|Publisher:||Boutique of Quality Books|
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The Contemporary Grandma
Grandma at a Crossroads
Mothers in the 1940s
Life During World War II
Then and Now
Caring for the Next Generation
Sharing Generational Skills
Grandparents used to be considered old, tired, and worn out. No more. Today's grandparents enjoy better health, stay physically active, volunteer in their communities, pursue new interests, and have longer lives. The American Grandparents Association (AGA) shared statistics of today's grandparents that paint a different picture than the stereotype: 33 percent of grandparents have been married twice, 15 percent have demonstrated for a cause, and 10 percent have tattoos. Grandparents are even getting younger: the average age of a grandma is forty-eight, not old by modern standards.
Grandma at a Crossroads
In earlier decades, the mother of the family stayed home and took care of the children while the father worked outside the home. Today, both parents may work and, consequently, need reliable help for children. Grandma or Grandpa is often that helper, the one who changes diapers, fixes meals, drives kids to school, and reads to children. A grandparent is the one to call when a grandchild is ill. Grandparents may also contribute financially to the family.
For these reasons and more, grandparents are the foundation of the family — a support system, protective shield, calming influence, and source of love. Whether you are ready for these changes or not, today's grandparents are at a crossroads. Each grandparent can choose how their role as grandma or grandpa will be defined as they recognize their responsibilities and validate them in ways that empower all generations.
As a grandmother, I'd like to focus this book on grandmas. Whether you're a new or experienced grandma, the grandma role is always evolving. You need to decide what kind of grandma you want to be. You can be a quiet, uninvolved grandma, stay home and pursue your interests. Or you can be a proactive grandma, one who stands up for her beliefs, her beloved grandchild, helps the family, and works to improve the community. The choice is yours.
Let's take a brief look at yesterday's mothers and grandmas and how they lived, the challenges they faced, and how they responded to these challenges. I'll be sharing some of my own experiences and encourage you to think of your experiences. When I compare my life with my mother's life, I'm astonished at what she was able to accomplish with a limited education (she never graduated from high school), no funds, and no transportation. At the time, families had one car, if they had a car at all. We had one car, but my mother didn't know how to drive. Though she took driving lessons for a while, she stopped after she hit the front porch of our house.
My mother inspired me as a child and continues to inspire me. You may have similar feelings about your mother and grandmother. Looking at the roles women filled in the past may clarify your idea of the kind of grandma you want to be. This history may also give you perspective on the challenges you face as a grandma.
Mothers in the 1940s
Letters and phone calls were the main forms of communication when I was little. In Great Neck, a village on Long Island where my family lived (and it's still called a village), mail was delivered twice a day, once in the morning and again in the afternoon. We always looked forward to the mailman walking up our front steps. Double deliveries are unheard of today, and mail has become a rare form of communication. A thank- you note is even more rare.
My mother and her younger sister talked on the phone daily. Oddly, if my mother called her sister it was a local call, but if my aunt called my mother, it was a long-distance call. The clever Clifton sisters devised a plan. When my aunt wanted to talk to my mother, she dialed our phone number, let it ring three times, and hung up immediately. This was my mother's signal to call her back, and they talked on the phone for hours. They were very close and phone calls helped them maintain this relationship. People still rely on cell phones for communication today, though now the phones travel with them, and texting has often replaced conversation.
At the time, mothers were expected to stay home and manage the household. Certainly, there was lots of work to be done. Mother spent hours in the kitchen and wore an apron when she prepared meals. Since there were no mixes or meal kits, everything was made from scratch. Orange juice wasn't fresh or frozen, it was squeezed from oranges. My mother squeezed a bag of oranges every morning. A milk truck delivered milk and left it in an insulated box by the back door. Bread and other baked goods were delivered by a bakery truck.
Although Mom loved to bake and was an excellent baker, she bought cupcakes from the truck because it saved time. There were six in a box: two with vanilla frosting, two with chocolate, and two with strawberry. I loved them all.
Plates were smaller then, which reduced the serving sizes. Like all the families on the block, we had an ice box. Every few days an ice truck delivered a block of ice to our house. Graduating from an ice box to an electric refrigerator was a big deal, and my parents were excited about it. If I recall, a blue water pitcher came with the refrigerator. Plastic food storage bags hadn't been invented yet. Leftovers were wrapped in wax paper or stored in glass refrigerator dishes. These glass containers have made a comeback as people worried about the dangers of plastics, and I've seen them in discount stores and online.
