Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The B Grandma

By Pam Glover
One day while I chatted with a colleague I noted a little side table in her office. On it sat a cup of markers and pencils and a cube of colored sticky notes. Above the table kid-scribbled notes were pegged to the wall. A long chain of paper clips snaked around the table top. The woman followed my glance, and remarked that her grandchildren frequently came over after school. "I'm so glad I get to spend time with them. I'd hate to be  the B grandma."

Was a B grandma like a B team? I don't know if grandmas can drill and skirmish to improve their abilities. In my mind, the B grandma was less available, the less favored, the one lacking grandma zing! 

Was I an A or a B grandmother? I immediately, detrimentally began to compare myself to THE OTHER GRANDMA.

She was available, and watched the baby every Wednesday while great grandma and grandpa joined them for the morning coffee and infant entertainment.  It became known as Samday. He was the star of the morning and they showered him with affection. 

I, however, live 1500 miles away. I only saw him every 4-6 months, too long for toddler memory. My son-in-law invested in pre-Skype technology and Sam learned to recognize me over a TV and telephone connection. Later, his little sister didn't take to the system as well, and every face to face visit required me to get reacquainted.  I tried to make up for lost time when I visited, but It felt like I wasn't making a big impact on the children. 

The other grandma is wonderfully creative and the kids adore her. As they matured she expanded their world in wonderful ways. When Sam was four she enrolled him in a clown clinic, created a cunning hobo costume, and he presented a solo gig.  I felt sorry for myself because I couldn't offer anything like that. 

When he was in kindergarten she signed up to be the class mystery guest. Well, gosh, I thought, I can do that, so on our next trip west I had my chance. I bought a funny book about a farting dog, which I thought would surely be a hit with Sam. Standing in line to enter class a little boy asked whose grandma I was. "Sam's" I told him. He remembered the A grandma. "Do you do magic tricks and tie balloons too?" 

"No, I read books." 

"Too bad" the little guy grumbled. 

Yeah, too bad for me I thought. I was even a B grandma to a five year old stranger!  

When our granddaughter called to tell us about the other grandma's new a puppy, I briefly, ridiculously, considered building a small corral in our large yard and getting a pony. 

Last week  Em called and told me about her kindergarten costume parade. Of course A-grandma had gone to the parade and sent me photos. Not only had she gone and immortalized the big event, she came in costume! 

Now, I really like the other grandma. I am glad she's a big part of Sam and Em's lives. But I do feel left out and under-gifted.   Like an athlete on the bench I don't get enough playing time and my inner coach says my performance lacks luster.  I've moaned about this for so long my husband now comforts me by saying "You're the best B grandma in the country."

I've quit contending for the A spot.  I'm trying to shake loose from the comparison altogether. The whole A/B classification has created a black hole which sucks up joy.

And I avoid even thinking about the step-grandma's themed holiday weekends and the boatload of playmate cousins her daughters produced. I could slide right over the edge of sound judgement into C status and a big hole of self-pity. 

I know it's petty. I know children's affections aren't to be won by one-upmanship. I know that they love me. But if I were a kid, I'd rather spend time with the A-grandma too. I thought being a grandparent would be an effortless process.  Perhaps my expectations of the grandchild-grandparent relationship were unrealistic and too rosy. But deep down I feel disappointed by the bond I've been able to create with them, and discomfited to consider that genealogy doesn't guarantee warm fuzzy feelings.

My heart's longing is to have the love of my grandchildren. But the only thing I can control is that I love them with all that I have. Then the children are blessed, and I am blessed.

Words have always been a source of joy for Pam Glover. She earned a bachelor's degree in English literature, and a master's degree in English as a second language.
Writing is her primary tool to clarify her thinking. It's her public voice too. She argued for bilingual education in a commentary published by the Christian Science Monitor. She invited music lovers to come to North Carolina in Pow'r Pickin, a bluegrass newspaper. She celebrated her counterpart in  “A Letter To the Other Grandma" published in Mature Living magazine.

She maintains a weekly blog at


J.B. DiNizo said...

It is not easy having grandchildren who live far away. My younger daughter and her family live in Hong Kong and I live here at the NJ shore. I keep them in my heart and remember birthdays and holidays, but it's not easy.

Anonymous said...

My kids, too, have moved far and wide and I'm lucky to have in person contact once a year. I'm grateful for Skype, of course, but it's not the same. I keep hoping my life situation changes so I can move closer, but for so many reasons, it's just not possible right now. I sympathize, and encourage that Village that each child needs, from A to Z. :)

Pam Glover said...

Thanks for commiserating! My situation is easier than going to Hong Kong!

I have some practical tips on staying in touch In my Oct 22 blog.

................................ Kevin Parsons said...

My wife and I are both the B G Parents, but we quit competing and comparing and focus on being as good as we are. Sometimes it's the kids that think you're B quality, but the G Kids think you're the bomb! Quality not quantity.

Patti Shene, Executive Editor, Starsongs Magazine said...

Our one and only grandchild is fortunate to have both grandmas here in the same town where she lives. I often feel like the B grandma because the other grandma is younger, more energetic, more talented, and doesn't spend hours on a computer. Still, our delightful granddaughter makes both of us feel special, though, so we are very blessed!

TNeal said...

Pam, as a kid, I had one grandmother within 15 miles and the other a day's journey away. Even with them both gone, my siblings and I still talk about them. We saw the one often and the other rarely, but we enjoyed them both. Each left a positive impression on us and we enjoyed being with them whenever we had the opportunity to visit.

Great article and one that brought back some good memories. Thanks--Tom

Pam Glover said...

Thanks to all of you for sharing your grandparent status! I do hope our g'kids don't see differences.

Marilyn said...

Thanks, Pam. Your message helps us other B Grandmas know we're not alone.
I rarely saw my grandchildren while they were growing up, but I'm pleasantly surprised, now that they're grown, we're becoming acquainted, and I feel a closeness with them from afar. We finally have that warm, loving feeling between us, and I'm so grateful.