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Like, Bubba, Are You Cool With That?

February 23, 2006 By:
Rita Charleston-JE Feature
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You're a mother, so of course you automatically know how to be a grandmother, right?

Wrong - according to Lois Young-Tulin, Ph.D., author of The Granny Nanny Book: A Guidebook for Modern Grandmothering or What Every Grandmother Should Know About Babysitting.

Young-Tulin thought the same thing as she awaited the birth of her first grandson. "It would be like getting back on a bicycle after a 20-year lapse … " she writes.

"But oh, how wrong I was! There are new rules, new products, new findings and plenty of taboos. How did my three children ever survive their hazardous childhoods?" she muses.

For instance, the author discusses the car rides her children had to endure at a time when car seats were not required. "Not only did my children forego seatbelts, there wasn't even regulation equipment in the old trusty station wagon," she writes. "I remember that as toddlers, they would stand behind me as I drove … How did they ever survive? And worst of all, I used to smoke … yes, in the car! Today, I'd be arrested."

Young-Tulin, who teaches writing and is the author of a collection of poetry and the Sophie Tucker memoir, Sophie & Me, says she decided to write her latest book when her daughter-in-law became pregnant, and she started thinking about the role she wanted to play as the child's grandmother.

"I realized it was something I should think about before the baby was born, so the role would have some meaning to the whole family. So I decided to do some research and talk to others."

Watch Your Step! 
She says what began with a few interviews suddenly mushroomed into 40 conversations, and eventually ended in a 99-page guidebook that covers a categories of different types of grandmothers, which, she adds, makes her book "unique."

Included are chapters on the "Step-Granny Nanny," the "Gay Granny Nanny," the "Live-in Granny Nanny" and more. Each chapter describes different challenges and opportunities that situations present, as well as some useful tips.

For example, she says, gone are the days when Grandma was just a soft, gray-haired lady who stayed home and baked cookies. Many Granny Nannies now have outside jobs, to fulfill themselves or to earn extra money.

And … many grandmothers do not live geographically close to their grandchildren, adding a new dimension to our grandmothers of yesteryear. Also included in the book are good suggestions for keeping close, even when far away.

Explains the author: "I had no preconceived notions when I started, but I was especially interested in one theme that seemed to come up, and that was the theme of giving the grandchildren a strong sense of self-esteem. That came up for families of minority groups, such as Jewish families or African-American families."

Additionally, she says, the Jewish Granny Nanny saw holidays and imparting their heritage as equally important.

"They wanted their homes to be the place where holidays took place, and where they could pass on the traditions that were important to them.

"Many of the Jewish grandmothers I spoke to noted how important their grandmothers were to them, and how they wanted to play the same role to their own grandchildren."

Young-Tulin insists the main message of her book is that ways of doing things have changed since we raised our children, and parents' rules and methods must be respected.

Just because their children survived doesn't mean that the modern way is wrong: "Statistics prove that the new ways of doing things are often safer. So even though I believe some of the grandmothers out there may think their ways are better, they must concede to the new parent, eliminating conflict between the mother and the grandmother."

She concludes with sound advice: "You're on your way to being a superb grandmother. Start with making sure your relationship with your child/the parent is sound, and any unfinished business is taken care of so that you can move on to the Granny-Nanny role. You have been given a unique opportunity to enrich your life, and the lives of your children and grandchildren and their entire extended families. Don't blow it! Make some conscious decisions, make some focused time, and give unselfishly of your love." u

 

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