Grandparenting in a Camper

We grandparents have the spoiling vs guiding thing down. We can balance jumping in with standing back and letting the parent handle things We can pull something out of our proverbial hats that will entertain for just the right amount of time with little mess…but can we take the show on the road?

Last week, we accepted the challenge of keeping four adults and two children under six alive and happy in a fiberglass and plywood box in the woods for four days. There were no tv cameras present and no prize money at stake. We call this “camping,” because that term transforms it from self-inflicted confinement into a delightful vacation; and believe it or not, that strategy really works!

Grandparenting in a Camper

We have been campers for many years, partly because my husband worked in the industry, but mostly because there’s a sweet and simple magic that happens when changing the family rhythm from chaotic and plugged in to being connected to each other and disconnected from everyone else. We developed natural routines, formed subtle traditions that we were at the time unaware of, and it became a part of the year we all treasured.

As I have become aware however in this journey from Mom to Mimi, the extended family that includes your grown children’s’ significant others, their children and sometimes even their pets, can have a very different rhythm than your nuclear family of the past. And you do not want to mess with nuclear power in a little camping trailer!  It’s better to release Gumby power, which is my name for extreme flexibility.

Grandparenting in a Camper

We began the “camping with 2 grands” experience with preparation. What would this gang eat? My daughter passed our question to my 5-year-old grandson, and texted his list. We bought everything on it, no questions asked, including “big marshmallows, not the small ones.” Spoiling Meets Survival had begun. Who knew a 5-year-old can’t make a complete shopping list? When I proudly served the apples, cut into wedges to avoid the one-bite-and-to-the-trash-trick, I was met with the dry stare of the 4-year-old. “Where’s the peanut butter.”

I met her stare in high noon shootout swagger, and coolly replied, “Not on the list.”

We immediately noticed that the attention span of these little campers was much shorter than our children’s had been. (How did an expert of my caliber miss that one?) We at times jumped from activity to activity very quickly, and that seemed to work. To my relief, my daughter assumed my old role of activities director; keeping the kids fed, clean, bug sprayed and sun screened. At these times, I was to be the grandparent sitting in the camp chair smiling. Usually I rebel against stereotype behavior, but I was exhausted and discovered an untapped talent for holding down a chair. We did find out that when camping with 3 generations, interspersing planned activities was key. We enjoyed miniature golf and arcade trips, shorter than usual beach visits, and the mandatory ice cream stop.

Grandparenting in a Camper

Being Mimi not Mom,  I was much more relaxed and flexible in how card games were played, more patient in answering every question about the campsite, and less likely than my daughter to care what they ate or how dirty they got during those four days. This was the best part of the experience.

I have no real advice for sleeping six and a dog in a camper, other than remembering you love each other very much, and that it is temporary. Picture bodies everywhere, making body sounds. Those who want to sleep can’t, those who should want to sleep don’t. Trips to the bathroom are like those museum robbery scenes in movies where a leg moved inches the wrong way trips an alarm (the ugly underbelly of the “tiny house” movement?). Ironically, it was these nights, amid all the creaks and rumbles, that brought me to tears of joy; thankful for one more connection to my young family lost to time.

Love beats comfort, even for a grandparent on vacation.

About the Author – Diana Fox

Diana is a former early childhood educator who loves writing, all needlecrafts, playing the harp, and just being silly with her large family. She enjoys traveling, then returning to her country life in New Hampshire with her husband, collie, cat and chickens.

More From Diana Fox:

Name Yourself!

Think of who you want to be in the future; what you want to convey to those who meet you, and how you want to see yourself as you age, or fight aging.  What if you had the chance to reinvent yourself while still maintaining the essence of “you?”  Well congratulations!  When you hear you are going to become a grandparent, you get to join the ranks of celebrities and those in witness protection by taking on a new identity, complete with a new name. And it won’t cost you a thing or raise a single eyebrow.

What will you choose to be known as when you become a grandparent?

There will be, of course, blankets to crochet, shower wish list items to buy, Shutterfly accounts to create, but your first and biggest task is to choose your grandparent name. This new child and any to follow will know you as this, as eventually will their friends, teachers, heck, even the mailman should he not be replaced by a drone with a mailbag.

Because I tend to put more importance on things some people find trivial, I worked on and worried about this for several months when the first of my four daughters was pregnant. Getting this right was vital. Whatever that child called me, like it or not, would be what every new child in our family would call me, as well. Take this into your own hands, people! You would not believe the guttural utterances that come out of some babies’ mouths as they look your way and point. You could be known for eternity as Mulgblat.

