Grilled Grandma: Grandma Marianne

How many children do you have? I have three children: a daughter, son, and stepson.

How many grandchildren? What are their ages? I have six grandchildren in all. My daughter’s children are Jack, who is 16, and Katie, 14. My son has Jake, 15, and Lauren, 12. I am a step-grandma to Kate, who is 6, and Paige, 3.

What do your grandchildren call you? My grandchildren call me Grandma, Gramma, or Grandma Marianne.

After the initial elation, what was your first concern upon hearing you would soon be a grandmother? Funny, I don’t remember having a concern, just a hope that my grandchildren would be healthy!

How often do you get to see your grandchildren? I feel grateful and happy to live relatively near my own children and be with my grandchildren on any occasion. We celebrate school holidays as well as the traditional holidays and birthdays. I see them as often as I can, picking them up from school, providing transportation to and from lessons and doctors’ appointments, and taking them to lunch and other outings. I regularly see two of them who live close-by. The others know they are a priority too and I see them at least once a month and text (now that they are teenagers) frequently.

What is the best thing about being a grandma? The role of grandma provides purpose and passion in my life. I can share traditions, knowledge, and wisdom, along with perspective, to the new generation. Grandparents have so much to contribute. As baby boomers, there are almost 80 million of us with a wealth of knowledge and expertise that can be better utilized. All that we learned from our past experiences can be translated to insight for the next generation. And what I receive in return, in the way of love and appreciation, is immeasurable.

What is the most challenging part of being a grandma? The biggest challenge is letting go. To love so completely and yet be able to let go can be one of the hardest things in the world. If you spend a lot of time with your grandchildren and help with childcare, you are deeply involved in their daily schedule; you know what they eat, when they sleep, poop, play, and so on. You are in their lives so fully, and then you must part at the end of the day. Even though you are ready to go and return to your life, disengaging can be painful. But you go because you know they are not yours.

In addition to "grandmother," what other hats do you wear? I retired twelve years ago from a high-level corporate job but still do some executive coaching and consulting. In addition, my husband and I own and manage a resort on a lake in Lake Arrowhead, California, where we are fortunate to live. Come May 2019, I will add the hat of published author of Camp Grandma: Next Generation Grandparenting—Beyond Babysitting. And along with grandma, I am proud to include the titles of mom, friend, and wife to my job description.

Describe a recent time that one (or more) of your grandchildren made you laugh out loud. I fondly remember a time (though not so recently) when Jack was very young and I was getting him buckled in his car seat, which was always a challenge for me. I was leaning over, fumbling around, and he started laughing at my ineptitude. That of course got me going, and before I knew it we were both cracking up! Not having to make excuses for myself or to defend my lack of experience was so nice. I struggled doing it, and it was just plain funny!

What is your favorite thing to do with grandchildren who visit your house? At my home they attend what I call Camp Grandma, where I translate relevant work-life experiences into activities the kids will enjoy—learning the proper handshake, how to speak in public, how to set goals, and many others. My Camp Grandma is not only a fun place to bake, sing, and sculpt with clay or shaving cream but an environment where my grandchildren are building life skills that will help them succeed at whatever they ultimately choose to do.


What is your favorite thing to do when visiting grandchildren at their house? I learn more about my grandchildren when I visit their rooms and take an interest in their hobbies, games, drawings, etc. I ask a lot of questions about details I observe, wanting to know more about them. Sometimes we play games or they show me a new video game they have learned. At their house, our time together is all about them and what I can learn about their friends, activities, and interests.

What/where has been your favorite family vacation? One of my favorite vacations with my daughter’s family was when we went on a driving trip throughout the Southwest. We learned about American Indian culture and the Old West and saw the beautiful landscape.

My son’s family and I recently took a drive up the coast of California to Hearst Castle, Big Sur, and Monterey, with lots of stops along the way to view wildlife, see the aquarium, and learn a little about the history of each place.

In both cases, I loved the fact that we were all driving together in one car, with plenty of time to talk, as well as to enjoy quiet time together.

How do you maintain the bond between yourself and your grandchildren between visits? As my grandkids get older—three of my six are now teenagers—I’m finding it harder and harder to know how to best stay connected with them. As they grow busier with their priorities and friends, I have found one way to let them know they are still important to me. I text using emojis—those cute little digital images and icons used to express emotions and ideas. In less than a minute, I can send them a smile or heart and let them know I am thinking of them and sending my love.

What do you most want to pass along to your grandchildren? I hope they will believe in themselves and be independent and confident, with an openness and curiosity of life. I also hope they will have no regrets in their lives, which means they will try new adventures no matter the outcome, because failure can be as valuable of a learning experience as success. And I hope they have a sense of gratitude, which I believe is the basis of all happiness.

What is one word you hope your grandkids think of when they think of you? This question stumped me, so I asked my granddaughter Lauren. She answered by saying, “I have a million words when I think of you, Grandma!”

What is one thing you wish you had learned earlier as a grandparent? I wished I’d understood all the incredible possibilities and potential of the role of grandparent when I had my first grandchild. In the beginning, I saw myself as primarily a babysitter, as do many grandparents. But I have come to understand and appreciate that grandparents come with a whole life of experience, along with wisdom and perspective. If our focus is primarily on amusing and entertaining, then we may be missing out on the greater opportunity to play a meaningful role in our grandkids’ intellectual, behavioral, and social development.

What is one thing (or more) you're proud to say you do right as a grandma? I invest my time where it counts the most. By investing my time with my grandchildren, I have an opportunity to make a difference in the world by connecting with the young. I can be a catalyst and coach of the next generation, building character and helping them develop intellectual curiosity. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to grandparenting. I can drive the relationship and do the unexpected, sharing more of myself and my life experiences.

What one bit of advice would you give a new grandma? My main piece of advice: be there. Whether you are invited to participate or not, raise your hand and let the parents know that this is a choice on your part. Voice your intention, desire, and priority to play a loving role in the lives of your grandchildren.

Is there anything else you would like to add about being a grandmother? Being a grandmother is the most unexpectedly rewarding role in my life.

Do you have a website or blog? What is the URL and what is it about? I have a website: It will tell you all about my new book, Camp Grandma, available May 7, 2019.


Do you have other works you'd like to share (books, published pieces, charitable causes to promote, home biz, etc)? I'm pleased that LivingBetter50 published my essay titled "Find Your Youth—It's Not Too Late." You can find it here. GRAND Magazine is publishing an essay in the May/June issue.