Surge of Joy! #65


❤ “Don’t have children, only grandchildren.” ❤
~Gore Vidal

The surge of joy when I held my first grandchild in my arms took me completely by surprise, in spite of the fact that I had been looking forward to that moment with almost unbearable excitement for nearly nine months.  The relationship between grandparents and grandchildren comes at a time when, for many of us, other relationships and friendships have settled into a customary and predictable pattern.  It may turn out to be one of the most fulfilling and mutually rewarding of our lives.

It is a relationship that, until recently, has only been available to a minority.  For centuries the average expectation of life was so short that relatively few men and women lived to see their grandchildren grow up.   Even in our grandparents’ generation, the symptoms of age appeared early, and if we remember them at all, we tend to remember them as old and somewhat remote.  But things have changed.  “Today in the United States there are over 65 million grandparents, where almost half the population is over 40 (1).”  Most of us are very different from the stereotypical grey-haired person dressed in black.  “More than one in every four adults is a grandparent between 45 and 64 years old (2).”  We all expect to live much longer and remain healthier than grandparents did in the past.

This change has come about so fast that it is, perhaps, not surprising there is little advice available for grandparents who are keen to fulfil their role in the best possible way.  When grandmothers meet, they love to discuss their grandchildren, to compare notes and to boast a little or A LOT (hee-hee).  They also talk about the lack of useful information.  When my first grandchild was born, eager to do everything right, I looked through the index of half a dozen of the most popular childcare manuals.  ‘Grandparents’ only got a mention in one book; it gave just two out of 600 pages to the relationship between parents and ‘in-laws’, which it treated more as a problem to be wary of than as something positive.  ‘There are so many books written for parents,’ we grandmothers say to each other, ‘why are there non for grandparents?’  Well, there is one now –  & MANY MORE TO COME!

You may wonder what makes me think I am qualified to write it.  I am not a childcare expert or a psychologist.  But I am an enthusiastic, loving and closely involved grandmother of four children.  I have talked to or corresponded with more than 200 grandmothers and 50 mothers, and the internet has given me access to many more.  All the advice offered in this book comes from the horse’s mouth.  It is based on the direct, real-life experience of grandmothers and their families, backed up, where necessary, by technical expertise taken from the childcare books our children use.  And just to keep a balance between the generations, I have kept by me Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care.  I no longer have my well-thumbed copy from the 1960s, and had to go out and buy a new one.  The latest edition runs to 800 pages, an indication of how daunting the task of bringing up children has become for the new generation.

The task seems even more daunting when both parents are working.  Nearly half of all mothers are at work, and the inevitable result is that they are able to spend less time with their children than they would like.  This is where we come in — time, that precious commodity, is the best gift we can offer our grandchildren.  In the modern, high-tech world in which everything moves so fast, grannies are there to apply the brakes.

In my discussions with grandparents and parents two phrases came up again and again.  One was ‘unconditional love’; the other was ‘hands-on’.  The unconditional love flows on both directions, and is a never-ending source of wonder and joy.  We expect and anticipate our own love for our grandchildren, but their love for us comes as a delightful surprise.  You do not have to work for it, it simply flows unbidden.  It does flourish all the more, however, if given fertile ground in which to grow, and that is where ‘hands-on’ becomes so important.  The more you do for and with your grandchildren, the closer you become.

My book is designed to help you achieve this closeness.  Even the best grannies sometimes encounter difficulties, and I hope The Good Granny Guide will help you deal with them.  It contains tips on how to gain a grandchild’s confidence and trust, how to resolve such problems as jealousy, homesickness and temper tantrums, and how to build good relationship with the other adults in your grandchildren’s lives.


Some of the advice offered may seem blindingly obvious.  You will forgive this if you have ever found yourself opening a cupboard and then forgetting what you went to fetch, or entering a room and pausing on the threshold to try and recall why you are there.  These things happen to grannies.

Granny and Grandpa

Oh we sailed on the sloop John B
My grandfather and me.
Around Nassau town we did roam,
Drinking all night
We got into a fight…
(Lyric:  The Beach Boys)

Some people have asked why this book is not for grandfathers as well as grandmothers.    The answer is, in many ways it is.  It is called The Good Granny Guide because I am a granny and most of my research was carried out among grannies.  But grandfathers are just as important, and they are certainly more closely involved than they used to be a generation ago.

I remember both my grandfathers as rather remote, forbidding figures.  My paternal grandpa did his best to entertain us by screwing his monocle into his eye then dropping it by raising a bushy eyebrow.  My maternal grandfather, known as ‘Pompa’ to his grandchildren, read aloud better than anyone I have come across before or since.  He specialised in the Uncle Remus stories about Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit and my brother Peter knew the stories by heart.  (Peter had beautiful golden curls which ladies found irresistibly tactile, and on one occasion, when a complete stranger approached to stroke the curls, Peter was heard to say, ‘Better not come near me, Brer Fox – I’m mostrous full of fleas this morning.’)

Above all, I hope this book will be read as a celebration of the special grandparent-grandchild relationship, spanning five generations.  It records precious memories of our own grandparents and of our mothers and fathers as grandparents to our children.  To these memories we can now add the wonder and delight of our own experiences with our grandchildren, and the sheer happiness they bring us.

~Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall



❤ Joy in looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift. ❤
~Albert Einstein

“The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”
~Christopher McCandless

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