Nana and Granddaddy
Our Nana and Granddaddy in the 80s

When I was a kid, I saddled up every weekend for the hour-long trip to my grandparents’ house. My mom worked lots of overtime on Saturdays and Sundays and took advantage of my Nana and Granddaddy’s enthusiasm to pick up their precious grand (that would be me).

I wouldn’t be the person I am now if it wasn’t for my grandparents. Up until the time he passed when I was 12, my grandfather showed me all the characteristics of real manhood and now, as a grown woman, the checklist of qualities I want and expect from my future husband has been molded after him.

And my grandmother? She was the single biggest influence on my life next to God. I could go on for pages and pages about how amazing she was. But just as importantly, she was there to help raise my daughter. As far as I’m concerned, grandparents are kids’ greatest advocates, even more than mom and dad.

Sure, parents are the first line of defense and have kids’ best interests at heart and all that good stuff. But when it comes to really evaluating a situation objectively and interjecting hard-earned wisdom, it’s Team Grandma or Grandpa all the way. That’s not to say the folks directly responsible for the children’s birth shouldn’t have the final say-so in decisions. I just think that grandparents should be active participants in raising them. I actually think it’s their right.

I guess I should say here that I really believe in the concept that it takes a village to raise a healthy, happy, inner-peace-filled child. I’m so thankful for the people around me who genuinely care about and invest in Tween Girl, from her godmother, who is also my best friend, to the ministers and fellow congregants at our church. They’ve really had an impact on her in some way or another and it’s been a huge help to me, particularly as a single mother making sure she gets the support and guidance she needs, whereever she gets it from. 

Her grandparents are the superstars of that group. And she’s fortunate enough to have a whole rack of grands and great-grands that each sow into her in their own special way. At the top of that list are my mom and my grandmother. While I was finishing my degree and trying to raise the baby I had in my second year of college, they happily took their little infant charge and luxuriated in their Mama and Nana responsibilities. (Those are her names for them.)

They read to her, pampered her, shopped for her, taught her colors and numbers and shapes while I was busting my butt learning English lit and philosophical ideologies. My mom was understandably pissed when I came home pregnant but she sure stepped up to the plate once the baby was born. I’m not sure if Tween Girl realizes how much of a blessing her grandmothers have been — they’ve always been there and when someone’s always been there, you tend to take them for granted, especially as a kid — but she’s always been assured of their love for her.

But also deserving of recognition are her father’s people. He doesn’t necessarily do what he’s supposed to do, making it that much more easy for them to write her off as out of sight, out of mind. But my child is never forgotten on a holiday or her birthday, and she’s a hot commodity over summer vacation and spring break. Love makes her great-grandparents ship her to Miami and her other grandmother send for her to come to New York.  

There are some folks who didn’t need to have children in the first place, let alone impose themselves on another generation of youngsters. Not everybody is built to be a great grandparent. But I’ve seen some miraculous turnarounds in people who weren’t necessarily candidates for world’s greatest parents but made a tremendous comeback in the lives of their grandkids. It’s a different level of enjoyment seeing grandkids grow up than raising children the first time around.

I knew that was true when I saw my mom buy my daughter a candy bar and a toy from the little last-minute items section before you get to the checkout counter at Wal-mart. My jaw almost scraped the tile. When I was a kid, I just knew better than to ask for anything from there because I was guar-on-teed to get shut down. But now as a grandma, she willingly volunteers trinkets to make The Girl happy. That is, after all, her main mission. Should be for all grandparents.

What kind of relationship do your kids have with their grandparents?