There were no home electric dishwashers, and dishes were washed and dried by hand. What a concept!
Mothers had weekday clothes and good clothes, often called Sunday clothes. To save her good clothes, a mother wore a "house dress" while she cleaned. My mother had three house dresses, and they were all ugly. Socks with holes in them weren't thrown away. Instead, they were repaired with a darning egg (a large wooden egg with a handle), needle, and thread. Mom taught me how to darn socks. First, I covered the hole with perpendicular strands of thread, a task that required patience and concentration. Then I wove in a second set of threads perpendicular to the first. Darning socks was tedious work.
A mother who knew how to use a treadle-powered or electric sewing machine bought sewing patterns and made her own clothes and clothes for the family. Choosing sewing patterns could take hours. My mother acquired a used table-type sewing machine and made one dress for me. Considering it was her first effort, the dress fit well, and I wore it. I guess Mom didn't like sewing because she never made anything else. She closed the lid of the sewing machine table and it stayed closed. Today, old sewing patterns have become collectibles and are available online. I still have patterns from my home sewing days.
Entertainment was simple then — listening to the radio, playing cards, playing board games, reading magazines and books, going to the movies, gardening, and doing craft projects. My brother and I caught every episode of "Captain Midnight," "Jack Armstrong" and "The Shadow" on the radio. We were thrilled when the mailman delivered our genuine Captain Midnight decoder rings and looked forward to using them with the next program. It was a disappointing experience. After following the instructions and deciphering the code, which took longer than I thought, the message was "Tune in tomorrow," or something boring like that.
Black-and-white television was in its infancy, and few families had a set. My father sold industrial finishes to factories. One factory made television sets, and Dad was able to buy a set at a discount. We watched Phil Spitalny and his All-Girl Orchestra and stayed up late watching live theater productions. Long after my mother, brother, and I had gone to bed, Dad would stay up late and watch boxing matches.
Believe it or not, conversation was a form of entertainment.
On summer evenings, folks in my neighborhood sat on their front porches, watched the fireflies come out, and told stories until it was time for bed. I caught fireflies in a jar. When I wasn't catching fireflies, I sat on our tiny porch with my parents and waited for the Good Humor man, who drove an ice cream truck around neighborhoods. The driver rang a set of windshield bells to let people know he was coming. Occasionally we bought ice cream from the truck, but most of the time we didn't because it was pricey.
Laundry was a labor-intensive task, and mothers usually did it on Monday. We had a wringer washing machine, a beast of an appliance with an open tub and wringer on top. Laundry was fed into the wringer to remove excess water. I was upstairs when my mother called, "Harriet, come here." Something about her voice alerted me. I ran down to the basement and discovered my mother's arm was caught in the wringer up to her elbow. Following her instructions, which Mom gave in an amazingly calm voice, I reversed the wringer and freed her arm. Thankfully, my mother wasn't severely injured, but the memory of this experience still makes me shudder.
Although clothes dryers were invented in 1930, they weren't readily available, and laundry was dried on a clothesline. Our clothesline ran from the back corner of the house, over the yard, to the corner of the garage. A canvas clothespin bag hung from the clothesline and stayed there in rain, sleet, and snow. Modesty existed back then, and my mother dried panties and bras in a pillow case so neighbors wouldn't see her "unmentionables." Modesty seems to have disappeared and nothing is unmentionable today.
Life During World War II
All family members — parents, children, grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles — were affected by World War II rationing.
The US government had three national programs: victory gardens, food canning, and knitting for the troops. Our victory garden was in an open field at the top of a hill. Some families marked off their plots with metal stakes and rope. People grew what they needed most: carrots, onions, potatoes, lettuce, cabbage, cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes. As the plants grew and matured, the field was transformed into a living quilt of produce. Tending a victory garden wasn't just a necessity; it was a social experience. Neighbors weeded and watered while they swapped stories about food rationing, the shortage of gas, and war developments.
One story was about a German submarine surfacing in Long Island Sound. I didn't know if the story was true. Decades later, I learned there were spies on Long Island. Some German men who lived in the US returned to Germany for spy training that included creating explosives, building timers, and writing in code. After training, they returned to the states in a U-boat, which ran aground several times. They finally disembarked on a beach at the end of Long Island. The spies were dressed in German uniforms and had plans to blow up factories to slow war production. The bumbling spies were caught by a Coast Guard soldier.
