D’Apolito said her daughter remembers "my mother, always home, the good old-fashioned grandmother. We never had to call. My daughter reminds me how nice that was."
My own daughter, Morgan, told me, "I know you’re busy, Mom. But I can’t help wishing you could help more. I thought that was what grandmothers did."
Well, yes, it is, but now it’s on our own terms.
A New Beginning
Having just quit after 12 years as a family court judge, my friend Susan Baker is now trying to set the limits for her own grandmothering. But the end of her legal career merely signals the beginning of another, as an author. She feels bad that, because of a long-planned book signing and a scheduled day on the bench, she couldn’t drop everything for a week when her oldest daughter, Susan, had another baby last November. "I felt really guilty about that," Baker told me. But her new career is important to her. "I love those little kids and I do want to have a relationship with them," she said. "But I’m not willing to give up my writing or my traveling. I’ll be the best grandmother I can from a distance."
For Baker this means she’s available in emergencies, but will not show up at every game or holiday event. "I tell them it’s not important for me to come to their birthdays — they don’t even know I’m there. But I’ll stop by and spend an hour or two when it’s just them and me," she adds.
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.
By the way, I got the name thing resolved. Ryan started calling me Bobbie, after her Russian babysitter referred to me as "Baba." Well, I suppose it’s better than "Babushka." And though that Saturday I couldn’t help Morgan while she set up her apartment, I did convert her old room at my house into a playroom for the girls, and they’re welcome any time. Just as long as they make an appointment!
Adair Lara is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.