a special feature by *Barbara Lehman, Grandmother Extraordinaire


“Times they are a-changing” and the directive by parents to kids  “Because I said so” no longer works.  Times change, culture changes, people’s priorities change, the world changes; the only constant is change, and I finally figured this out in my life as a grandparent.

World War II and the Great Depression became the arbiters of values and culture for many years after. I am a product of that period of time. It was the age of rationing, everything from shoes to gas to tires and even sugar, of collecting foil off gum wrappers to sell, of rolling bandages and of kids wearing army uniforms because of the war effort, of scrimping and doing without because of the depression…all in all a way different milieu from that which my children are raising their families.

Because of the lasting effects of this legacy, handed down from our grandparents to our parents to our generation, my attitudes about child rearing are vastly different from those of my grown children.  I, of course, thought my methods were better.  My husband and I were not helicopter parents.  We did not hover and shelter our children nor did we indulge them with “unnecessary” extras.  Our youngest son is today aghast that he was allowed at age five to walk by himself to our neighborhood store two blocks away to buy some candy.  The idea of kids leaving the house after breakfast to play in the neighborhood and ride bikes all over the area, coming home when and if they felt like it was time for lunch, leaves my sons appalled at the freedom allowed in those days…and the idea of such a lax schedule.

The idea of buying a treat or toy every time errands were run was not part of the program.  One day when my husband and I were visiting the grandkids, I asked my three-year old granddaughter what she wanted to do and her response was, “Go shopping at Target!”  I would have preferred to go the park or playground together.  While she and I are a generation and miles apart on ideas, one thing is for sure, time spent together defines the depth of our care and love as grandparents no matter where it takes us.

Today, as in every generation, the dilemma for grandparents is how much is appropriate to say if you disagree with your son or daughter’s child-rearing practices.   After a few attempts at inserting our beliefs into their business, my husband and I decided that unless it was a matter life or death, illegal, harmful to the children, or unless we were asked for our opinion, we would just keep it to ourselves, hold our breath, and hope everything would turn out all right.

I am here today to tell you that not only is everything turning out fine, but also these are probably the kindest, most well-mannered, sincere, motivated, hard-working, sweet kids that were ever raised.  I guess we did right by our own kids because they have adjusted to a new age and have done a wonderful job with their own families. .  I am so proud of this generation of parents who have had to work with a whole different set of rules, a whole new set of societal norms and values, and they did it!

“Because I said so” is so yesterday…just like the typewriter and the neighborhood store. One thing that hasn’t changed for grand parenting is the amazing love we grandparents feel for these delightful children.  What could be better?

*Barbara Lehman, a former English teacher, is a ‘grandmother extraordinaire’ of 16 grandchildren.  She is the proud parent of three adult sons; one in Real Estate, one a Professional Golfer on the Champions PGA Tour, and one an Attorney & Sports Agent.  She has recently remarried after being widowed, has a larger blended family, and shuttles her time between Minnesota and Arizona.