Schools had air raid drills. I remember a drill at Lakeville Elementary School when I crouched by the furnace with my hands over my head. The teacher told me it was a fire drill, but I knew it wasn't. Air raids and spies were constantly on my mind. My brother assembled World War II plane models and hung them from his bedroom ceiling. When we played outside we usually played war, and I was always a Japanese soldier.
One evening I noticed ink spots on the bottom corner of the newspaper. I asked my mother if the different spots could be a code for enemy spies. She was shocked. Until that moment, I don't think my mother realized how aware I was of the war. Despite her assurances of no spies and no code, I continued to worry.
Sugar was in short supply and rationed. My husband still has his ration book, now a family artifact. I have my mother's cookbook, The Victory Cook Book: Wartime Edition, which contains substitutes for rationed ingredients and recipes for inexpensive wartime meals. Although I've never made the recipes, I read the book to get a sense of history. The chapter titled "How to Feed a Family of Five on $15 a Week" contains menus with lots of vegetables and little meat. Prune Whip, a gloppy brown dessert, was one of my mother's favorite recipes. When I sampled the dessert I grimaced, yet the courteous members of the bridge club complimented her on it.
Cookbooks included information about safe home canning methods — the second government program. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Extension Services published and distributed canning information. Victory gardens reached their peak in 1943 and so did canning. About four billion cans and jars of food were preserved that year.
My mother didn't can food, but she did grind the little beef we had into hamburger. The hand-crank grinder was bolted to a wooden stepstool. I didn't like the hamburger it produced because the grind was so large the hamburgers fell apart. When we had meat, the fat (such as bacon fat) was poured into a tin can and taken to the butcher. The government paid people by the pound for the fat, and it was used to make explosives. I couldn't understand how fat could be made into bombs. All I knew was that I was responsible for delivering cans of fat to the grocery store.
The third government program, "knitting for the boys," became an international program. Soldiers had barely grabbed their guns before wives and sweethearts grabbed knitting needles and yarn. Elementary students, including my husband, learned to knit and made afghan squares. While machine knitting was more efficient, hand knitting kept women and children involved in war efforts. The American Red Cross was designated as the clearing agency and provided free patterns for sweaters, hats, mittens, and scarves. These patterns are still available online.
Although the nation was at war and worried about spies, a mother didn't lock the house. Neighbors took care of neighbors and watched each other's homes. When I walked to the grocery store, I greeted the neighbors I met by name. "Hello, Mrs. Smith." "Good morning, Mrs. Larson. What's Patty doing these days?" This is a sharp contrast to modern neighborhoods. Many families have no idea who lives next door or on the block. I've lived in my present neighborhood for almost five years and still don't know all my neighbors.
When I was in high school, my career options included teacher, nurse, or secretary. World War II changed female employment forever. Women worked in factories, shipyards, and on farms. Posters of Rosie the Riveter, a fictitious symbol of working women, appeared coast to coast. Rosie wore a red bandana and above her face were the words, "We Can Do It!"
To my surprise, my mother went to work at the Sperry manufacturing plant near our home. In a few weeks, Mom changed from homemaker to factory worker and helped to assemble gyroscopes — devices used in navigation systems. She brought a gyroscope home to us (something she probably shouldn't have done), and I tried to spin it like a top. The gyroscope didn't spin and, much to my disappointment, fell over.
Dad was ambivalent about my mother having a job. Because he was the air raid warden for our block, he understood the need for her job and tolerated it. He was also glad for the extra income. After the war, my mother worked as a sales associate for Bloomingdale's, a famous department store, and was assigned to the children's department.
Some returning soldiers wanted their wives to stop working and stay home. It was too late. American women had proved they were smart, reliable, productive, and great at multi-tasking.
Then and Now
I've been a witness to history and seen the differences between yesterday's grandmas and today's grandmas.
My grandma never worked outside her home. To do so would have implied that her husband didn't earn enough money for his family. Finding care for five children would also have been a problem because day care centers didn't exist at the time. When I became a grandma, I had accrued a variety of work experience — a dozen years as a teacher, one summer as school secretary and phone operator (yes, I plugged in wires to connect callers), writer for a computer software firm, and freelance health/wellness writer. The difference in life experience between my grandmother and me in the role of grandmother is quite a contrast for such a relatively short period of time.
