If you’re fortunate enough to have a second name like Grandma, Grandpa, Zayde, Mimi, Gigi, Grand, Pop, Gigi, or Honey, you’re blessed. Grandchildren enter your heart long before they arrive and are a remarkable gift who sweeten life.
Our grandchildren make our hearts overflow with joy. It’s also an important opportunity to understand the sensitivities that accompany the role.
Grandparenting is a delicious, fine line between supporting our own kids’ needs, their parenting boundaries and preferences while managing a desire to spoil their children. Certainly, it is not always a good idea to endlessly indulge them and yet, often hard to resist.
To see how Atlanta’s grandparents’ bond and build meaningful memories with their grandchildren, this writer asked Carla and Ralph Lovell who have a beautiful relationship with granddaughter, Sienna, who is 8. Carla said, “My husband, Ralph, has a green thumb, and our home is surrounded by plants. He has shared his love of gardening with Sienna since she was 3 and she inherited his green thumb. Sienna and Ralph, who she calls “Opa,” do their household rounds whenever she visits, and Sienna looks forward to caring for the plants to see how each has grown. Sienna is knowledgeable about plant food, proper watering, cutting back if needed and prides herself on seeing how the plants are doing.”
It’s clear that love grows in special ways and Sienna is a budding example of “grandparenting love” in bloom.
Grandmother Cheryl Isaacs and her husband, Phil, also create meaningful time with their seven grandchildren living by a meaningful recipe. Cheryl shared that their personal legacy is to teach by example what it means to care for each other, as evidenced by how they gathered to care for Cheryl’s mom, “Gigi” (for great grandmother), and Phil’s mom, “Nana Gilda,” through later stages in life.
Cheryl added, “Most of us think of leaving behind something tangible or monetary. I would rather leave an impression on my family that will help build healthy character, values, and virtues in years to come. The time spent with our family and involvement in their lives have an eternal impact on their souls. Your greatest legacy is what you leave in your children and grandchildren not what you leave for your children.”
Cheryl said, “On a lighter note, I asked my 14-year-old granddaughter, Naomi, the other day what she might remember about me long after I’ve gone. She said, your ‘Cheryl sauce!’ It wasn’t exactly what I had hoped she would say, but ketchup and mayonnaise mixed was my secret sauce for everything. I took it as a compliment and smiled. We take great measures to celebrate holidays together as a family, both secular and religious ones. Our family’s holiday meals are a special part of it. My three children practice different levels of observances, we take steps to make everything work. As a family, we care that their legacy lives on and are dedicated as the grandparents to making that happen.”
And then there’s the understandable concern that as grandparents, we overindulge our grandchildren with sugary treats. A sugar-free lesson comes from grandmother Shelley Cooper, a certified health and well-being coach in Atlanta, along with her husband, Dr. Neil Cooper, who are grandparents with a purpose.
Shelley shared, “Our children know that we eat plant-based food and when they come to Grandma’s house there’s going to be a lot of veggies. I had to come to terms that I was not going to take them to fast food restaurants, indulge them in chicken nuggets and sweets. I’m proudly the grandma that serves fruits and vegetables, and we have a garden at our home. There’s no greater joy than seeing them pick blueberries, cherry tomatoes and gobble them up. I bake muffins with bananas, zucchini, carrots, blueberries, plant milk, and all incorporating whole grains sweetened with dates or maple syrup. The grandchildren love my Grandma’s Shelley’s Muffins, and they eat whatever we serve.
“They even like my tofu and broccoli. At holidays, we bake hamantaschen together and they eat all the traditional Sephardic-style vegetables and love what we serve with love and TLC. They have a good understanding of a healthy diet and a love of family and their Sephardic roots which celebrates old world family recipes from the Mediterranean island of Rhodes and Turkey. Even the game of dreidel would win a little dark chocolate, and believe it or not, my world-famous muffins.”
Next, meet the Strauss family who are fortunate to have both sets of grandparents and Elaine Strauss shared, “Here in Atlanta, our children have the blessing of both sets of grandparents living within 30 minutes of us – my parents – Berta and Lev Mebel (Bubbie and Deda) and my husband’s parents – Anne and David Strauss (Grandma and Grandpa). My husband’s grandmother, Barbara Landstein, lives in Hallandale, Fla., and we have gone to visit her at the beach and stay in touch via FaceTime on a weekly basis.
“Over the past six years since we became parents, these special experiences have included: sleepovers; a week-long vacation at the beach where our son learned how to play dominos; special trips to the Lego store and build-a-bear store; trips to Chattanooga; annual Hilton Head trips for New Year’s; spending countless Jewish and secular holidays and birthday gatherings together and much more. We look forward to continuing many special experiences where our children can continue to make memories with their grandparents (and, of course – that gives us as parents a little respite from day-to-day parenting!)”