I imagined what horrors could befall a vibrant young woman who became known by an ill-fitting grandmother name.  One day you are “Mom,” confidently swinging your expertly dyed roots while walking runway style in the perfect jeans as you pull the money from your designer purse to pay for your trendy organic plantain chips at Whole Foods. The next day you are “Granny,” shuffling in her polyester elastic waist pants and sensible shoes to the Walmart checkout complaining about the new ice-cream box designed to hide that there’s less in there! I admit it, I was scared, and sure I could avoid these perils by just picking the right grandparent name.

ParentInfluence What Will be your Grandparent Name

To begin this process, see what will not even be available to you due to grandparents that already exist and family traditions that have been passed down regarding certain names. If there is already a beloved Nana, you will not want to be “other Nana” or “Nana Smith.” If your heart is set on MomMom but every grandmother on the other side of the family has for generations been called MomMom, let it go. You are not trying to divide an extended family here, but build one.

Next make a list of all the names you like (and yes, you can make them up as long as you can accept they will never appear on a Hallmark card) and picture what someone with that name would look like. The one that lit a spark in me was Mimi. I saw someone fun and energetic, loving and cuddly, singing, dancing and laughing.  I saw future me! I talked with my pregnant daughter, and all the not-yet-pregnant ones, and my new identity was forged. That was almost twelve years ago, and now five little people, all the big people in earshot, and a few teachers and coaches call me this.

The other day I heard “Mimi” yelled down a store aisle, and I did the fast turn we all do when someone yells “Mom!”  New self, embraced!

About the Author – Diana Fox

Diana is a former early childhood educator who loves writing, all needlecrafts, playing the harp, and just being silly with her large family. She enjoys traveling, then returning to her country life in New Hampshire with her husband, collie, cat and chickens.

More From Diana Fox:

I Saw, I Fell!

Do you believe in love at first sight?

I did as an emotional teenager.  I watched old Hollywood musicals on TV, read Wuthering Heights with a tear-streamed face, and knew the words to every sappy song on the radio.

Then I didn’t.  We understand a little more about love as we get older, and as we realize that songs, books and movies only play with our emotions for a little while as we form our real lives, we understand that real love builds over time. That’s why they’re called relationships. Because we need time to relate in order to build love.

One writer at ParentInfluence shares her story of love at first sight, with her first grandchild.

Now some may argue that love at first sight is that special feeling mothers have at childbirth, but I say no! Love at first sign of a bump; surely love at first kick, but the love is there well before first sight. Personally, I felt love at first wave of nausea and bloat, but I was crazy about pregnancy, so that’s just me. Being pregnant is a nine-month mini relationship with your baby before you meet. It’s kind of the internet dating portion of parenting, and birth is the first actual face to face meeting. So unless a mother is telling her adoption story, I’m going to argue against love at first sight with your own child.

No, I was sure love at first sight was a romantic myth. Until I experienced it when I met my first grandchild. I was there when she was born, and when the excitement, relief, fatigue, and all the other emotions that accompany a birth subsided and I was home in bed that night, something happened to me that I had only even heard of once or twice. When I closed my eyes, I could see her face. It was as clear as if she were in the room…so clear I couldn’t sleep, or even relax. Her image was on the back of my eyelids, my heart was pounding and I had this feeling of complete joy! I knew I would never be the same, as I now had this new love, which was more intense than I could have imagined.

This was over eleven years ago, and I can remember the event as perfectly now as I did that night. In some ways, it is clearer than the memory of the birth itself, and here is why: You don’t just become a grandmother. The prerequisite is that you are a mother. That same mother that fell in love with her baby in utero, who saw her face at birth, is now still parenting; though with an adult child.

During the pregnancies of your children, you are very excited for the coming baby, but you are still viewing this event through the mom lens.  You worry about the health of your daughter or daughter-in-law. You fuss over details as you help the new mom get ready. In the delivery room, you are excited, but worry about the medical aspects and the pain and anxiety she is going through. This is the birth of HER baby, HER experience; and you are thrilled for her. You are a happy mom of a parent. You make sure everyone is fine, stay out of the way so bonding of the new family can take place as you breathe a sigh of relief. Then it happens… the baby is looking at YOU. For the first time, it’s just the two of you.  And a love is born. Right there…at first sight.

One writer at ParentInfluence shares her story of love at first sight, with her first grandchild.

I now have five grandchildren, and each of these relationships are unique, as they should be. There are days I feel that the love we have is the most amazing bond there is, and days I worry we are not as close as I would like. I will always remember with awe, however, the day I became Mimi.

About the Author – Diana Fox

Diana is a former early childhood educator who loves writing, all needlecrafts, playing the harp, and just being silly with her large family. She enjoys traveling, then returning to her country life in New Hampshire with her husband, collie, cat and chickens.

