Author and grandmother Sally Wendkos Olds is here today to talk about her new book. Super Granny: Great Stuff to do with Your Grandkids. It’s an up-to-the-minute 21st century treasure trove of activities that help grandmothers enjoy, communicate, and really connect with their grandchildren.
Activities in the book are grouped by age, from infancy to adolescence, with something for the most computer-savvy granny and kid, along with more traditional projects. Handy icons throughout the book help pinpoint projects that suit your pocketbook, energy level, and interests. A bonus is the listing of current, informative Web sites to follow up suggestions in the book.
Especially fun for us is that Rosemary’s concept of writing poems to her grandchildren is one of the 75 stories highlighted by Sally.
NR: Why did you write Super Granny?
Sally: When some of my friends have heard about a few of the things I’ve done with my grandchildren, they have become really interested and conversely I have learned so much from hearing about what my friends who are grandparents do with their grandchildren that I thought it would be fun to share some of the activities that both generations enjoy.
Also, writing about this stage of life feels like a natural progression for me – other books of mine have covered breastfeeding, working parenthood, sexual turning points throughout life, and other aspects of child & adult development.
NR: What are some things you have done with your own grandkids?
Sally: I’ve done all kinds of things: art in the bathtub, make-a-plate, emailing, composing on the computer, going to school for Grandparents’ Day, having a personal library of children’s books, jogging together, text-messaging with teens – even though we’re so much slower than they are!
Some ideas I’ve gotten from other grandparents are: letting the children eat dessert first, creating art from seashells, taking a grandchild to breakfast, making a birth book or a group quilt, and of course, as Rosemary does, writing poems for and to your grandchildren.
NR: How are today’s grandmothers different from those in the past?
Sally: Today’s grandmothers are more likely to be working, to be physically active, to be technologically proficient, to have really busy lives. We’re similar, though, to grandmothers of the past in treasuring this special relationship and wanting to be emotionally close to our grandchildren, even when we can’t be physically close.
NR: How does your book help grandmothers who live far from their grandchildren?
Sally: There are so many activities that speak to the needs of these grandmothers & their grandchildren. I was especially sensitive to grandmothering across the miles because I live this situation. None of my grandchildren have ever lived closer than a 2-hour drive away, and 3 of them have lived either on the west coast of the U.S. or in Europe, while I have lived in New York. I have stayed emotionally close to my grandchildren, and so in Super Granny I emphasized some ways other grandmothers can do this. Special icons in the book point to activities especially good for long-distance grandmothering. Some examples are: email, writing special letters or poems, talking and seeing each other through services like Skype & webcams, texting, digital photos, shared vacations, making videos, family blogging.
NR: In today’s economy, a lot of grandmothers have to cut back on spending. What suggestions do you have for activities that don’t cost much?
Sally: Almost all the activities in the book cost little or nothing. These activities are specially marked as being either free or “dirt-cheap.” Some examples are: making a birth book; teaching babies to sign, playing games; fostering creativity in music, arts, and crafts; taking them shopping at thrift and secondhand stores; becoming your family’s cultural historian; sharing inexpensive sports like jogging, softball, cycling; involving grandkids in your political and civic activities.
NR: On the other hand, what are some activities worth splurging on?
Sally: Creating memories by giving grandchildren special experiences, like taking them away for a weekend or more; taking them to performances like the circus or theater; skiing, river-rafting, and pursuing other expensive activities with them; encouraging charitable giving; creating & publishing your own family book; taking them on a Segway tour. I spent a wonderful day with my 7-year-old granddaughter at the American Girl Store café in New York. Super Granny offers suggestions to make such experiences well worth the financial outlay.
NR: Why is it more rewarding to see grandchildren without their parents?
Sally: The grandparent/grandchild connection is unique. Seeing the child alone helps you forge this special relationship without having to worry about treading on the toes of the parent, or being too presumptuous, or not knowing just what your boundaries are. Also when the parent isn’t present, you’re the primary caregiver, confidante, companion. The child turns to you with questions, requests for help, and confidences, and is often freer to ask questions she/he might not ask a parent.
NR: Why is it better to see only one grandchild at a time?
Sally: It enables you to have a more intimate relationship than when more than one grandchild is present. You don’t have to worry about lavishing too much attention on one child rather than another, or choosing among activities for different ages. You can devote yourself totally to the one you’re with.
NR: Thank you for joining us today, Sally. We agree that Super Granny is the ultimate resource for today’s super grannies, with super-powers to captivate the grandkids! If any of you have questions for Sally or want to share your own ways of connecting with your grandkids, send them in and Sally will respond today or tomorrow. And click on the title above to take you to Sally’s webpage highlighting all of her books.