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Being a grandparent in the 21st century
An English rose in Georgia
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We now are halfway through September, and I cannot believe that our beloved granddaughter has just celebrated her third birthday — and she is very much her own little person.  
It also has taken me three years to realize that there is a National Grandparents Day. It is celebrated on the first Sunday after Labor Day, which this year was this past Sunday.
According to, the holiday’s creation began in 1970, when Marian McQuade, a West Virginia housewife with 15 children and 40 grandchildren, came up with the idea of a day set aside to encourage families to visit their elderly relatives (I am not sure I am keen on this association, as I consider myself a bit younger than “elderly”).
Anyway, Mrs. McQuade lobbied her senators, who introduced a resolution to make Grandparents Day a national holiday. It took a while to reach the White House, but finally, in 1978, President Jimmy Carter  signed the resolution declaring National Grandparents Day.
The arrival of our little Pumpkin, who was just six weeks old at Halloween 2010 — the first day I looked after her for nine hours straight when my daughter-in-law went back to work — has transformed our lives. Whoever said you don’t know what love is until you have a grandchild was not kidding. I accept that those of you who have children and grandchildren know this already, but it was all new to me since I met my stepchildren during their challenging teenage years.
One aspect I was not expecting was that I have magically forgotten any less-than-ideal behavior my stepson might have been guilty of during his adolescence, now that he and his beautiful wife have produced this wonderful little human being.  
I used to be worried that people would think I was old if our Pumpkin called me Grandma. Now, I am thrilled when she loudly proclaims my title in public, especially when she throws herself into my arms and proudly announces to anyone who will listen “That’s my Grandma, that’s my Grandma” (long may it last). For some reason known only to herself — and I suspect my stepson — instead of calling my husband Grandpa, which he wanted (and which is why he encouraged me to take on the matching “Grandma” title rather than “Nana” or something a bit trendier), she calls him Bubba.
I never thought my husband looked like a “Bubba,” but after hearing this for a couple of years now, I now think he looks more Bubba-like every day.
I still am privileged to look after her for one full day a week, plus ad hoc babysitting, and am amazed at all the options open to children today. I take her to her weekly dance class; take nature walks with our dogs; and bake cookies, pies and cakes. I love to read to her, and we talk a lot — and I now even understand most of what she says.
However, I do worry that I am stuck in the last century with these activities! There seem to be so many different toys, interactive experiences and fun adventures (Princess Party, anyone?) available to young kids these days.   
I joke that I can’t wait until our granddaughter can sort out my all-too-frequent technology challenges, but it’s clear that she has an affinity for technology that seems incredible to those of us not raised with cellphones and flat-screens (at my British school in the 1980s, our one computer was massive and had an entire classroom dedicated to it). The whole family is careful to limit the Pumpkin’s screen time (whether it is TV, Daddy’s smartphone or Grandma’s tablet) although I am grateful for “Sesame Street” when I really need to concentrate and get something done without her assistance!
I have, therefore, learned the truth and wisdom of American writer Fran Lebowitz’s famous comment: “Do not, on a rainy day, ask a child what she feels like doing, because I assure you that what she feels like doing, you won’t feel like watching.”
God bless America!

Francis grew up in London and moved to Richmond Hill in 2009 with her American husband, Carl, and English dogs. She can be contacted at or

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