Living Arts Weekly: Just Call Me Grandma

July 2, 2023


Today’s Living Arts Weekly is a delightful article from author Judith Frizlen. Judith is also the instructor for our on-demand online course, Creating Home Away from Home. You can read more from Judith and discover her books at her website here.  




I picture my grandmother in an everyday dress sitting with her legs crossed at the ankle, leaning forward in her chair, telling a story. Clasping her hands together for emphasis, she would use the word grand – synonymous with splendid and magnificent and just as unpopular these days. Words and fashions go in and out of style, but fast forward a few generations, I can say some things stay the same. Grandparenting is still an experience that is nothing short of grand!

Neither of my grandmothers ever wore pants. Today we wear casual clothing regardless of age. It is not the clothing that makes grandparents special, it is the relationship you have with your children’s children. I was crazy about my grandparents and am equally crazy about my grandbaby!

Thinking of grandparenting reminds me of becoming a parent – a life changing moment! That was over thirty years ago. In that passage of time, space was created, space to welcome a little one and perspective about what really matters.

When we welcomed our grandbaby, unconditional love flowed like a stream in the springtime; even grandpa sets aside work to be with our little visitor. Within our carefully furnished home, we have made room for diapers, toys, and baby gates. A tub of sand, shovel, and buckets plus a larger tub for water play on hot summer days are kept ready in the shed.

One summer afternoon, I watched our one-year-old grandson play in the sand. He sat in it and filled up buckets while the sand spilled over the sides of the box. Then he moved to other areas of the garden. Shovel held high, our little toddler strode down the berm and dumped his shovel full onto my herbs. Mission accomplished, he moved on to the next task!

I clapped my hands together in delight! I know that lavender likes sandy soil, but it does not matter whether the other plants do – or not. What matters from the grand perspective is that I witnessed an 18-month old decide to do something and execute it, practicing his will and physical skills in the process. Then I thought about the difference between parenting and grandparenting.

As a parent, if I bought sand for my children to play in, I would have instructed them to keep it inside of the box, possibly I admit, getting irritated when it was spilling or being dumped out. Then if they decided to redistribute it in the garden, well I would have thwarted that. It would not have occurred to me to consider what harm was being done by it. Today I know there is more value in magnifying the learning that is happening, which if you really stop to think about it, is magnificent!

I have noticed that with an adult’s quiet observation, when a child’s action is completed successfully, they move on. Yet when a child’s work/play is interrupted, they repeat a task until they experience a sense of completion. If told no frequently, the child becomes programmed to look for the attention, the engagement of no, which then becomes a part of the template for completion of an act. The script is written in this way.

Now, I am not opposed to no, not at all, but I use it for circumstances when the possible damage being caused is greater than the learning. With discernment, I can allow the young child to exercise his or her will in play. A child’s work is play and who likes to be interrupted in their work?

Looking around the garden after our little visitor went home, I noticed that only two shovels full of sand were poured onto plants. We swept up what was left on the patio and put it back in the box, then covered it and put it away. If necessary, we can always buy another fifty- pound bag of sand. Besides, with sand in our soil, it will retain water better – a boon during the hot and dry summer!

When my daughter was pregnant, people would ask me what I wanted the grandchild to call me. My husband is German born and raised, so it is natural for him to be called Opi but a substitute name for grandma was not coming to me, so I introduced myself as grandma.

Now that I am reflecting on how grand the role is, I have decided to embrace it. I cannot think of any name I would rather be called. Whatever and whenever this little one calls me, I am reminded how life is grand!