Grandma’s Rules. #1: There Are No Rules

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“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.”

2. Nutrition.
Parents: “No, you can’t have dessert until you eat your broccoli.”
Grandma: “I don’t like vegetables either. Here, have a cookie.”

3. Dating.
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.”

4. Weekends.
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.”

6. Honesty.
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.”

8. Clothes.
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.”

10. Perseverance.
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.”

11. Housekeeping.
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.”

12. Homework.
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.”

13. DIY.
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.”

14. Obedience.
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.

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  1. says

    I am NanaWawa…though the 5 year old has taken to calling me Walker lately. I do love the ability to indulge occasionally, but seriously–I try not to get in the way of my son and his wife’s childrearing..even when it doesn’t reflect the way he was raised. I want to be the benevolent grandmother but not the bitchy mother-in-law! ha ha……

  2. says

    Love this post…guilty as charged and proud of it! Thankfully, my daughter and son-in-law don’t care if I spoil my grandkids. Whew, I dodged a bullet there!

    So true…parenting is work while grandparenting is pure joy. For the record, Nonnie’s my name and spoiling’s my game(for as long as I can get away with it).

  3. says

    This Mom-Mom is so guilty. At our house the rule is pretty much be kind to each other and other than that do whatever you want.
    Funny thing though, I made chocolate chip waffles with ice cream and rootbeer soda for brunch and my four year old granddaughter asked if she could have salad (with ranch dressing) and water instead.
    Out of my cult of 13 grands only one shares my sweet tooth.

  4. says

    I’m grandma to two adorable grandkids who think I’m way funner than my two sons ever will. I tell everyone grandkids are the reward for raising teenagers.

  5. says

    I’m not a grandmother yet, but my maternal grandparents were amazing! I called them by their first names – I don’t really know why that was so – but there was no place I loved more than their house when I was growing up.

  6. says

    I’m plain ol’ Gramma. (Well, I suppose it’s a little different than simply Grandma.)

    You hit it on the head: Grandparenting is less goal oriented. Love that!

    Cheers to grandmas, whatever their names!

  7. says

    As Nana the rules are pretty slack if any around here! Having grandchildren at the coast, in Texas & China, when they come here pretty much everything is whatever they want! Wish it could have as easy raising our own!

  8. says

    Yess!! I have to admit that my youngest son came 7 years after his brother, and sometimes I act more like a grandma with him. He definitely has it easier than the two oldest. But I figure it’s practice for “real” grandmothering, lol.

  9. says


    It’s so freaking awesome. I was just watching Dumbo at midnight with my 3 year old granddaughter. She kept saying…look Gaga…a suck ass!!

    Took a few times to realize she was saying ‘circus’…she is so cool.

  10. says

    A great list. We had a big lunch and we need room for dessert so why should we bother with dinner? What happens at Grandma’s house stays at Grandma’s house!

  11. says

    This is so adorable. I saw a little illustration on Facebook the other day that showed a skinny little stick figure and it was labeled “Before Grandma’s House.” The second cartoon showed a stick figure with a huge circle as its body and a green dollar bill clutched in its hand, and it was labeled “After Grandma’s House.” I laughed out loud–so true!

  12. says

    This is my mother’s (‘Mimi’ – named by my son) philosophy exactly! Is it bad that Little T is only 3 & I’m already looking forward to my revenge as a Grandma?!

  13. says

    Vikki, along I’m a long way from being a grandma (still in the thick of school-age child-rearing…), your post made me laugh and think that perhaps I should throw in a mom-as-grandma day now and then. Say ‘yes’ more and relax the rules with my kids just a bit!

  14. says

    My grandparents on my father’s side were pretty indulgent when I was young…the same with my kids’ grandparents on my husband’s side. It’s nice to have that though…I’ll probably be the same way. Hopefully just not anytime soon! They’re all teenagers right now.

  15. says

    Oh my lord yes. While I’m not a grandmother yet ( my two are just out of highschool) I am an auntie to some pretty special people who are now starting to have kids of their own. And yes – I was quite different as an aunt than a mom.
    Mom: “No that orange pop is only made at Hallowe’en. That’s why we call it Hallowe’en juice.”
    Auntie: “Why of course you can have some more Orange Fanta. Anytime. As much as you want. Love that orange moustache by the way…”

  16. says

    Hilarious! 11 and 12 made me guffaw. My oldest is 11 so hopefully the role of Grandma is a LONG way off for me. But I hope to be a fraction of the awesomeness that you are as a Grandma.

  17. says

    Ok. I get it. However, I think some rules need to be followed. The aftermath of a 3 yr old that got to stay up way way too late= a terrible next couple of days. Reeling him back in is no fun. Thanks for sharing on Whatever Wednesday on Thank You Honey!

  18. Susan says

    I AM a Mimi :).. just as my mother and grandmother (my Mimi)…and oh heck yes Im enjoying being a Mimi! As I told my son when the GGB (Gorgeous Grand Baby) was born, TAG!.. your IT… my job now is to spoil her rotten and send her home!

  19. says

    I really enjoyed reading Grandma’s Rules and had to laugh to myself. I am a grandma and they call me grandma. Grandchildren can do no wrong and there’s no place like grandma’s house.


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