Tuesday, August 25, 2009

GRANDCHILDREN GO TO COLLEGE

This past weekend Opa and I drove Stefan, our firstborn grandchild, up to Oswego, where he’ll be studying this fall at this branch of The State University of New York. Oswego is a “partner school” of Osnabrueck University in Germany, where Stefan is pursuing a degree in Cognitive Science (an interdisciplinary approach to studying the mind, with an emphasis on the interaction of people with computers). As an exchange student, he can pursue the same basic curriculum and get credits toward graduation.

It’s very different taking this grandchild generation to school than it was when we took our daughters. I remember very well when we drove Nancy, our firstborn, to Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and I didn’t anticipate what a wrench it would be. We had two younger daughters at home, I was deeply involved in my writing career as well as my family, and thoughts of an “empty nest” were far from my mind. But then, much to my surprise, after we came home from Ohio, I went to the supermarket here on Long Island, saw someone I barely knew, told her about taking Nancy to college – and burst into tears. An era had ended. While I may not have shed tears in public after taking our younger daughters to college in their turns just a few years later, each one brought the mixed feelings of satisfaction that our major parenting jobs were coming to an end (we thought), along with a feeling of loss that our major parenting jobs were behind us (we thought).

One big difference, of course, is that Stefan and his sisters have not lived with us. They have lived an ocean away, so actually up at school Stefan is geographically closer than he has ever been. Another difference is that Stefan did not go to college directly from high school as all our daughters did. But the biggest difference is – as I have told interviewers who have asked, “How is being a grandmother different from being a mother?” – as a grandmother you don’t worry so much. You’ve been there before, you have confidence that obstacles can be overcome, and that challenges become growth experiences more often than they become problems.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

NANA & OMA

I can’t believe how much time has gone by since I was last in these pages – so much that Susan, my new granny friend on grandparents.about.com emailed me to find out what was wrong. Nothing at all was wrong – things were very right. I was just too busy being with my grandchildren to write about grandmothering. Since I get to see my grandchildren from Germany and their mother, my daughter Jenny, only once or twice a year, when they’re here Opa and I clear the decks and make no non-family plans.

We played Scrabble, Pictionary, Boggle, and “Stinker” (see p. 114 of “Super Granny”). Opa and Lisa got to see “Ice Age 3,” and we all got to see and love “Up.” (It presents a funny and often moving picture of old age and friendship between young and old.) We went to the beach, we did artwork for Mak-a-plate plates and mugs, we took photos (especially Maika, who has a wonderful eye for subjects and composition), we had a delicious Un-Birthday cake and made up for it by jogging, biking, and taking long walks. The time flew by, and now there’s a little time to write before our grandson, Stefan, comes to visit.

The evening when my daughter Nancy had to leave the beach to take Anna, 17, to her flight for a youth conservation project in Idaho, Nina, 9, stayed with us. As she was about to go to sleep that night she buried her face in the tee shirt Nancy had worn that day and announced, “I’m going to take Mommy’s tee shirt to bed with me because it has her nice motherly smell.”

One highlight of our week on Long Beach Island, the New Jersey seashore community where we (variously including other daughters and grandchildren) have been renting a house for the past eleven summers, was a visit from another new friend in my granny network, Barbara from Nana's Corner. Thanks to reading her blog, I had learned that she lives in New Jersey and also vacations with her family on Long Beach Island. We exchanged phone numbers, and I was so glad that this busy grandma, teacher, poet, and blogger made time to come down to see us, accompanied by her lovely daughter and adorable baby grandson. To see Nana and Oma together, see the photo on the right-hand side – another family affair, taken by my husband and enhanced by my daughter, Dorri. It was a delight to meet Barbara, and I look forward to staying in touch. Talk about social networking!