Family Life

The New Grandma

Written by Laura Claverie

Redefining our role

We’re not your grandma’s grannie anymore


Without exception, women of my generation remember their grandmothers as dear, wonderful souls. Most had gray hair, tinted blue or covered with a pinky beige rinse. Few, if any, ever held a job or ran for an office. They were good women who stood by their men, cooked hearty meals and never owned a pair of running shoes in their lives. They were good mothers and grandmothers. But hip? Not a chance.

My how times have changed. While Rylan and I haven’t gotten to the real “hip” phase of our relationship yet, I do look forward to that time. The closest thing we’ve come to “new age” fun is doing our yoga exercises together on the floor. He takes “baby yoga” at St. George’s once a week, and I’ve been practicing at Wild Lotus for years. He does a mean pigeon pose!

I look to my friends and family who’ve tipped me off to some of their hip activities, things they do that our grandmothers would never have attempted. Grandmothers of my generation are a far cry from those of two generations ago. They have careers, compete in marathons, have their “natural” colored hair and run for office. And they are crazy about their grandchildren.

How crazy? Well, writer Bonnie Warren, grandmother of a three-year-old boy named Evan, doesn’t let a little distance keep her away from him. Once every other month, she hops on a plane to Baltimore to see Evan and his parents. “I want to know my grandson, and the only way I can do that is to get up there often,” she says.

My sister Mickey, a psychiatric social worker in Alexandria, LA, has a 10-year-old grandson, Ben, in Montana and two granddaughters, Marisa, 4, and Gabrielle, 3 months, in Pennsylvania. Each day she logs onto her computer, looks into the webcam and “visits” her grandkids. Just like the phone the Jetsons used, she sees them, and they see her. Ahhhh, the wonders of technology!

Ben is an avid dinosaur fan, with an encyclopedic knowledge of the prehistoric creatures. For his birthday two years ago, Mickey took him on a university-sponsored dinosaur dig. They slept outdoors, dug for bones and had a ball. Mickey kept up with the college kids as they hiked through the mountains, and Ben outpaced some of the 20 year olds in the dinosaur knowledge score.

New Orleans artist Karen Laborde, a chic grandmother of six, brings her grandchildren to her studio where they paint their little hearts out. Her husband, Monroe, an orthopedist, brings the grandchildren to the hospital to see him at work, when possible. They are committed to rearing left brain/right brain grandchildren. “I recently realized that we had a real 21st century grandson when four-year-old Mac climbed onto my lap when I was at the computer. He independently logged onto iTunes and downloaded a song!” she says.

But no grandmother has been more “hip” than the one (who asked I not use her name) who recently admitted, “I was there when my grandbaby was conceived.” I gasped, Whoaaa…too much information!” She explained that the baby was conceived in vitro, and her daughter wanted her there for moral support. She added, that she was in the delivery room when the baby was born, and that was a life-changing moment for everyone, especially the new grandma.

When asked exactly what a hip grannie is, I tell people, “Look around you. They are everywhere.” She’s the good looking woman in her yoga clothes, with a grandbaby on her hip, talking to a client on her cell phone. She’s the consummate multitasker who juggles it all with aplomb, never forgetting that babies come first. And whether that grandbaby lives 1000 miles away, or next door, she manages to be the most fun part of his life.

I’m looking forward to lots of “hip” moments with Rylan, and am taking notes from my clever friends. They are blazing a trail in their Nikes, and I’m running as fast as I can to keep up with ’em.

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