three hours away, the younger one at university, the older one, having finished a technical course, is now working.

What is the best thing about being a grandma?
The lack of responsibility for the big things. When the girl child announce, at age six, that she did not believe in God but she did believe in Santa and the Easter Bunny because they brought her things, I was very pleased to think that this value set was her parents' responsibility. On a much lighter note, I don't fuss if she doesn't drink her milk.
I've done a good bit of child care, both for the boys until their mid teens and for the girl child since she started daycare at 8 months. I've gone with their parents to conferences, one in Barcelona in 2005, as caregiver, and have served as backup to the daycare/school arrangement in illness. I figure I know them quite well, especially Little Stuff, which is our name for the youngest. Fun to look after them and that 'phew' feeling when their parents take them back.

What is the most challenging part of being a grandma? Getting in to the city in a snow storm when Little Stuff was too sick for daycare and her mother had a lecture to give that she couldn't cut.
Keeping a six-year-old happy for a rainy week in July. Each morning she would press her little nose to the window and say 'Guess we're not going to the beach today, Grama.'
Keeping my mouth closed when her mother doesn't do things my way.
Getting the printer to work when eldest boy had a project due.
Not commenting on the second boy's evil delight in wearing mismatched socks and a stocking cap over uncombed hair.
Keeping my mouth closed when their father gives in to them.

Describe a recent time that one (or more) of your grandchildren made you laugh out loud. The girl child has a vivid imagination: she makes up stories and games. The latest is Little Stuff the Duchess, who pours tea and orders around her maidservant (who is me). I smoke, but only outside. Little Stuff was being the Duchess out on our screened porch, glared at me and said, haughtily, 'No blowing smoke out of the nose!"

What is your favorite thing to do with grandchildren who visit your house? Crafts. The latest is an eight block quilt. They all, over the years, have foraged off into the bush (our home is right out in the country) and picked flowers for me. It's grand fun to see what they find and bring back. So far, no poison ivy, thank goodness.

What is your favorite thing to do when visiting grandchildren at their house? Walk down to the park by the river and feed the ducks, squirrels, etc and take photos of the kids and their friends.

How do you maintain the bond between yourself and your grandchildren between visits? The boys are grown and have their own lives - but they love to fish and that is a big bond with their grandfather who takes them out on his boat. Ditto Little Stuff, who never saw a perch she couldn't catch, release and catch again. The poor fish end up with multiple piercings along the mouth.

What do you most want to pass along to your grandchildren?
A love of reading. A love of words. I used to pass books to the boys, and am collecting my favourite children's books a few years ahead of Little Stuff's reading ability so that she - like her brothers - can discover them on my shelves for herself.

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

What is one thing you wish you had learned earlier as a grandparent? Don't sweat the small stuff.

What one bit of advice would you give a new grandma? Get to know the kid as soon as you can. And don't give his/her parents advice unless you are asked for it. Even then, keep it short.

Want more Mary (and how could you not?)? Stop by and visit her any time on her blog: Them's My Sentiments.