More From Diana Fox:

From Kool-Aid Mom to Cookie Grandma…Or Not

You know those feelings you get as a parent when you are walking on egg shells, second guessing yourself about decisions, feeling guilty about doing too little? Or is it too much? Am I doing it right? Am I at least acting like I know what I’m doing? Am I being too much me and not enough a parent, or am I being too much a parent and not enough me? Add 20 hormone-starved pounds, some gray roots, a little less energy, and you have today’s grandmother. At least those of us who worry too much and are honest about it.

From Kool-Aid Mom to Cookie Grandma…Or Not

As a child, I imagined what I would look like as a mother. In this fantasy, I was outside in a grassy yard and I was serving Kool-Aid to the neighborhood children as the sun shone and the wind gently tossed my hair. I smiled with my shiny red lipstick from the Avon Lady, and the children laughed and admired this cool mom whose house was the place everyone wanted to be. I knew exactly where this image came from, and there was even a name for it in ‘60’s-‘70’s advertising: “The Kool-Aid Mom.” What I did not know was that becoming a mother didn’t mean the rest of life was in suspended amination. There were still bills to pay, politicians back peddling on the news, dog poop in the yard, a significant other who was also not TV commercial casting material, and that person in the mirror who never seems to be “done.”  Now in my defense, as a child you role-play, immersing yourself into a fantasy with little knowledge of character complications and real life.  I would of course not make that same mistake when I became a grandmother.

As a young adult, I imagined what I would look like as a grandmother. You know where I’m going with this, right?

Today’s grandparent is living in an age where youthful appearance is revered, yet our image of the gray-haired lady with the plate of cookies on the shiny porch (I have a thing for family icon stereotypes in sunny yards, apparently) is the image we hold as the ideal. Like new parents, we are more than excited to take on this new role with that same feeling of a love so deep, we could not imagine it; yet also like new parents, we have no idea what we’re doing, as our roles are being redefined as the term “age-appropriate” becomes more fluid.

When I first found out I was going to be a mother it happened sooner than I had thought it would, and I had to reinvent who I wanted to be to this little alien in my belly, who with her sisters would become my life’s greatest work and deepest purpose. When I first found out I was going to be a grandmother it also happened  sooner than I thought, and I did the same; but this time I built off of who I was, not from an image I told myself I needed to become.

I became Mimi, and I can’t wait to tell you about my adventures with The Five Grands, as I call them! I still have moments of doubt, anxiety and feeling not good enough, but that’s how I know I’m doing this as myself.

About the Author – Diana Fox

Diana is a former early childhood educator who loves writing, all needlecrafts, playing the harp, and just being silly with her large family. She enjoys traveling, then returning to her country life in New Hampshire with her husband, collie, cat and chickens.

5 Reasons Grandparents Matter

It has been proven years and years past that one thing remain trues, the emotional connection between child and grandparent comes in second only to the attachment the child has with their parents. These days it’s not uncommon to see grandparents raising grandchildren, but there’s something more to be said about why grandparents matter. Grandparents are not here to raise more children. They are here to play the significant role of grandparent and here’s why that relationship matters:

Ever wonder what grandparents bring to the table? I was lucky to have great grandparents and still do, but some don't. Here's 5 Reasons Grandparents Matter.

Teach Historical Lessons

Many grandparents have lived well beyond the child’s parents and have seen things that no longer exist in our current generation. Grandparents allow history to be shared from generation to generation. Ever seen a group of grandchildren sitting cross-legged on the floor hanging onto every world of their grandparent? That’s the grandparent teaching historical lessons in such a fascinating way that it holds the attention of even the youngest of children.

Grandparents Help Guide Parents

In a time when people are becoming parents at a younger age, grandparents can play a valuable role by being a secondary parent within the household. No more are the old days where having your parents live with you is a rare commodity. Times seem to be repeating themselves as history swings slightly back in time when parents, grandparents and children all resided together under the same roof. Grandparents can help guide parents to be better at being mom or dad when they are around more.

5 Reasons Grandparents Matter

Grandparents Teach Old Values

The times have changed, with technology advancing it seems our fast paced world would rather snoop on social media or interact online than to extend a hand to thy neighbor. Grandparents keep the old values alive. You know the ones where we help our neighbor, we participate in the community and we give to others without expectation for anything in return. Grandparents bring these old school values into the life of your child at a higher level and it teaches them to keep the old values alive.

Grandparents are Simply Fun

There’s nothing more fun than having a sleep over with your grandparent. Most of us can relate to that feeling of getting a little spoiled at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. That’s what grandparents are for, to have a little fun with their grandchildren without having to stress over the role that parents play. Grandparents have already raised children, they know through trial and error what works and doesn’t work. Being a grandparent allows them to be more fun than they could be when raising children and grandchildren love this!

Ever wonder what grandparents bring to the table? I was lucky to have great grandparents and still do, but some don't. Here's 5 Reasons Grandparents Matter.

