“Mimi.” “Nana.” “Nanny.” “GG.” “G-Ma.” All names for Grandma.
Whether you prefer one over another because your offspring’s tiny mini-me’s have two or more grandmothers and you want to reduce the wee one’s confusion as to exactly which grandma is on the phone, or because the word “grandma” makes you feel like Aunt Bee of Mayberry (if you’re under 30, Google this one), in the end, they all mean the same thing: You are not the parent.
This is good, people.
Parenting is hard. It’s basically 18 years of schooling an often-recalcitrant young human into how to be a socially acceptable, productive member of the community, who doesn’t get his bills paid through welfare or via the hospitality of the state penal system.
Grandparenting, however, is less goal-oriented. We are not actually raising the future of our country. When little Johnny sets the neighbor’s doghouse on fire or young Sally rides home on the back of her new boyfriend’s Harley, proudly wearing his dirty leather jacket emblazoned with an oversize “Road Kill” back patch, nobody asks, “Where are the grandparents??” Simply put, we are not responsible for the way they turn out. That’s the parents’ job, and we’ve already done that. Now it’s just fun.
When I think about life lessons we endeavor to teach our tiny progeny as he or she grows up, I can’t help but note the delightful contrast between parenting and grandparenting.
1. Table manners.
Parents: “Eat at the table. Sit up straight. Use a napkin.”
Grandma: “Throw a towel on the kitchen floor, and let’s call it a picnic.”
Parents: “No, you can’t have dessert until you eat your broccoli.”
Grandma: “I don’t like vegetables either. Here, have a cookie.”
Parents: “What kind of family does he come from?”
Grandma: “Every girl dates a bad boy just once. Ask Mommy about her boyfriend before Daddy.”
Parents: “Clean your room, then help mommy and daddy get all the leaves up off the yard.”
Grandma: “It’s Saturday. Let’s stay in our jammies with a huge bowl of popcorn and watch Avatar. As many times as you want.”
5. Financial planning.
Parents: “If you want a $120 pair of neon sneakers, save half of your allowance for three months, and we’ll pay the difference.”
Grandma: “What size are you? Here you go.”
Parents: “It’s important that you always tell the truth, no matter what.”
Grandma: (After backing into the neighbor’s mailbox because she forgot her glasses.) “Here’s 5 bucks. If anybody asks, this never happened and you have no idea how this dent got here. Deal?”
7. Saving money.
Parents: “You need a haircut. Go get me the scissors and the red salad bowl.”
Grandma: “You need a haircut. Let me make you an appointment with my hairdresser. Then we’ll go to lunch.”
Parents: “I don’t care what all the other kids are wearing. That outfit looks ridiculous. Go change.”
Grandma: “As long as I can’t see your underwear, your butt crack, or your belly button ring, Grandma’s good. And ask your mom sometime about ‘short-alls.’ Denim overalls, cut off at the thigh. Made her look like a chunky Hobbit farmer. She wore them her entire senior year.”
9. When his team loses a game because the other team cheated.
Parents: “That happens. But it’s how you behave that matters.”
Grandma: “That sucks. Show me the cheater, and Grandma will go kick him in the shins with her stilettos.”
Parents: “No, you can’t quit piano lessons. We’ve paid for the year, and you made a commitment.”
Grandma: “You tried, you didn’t like it. Meh. Let’s try something else.”
Parents: “Before you go anywhere, clean your room. And that means with a vacuum cleaner.”
Grandma: “Bring me any dishes you’ve got under your bed, then keep the door shut. The housekeeper doesn’t come until Tuesday.”
Parents: “I can help, but you need to figure this out by yourself. Keep studying.”
Grandma: “Put a comma there and a period there. Now let’s order a pizza.”
Parents: “If you want to be a fairy princess for Halloween, let’s see what we have around the house that will work for wings.”
Grandma: “There’s a fabulous costume shop downtown. If we get there early, we can nab the wildly overpriced, wear-it-one-time fairy princess outfit before that hussy princess wanna-be down the street gets up.”
Parents: “You disobeyed us. We’re upset and very disappointed in you.”
Grandma: “I don’t care what you did. Grandma thinks you’re perfect.”
And so we find that aging really does come with benefits. We get grandchildren to love the bejeezus out of, without the constant worry we had as parents that everything we say or do will somehow scar them for life. We’ve learned to relax, knowing that somehow, with or without our inept fumbling, they will turn out to be pretty terrific adults.
And I’m not a “Mimi” or a “Nana” or a “G-Ma.” Those are left to my grandchildren’s other grandmothers. I will always be, simply, Grandma.