Monday, January 30, 2006

The Old Gray Gran, She Ain't What She Used To Be

I remember one Granny who should've been real, not only superb at rustlin' vittles, but quick with a shotgun and to get your back in a brawl. Those were the days.

Dr. Helen's getting a lot of action on this topic of too-busy boomer grandparents as reported at MSN.

In the article, they brag about their health, which is a good thing because it's unlikely that their tykes once-removed will feel the bonds deeply enough to care for them in enfeeblement. They brag about the financial support they can provide, although we know that children require personal attention more than gadgets to grow up happy. They brag about how young they are, another might see it as immature. The author says she's redone a playroom in her house for her granddaughters, with the condition it's to be used with extensively scheduled and coordinated lead time that makes consideration for the demands of her investment property in Oregon.

This paragraph was lovely: So listen up, Fisher-Price. For your next early-learning game the image of the grandmother should show her writing checks. We give money to the parents for rent and down payments on apartments, and we chip in on "extras" like after-school tuition, saxophones, and private schools. (Heck, I bought Ryan so much stuff Morgan said she didn't need a shower.) We also have more energy and better health. Today's time with Grandma is no longer baking cookies; it's more likely to be a Stones concert, the Planetarium, a camping trip, or waiting for her at the finish line of the MORE marathon.

Now do you understand? It'll be okay for the kiddies to wait on Racing Granny (who we wouldn't dare call that, of course), but not vice versa. Instead, the children can participate in the tedious spectacle of being accessories to selfish people minimizing their insufficiency through expenditure. Giving money doesn't mean much when you have more than enough. It's nice, but it'll never mean as much as something a little rarer- like your time and genuine interest. If a grandparent has a skill or vocation, it's wonderful to share. But if it's dragging the kids along on your latest diversion off inner discovery (aren't you bored with your little self by now?), spare me the self-blown heraldry. It's perfectly understandable that some have finished their own parenting years to discover they have very little enthusiasm left for the drippy and demanding new beings who bear their names, DNA, or lineage. But don't pretend it's particularly loving grandparenting, or assume the rest of us will buy that falderol about writing checks and setting good examples as anything but a shallow defense.

My grandmother still lies about her age, made us call her by her first name, and never came to visit me being the superior personage whom yearning pilgrims must travel to attend. She did sometimes share her considerable financial largesse, but at her whim, not our need. So, I learned not to rely upon it, and therefore, not to value it much either. I never left her presence without receiving some gift, a fact I'm sure she remembers more keenly than other ones, but it would be whatever we happened to see that she could force me to take. If we didn't go out, she'd try to give me items from her house based on anything I'd commented upon. A relatively polite child, eager to be liked certainly, when I complimented anything not too precious, I'd go home with it, even bottles of shampoo. Never the art. It was awkward for me, and didn't feel like generosity, because it was never planned beforehand with any special consideration for my likes.

All this was from a time when it wasn't called liberated, merely the natural tendency of a socially conscious, materially savvy, but colder, less accomodating personality. While she taught me nothing about love, respect, or familial closeness- except as I was astonishingly expected to portray them toward her and try to do for my own purposes- my grandmother did give me an education in etiquette. To me, she most reflects excellent taste, intelligence, and refinement, but I might say the same of the Met.


noelle said...

whoo- very interesting! Grandmothers, what a can of worms. Not to mention, baby boomer, I can't stand em. Hate their self righteous asses. Hate em.

I have my blog up but not much on it. bellenoellestyle let's talk later if possible. I am home sick today.

April said...

Noelle...aren't you a boomer?

My parents had us so late in life, I never had the pleasure of meeting 3/4 of my grand P's.

Met my dad's mother once when I was 4. I think she was born in 1880. She was very stern, very strict, reserved and unaffectionate, and definitely not a boomer.