Twenty-First Century Nana

I don’t need reminded that I’m getting older, but taking care of my grandson, Sami, on a daily basis for the past few months, keeps providing those reminders whether I want them or not.  Between my body not always cooperating with me, and the technology now used to raise children apparently above my head, I am keenly aware that I am now in my own Jurassic age. 

When did high chairs become high-tech?  I know the safety advances made over the years have saved many a child and I don’t begrudge them, but they’ve made lunchtime a challenge on more than one occasion.  I took Sami to a restaurant the other day, and they brought a high chair to the table.  After several unsuccessful tries to get Sami into the thing, I called the waitress over to help.  She looked at me and said, “I don’t know how these things operate, either.”  Between the two of us, we struggled and finally got Sami harnessed in, but I couldn’t enjoy lunch after that.  I just kept looking at him wondering if we were going to have to call the Jaws of Life to get him out. 

And car seats?  Don’t even get me started on car seats. Astronauts don’t have this many buckles and snaps and clips on their seats.  I have no doubt he’s safe once I get him strapped in, because it practically takes a force of nature to get the thing undone.  One grandma told me she doesn’t have the thumb strength anymore to operate the release mechanism on her grandson’s car seat.  I know what she means, because I don’t either.  I have to use both hands and push with all my might.  All these years I’ve been working with a personal trainer for strong hips, legs and arms – no one tells you what you need to concentrate on are your thumbs. 

This morning, Sami and I ventured to the grocery store.  I pulled in next to a car where two young women were getting out with their babies.  They looked adorable – not the babies, their twenty-something mommies. Skin-tight ankle jeans with four-inch high heels, button-down shirts stylishly half tucked in, half out.  And their hair – waist-length gorgeous hair perfectly coiffed.  I – dressed not quite so fashionably in a NASH sweatshirt and athletic shoes – climbed into the back seat of my SUV to start the ordeal of trying to free Sami.  Struggling with the car seat brought up a coughing fit, since I’ve been battling some kind of Gawd-awful bronchitis for the past week, and I plopped on the running board with squirming Sami to try to catch my breath.  I realized both of these gals, now standing by their car with their babies, were staring at me.  One of them awkwardly smiled and said, “It’s a baby parade!”  I smiled and said yep, but I don’t think Sami and I are on the princess float.   

The good news in all of this is…I don’t think it matters one bit to Sami.  He finds it vaguely amusing that Nana breaks a sweat trying to get him into the car, and I still get the sweetest smiles from him as we work our way down the grocery aisles, even without the four-inch heels.  Many things may have changed over the years, but the love that grandmas provide isn’t one of them.  There we have the market cornered. 

Just keep working on those thumb exercises. 



The Second Time Around

I am blind as a bat – not literally, but figuratively.  There’s been a revolution taking place all around me and I never noticed.  Not once, in all these years.

You have no doubt ventured out to the mall or to the drugstore sometime during an average weekday and have seen children - little children, too young to be in school.  Have you ever looked up to see the face of the adult with them?  The odds are pretty good that the face staring back at you won’t be a young twenty-something.  Don’t be surprised if that face belongs to a woman in her fifties, sixties, or even older.  It’s probably their nana!

My beautiful daughter-in-law, Iman, just went to work, after spending most of the first year of her son’s life at home with him.  That year was, no doubt, wonderful for both Iman and Sami.  Now, it’s Nana’s turn, at least until full-time child care can be found.  I am joining an army of grandmas who are stepping up to fill the void that our society has made.  Despite lip service to the contrary, our culture does not value child care.  Be honest – we don’t. Companies don’t provide it (“it’s not a money-maker”), existing child care facilities can only handle so many children at a time, and waiting lists stretch into months…or even years. 

It is an honor take care of Sami, as I’m sure it is for most of the women my age who are now staying with grandchildren.  I am more than happy to do it so our son and daughter-in-law can concentrate on their work, but it makes me wonder – what happens to the couples who don’t have a nana close by?  Child care anxiety is real.  I serve on a board with a gentleman who told me he and his wife had put their names on a child care waiting list…before they had conceived. 

America, we have a problem.  And we need to start taking it seriously.  Ironically, while I was contemplating the topic for this blog entry, I saw a woman walking ahead of me into Target.  She looked to be about seventy . . . and she was pushing a baby stroller with an infant inside.  I thought, “nana.”   I am blind no more. 

Nana in the Blogosphere

This blog was in development at the time that Glenn Close took the mic at the Golden Globe Awards ceremony and made her now-famous speech. That speech, which validated the existence and glory of the “woman of a certain age” resonated with females of all generations who were watching.

Ms. Close gave voice to a feeling that had been under my radar for some time, a feeling that finally surfaced on March 31, 2018, when my little grandson, Sami, was born. The next generation had arrived and I was suddenly cast in a new role.

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