Grandparents Aren’t Fearful of Truth

Most elders don’t care what they say aloud. Grandparents were raised in a different time, a time in which political correctness wasn’t on high alert. Grandparents are not fearful of speaking truth, they do so in a kind way but sometimes it’s shocking to the current generation. Grandparents teach children to speak what they feel without fear of ridicule and to do so in a nonchalant, non-attacking way.  Grandparents have more wisdom and confidence to share with grandchildren than parents can offer because they simply grew up in a different time. Children who spend time with their grandparents learn to be confident in speaking truth even if someone’s feelings are hurt, for the intention is to stay true to yourself not fear what others think when you speak up for yourself.

What say you, do you think Grandparents play a pretty awesome role in the life of children?

Mom Influence: My Great Grandmother

A mom can be anyone, really. There are many people who will say their step mother or their grandmother, maybe even an aunt was more of a mom to them growing up than their biological mother. While the person who gave birth to you will always be your mom be definition, there are many other moms in your life who may have helped mold you into the adult you are today.

Mom Influence Can be Anyone

I have seen many people online talk about how their grandmother is the one who influenced them the most. You see, you can be super close to your mom while still having more of a relationship with a grandmother because of who you are internally. I personally love my mom and while I wasn’t too fond of my upbringing when it comes to both of my parents, the day I became a mom myself changed my thoughts and feelings on my upbringing tremendously. With that being said, if I had to choose who was the most influential mom in my life I would select my Great Grandmother, Grena as I refer to her.

In January 2015 my Grena passed away and boy did I blubber like a baby. I had no idea the impact this lady had upon my life until that day of passing. As I stood there, graveside with my daughter, mom and relatives beside me I listened to everyone speak of Charlotte Maxham. My Grena had touched so many souls. Grena was a wife, a mom, a sister,  she was a poet and so much more. She lived at the farm with her husband and built it into a pretty lucrative VT business that serviced cheese and maple syrup all over the place. While I don’t know 100% about the business end of their life, I do know a lot about the motherhood and wife journey my Grena took part in.

Mom Influence My Great Grandmother #mominfluence

Stories of Great Grammy

Ever since I was a young child, Grena and I would write as pen pals. Sure we didn’t see each other often and I must admit I wish I had seen her closer to her end of days for one last hug and story. I will forever have the moments of sitting with her and listening to her share her love of cats, her children and her husband. Grena was a farmer’s house wife, she cooked and cleaned and often spoke about having an allowance. I never got the feeling from Grena that her life was horrible. I recall discussing co-sleeping with Grena, so many say it’s wrong to do but I was in fact co-sleeping with my first born child. Miss Ki and I were all we had for a lot of her beginning years, as I was a single mother.  Grena would talk about how she always slept with her “babies” and since her and Great Gramps were old fashioned, they had their separate bedrooms which made co-sleeping with her babies an easy decision.

Grena loved her husband, her babies and her cats. She taught me that you hold on and stay strong because relationships always take adjustments.

What Grena Taught Me

Grena talked about her love of her husband, I could tell that they had a long road for their nearly 75 years of marriage but within that remained a deep bond and connection as husband and wife. Surely my Grena didn’t disclose all of her private details of the marriage, and one could most certainly say that they had been through quite a lot in their marriage.

Grena lit up when she talked about motherhood. This was a woman who I could fel love radiate from as she talked about being a mom to all of her babies. Grena always referred to her now adult children as her “babies”. A loving mother who had this connection that I feel is similar to how I am with my own children. Grena was an amazing old soul who saw life a bit differently from me. I always admired her stories and views of life, I was simply intrigued by this lady.

The reason I selected my Grena as one of the most influential moms in my life is because she was strong, clever, intelligent, poetic, and full of love.

Grena Was Trust

Mom Influence My Great Grandmother #mominfluenceAs I sit and review the letters from my Grena, she never sugar coated her thoughts and feelings, I trusted her to always remain honest, even at the cost of hurting my feelings. When my Grena passed she was 93 years old and I will forever cherish the moments we shared through our common love of the written word.  There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about Grena’s stories of motherhood and marriage. This woman influenced me in so many ways and now that I am 35 years old, those memories impact my current life of being in a relationship and raising kids.

I am often found discussing my memories of this amazing woman who lived long enough to have nearly 75 years of marriage and enjoy not only the role of being a great-grandmother, but also a great-great grandmother. This woman who had a small allowance each week still found some way to send each my children a small gift for their birthday.

R.I.P Grena, in my heart you will forever remain.

To this day, I have at least one item for each of my three children that they can go on to cherish in the memory of their great-great grandmother.

 

Grena was truly an influential woman to many and to me; she was the most influential mom I have ever had the honor to have in my life.