Yesterday's grandma made all meals from scratch. Today's grandma buys frozen meals, meal kits, take-out, or eats out.
Yesterday's grandma dried clothes on a clothesline and ironed them. Today's grandma uses a high-tech washer and dryer and asks, "What's an iron?"
Yesterday's grandma mended socks. Today's grandma buys socks when necessary and may even collect unusual socks.
Yesterday's grandma bought clothes from specialty shops — or made her own — and wore hats. Today's grandma orders clothes online and may wear a golf cap.
Yesterday's grandma cleaned rugs with a rug beater or vacuum. Today's grandma has a high-tech vacuum or robotic vacuum.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Grandma Force"
Copyright © 2019 Harriet Hodgson.
Excerpted by permission of Boutique of Quality Books Publishing Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
About This Book xi
Chapter 1 The Contemporary Grandma 1
Grandma at a Crossroads 2
Mothers in the 1940s 3
Life During World War II 7
Then and Now 10
Caring for the Next Generation 12
Sharing Generational Skills 14
Chapter 2 New Grandma, a Life-Changing Role 17
Writing a Mission Statement 17
What Are You Called? 20
Some Life Changes 21
Wishes for Your Grandchild 23
Grandma Can Say No 25
Helping with Education 26
Joining a Support Group 28
Online Support 30
Chapter 3 Writing Your Grandma Script 35
Script Components 36
Personal Goals 37
Avoiding the Perfectionist Trap 39
I'm a Role Model! 41
Ditching Grandma Guilt 44
Chapter 4 Types of Grandmas 49
Formal Grandma 50
Fun-Seeking Grandma 51
Grandmas Raising Grandkids (GRG) 52
Wise Grandma 53
Long-Distance Grandma 54
Working Grandma 57
The Nanny Granny 59
Other Types of Grandmas 61
Chapter 5 Part of the Family 65
Learning to be a Grandma 66
Family Identity and Values 67
Their Rules and Yours 69
Cell Phone Rules 74
Sharing Chores 76
Who's in Charge? 77
Keeper of Stories and History 79
Chapter 6 Building a Loving Relationship 83
Attachment Bonding 83
Qualities of a Good Grandma 85
Your Personality 86
A Loving Relationship 88
Gifts Greater Than Money 90
Special Needs Grandchild 91
Chapter 7 Communication, Your Best Tool 97
Body Language Basics 98
Voice Quality Pitch, and Tone 100
Fostering Communication 102
Updating Communication 105
Internet Safety 106
Email from Grandma 110
Humor as Communication 111
Chapter 8 At-Home Activities for Grandkids 113
Reading Aloud, Your First Choice 114
Successful Sleepovers 117
Cooking Together 119
Grandchild's Interests 121
Art as Personal Expression 123
Cursive Writing Practice 127
Chapter 9 Out-and-About Activities for Grandkids 129
Walking and Fitness 129
Going to a Park or Health Club 131
Magical Museums 133
Day Trips and Longer Trips 134
Grandkid's Camp 136
National Grandparents Day 137
Chapter 10 Relationships Change with Time 141
Physical Growth 142
Emotional Growth 142
Service Learning 147
Supporting a Grandchild's Dreams 150
Adult-to-Adult Relationship 151
Chapter 11 Becoming an Activist and Advocate 155
Taking the Proactive Route 155
Examples of Activism 157
Working with Organizations 160
Let's Be Civil 166
The Grandmother Project 168
Persistence and Professionalism Count 171
Chapter 12 Taking Care of Me 175
Essential Medical Tests 176
Hearing Loss 179
Enough Sleep 180
Healthy Eating and Food Preparation 183
Physical Activity 186
The Power of Quiet 188
The Art of Self-Kindness 190
Religion and Spirituality 191
Self-Care List 193
Chapter 13 Holding on and Letting Go 195
Time of Gracious Harvesting 196
I'm Holding On To… 197
I'm Letting Go Of… 199
The Right Timing 201
Acceptance Is Soul Work 202
Grandmas Are Wisdomkeepers 204
Chapter 14 Conclusion 207
About the Author 231
Other Grandparenting Books by Harriet Hodgson 233