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Breaking the Rules with Grandma

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Guest blogger Rabbi Sherre Hirsch: Every year since from my high school graduation until her death last year, my grandmother Laura Dworkin spent a week with me no matter where I lived. (Except the year I lived in Jerusalem in a four story walk up.) It was our week -- just the two of us to spend time getting to know one another.

Mom and grandmother

One year in particular I invited my grandmother to live with me in my sorority house. My mother had given me strict instructions. Her mother is not allowed to eat pastrami on rye, drink a beer, stay out past 10 p.m. We should take it easy. Relax in the living room and enjoy meeting my "sisters."

The first night as we were sacked out in the sorority living room eating pastrami and drinking a beer, I taught my grandmother the secret sorority handshake, sealing our secret in stone. The next morning she slept in when I went to class.

The next night all of us stayed up late eating cookies listening to my grandmother tell us of how much her own dream was to go to college -- and while this was not exactly what she had imagined as a girl, it was pretty close.

By the third night, I thought she would be exhausted. But this party girl wasn't. After dinner and the movies, it took me over an hour to wrap her hair with toilet paper and hairpins so that it would be still "perfect" for our last night. She was not about to let a bad hair day ruin her fun.

By the time she had to return to Columbus, Ohio, I was not ready to let her go. Having her as my "roomie" was better than any roommate I had ever had. (No offense !) But she told me things about my mom, her life, her loves that I have stayed with me to this day. The wisdom she imparted to me on that trip and many others that followed have guided me throughout my life.

My grandmother told me things that my mother couldn't. She was not my parent. She did not have to worry in the same way as my own mother about what I would do with the information.

Today when my own mother -- now a grandmother -- picks up one of my children to whisk them away for the afternoon, I basically have no idea what they are doing. Sure, I give "suggestions" but I imagine they break them just like I did. That is the beauty of being "the grandmother." You get to break your own parenting rules for your grandchildren.

Sure, last month when my mom gave M&M's to my kids for breakfast, I was annoyed, but I reminded myself that the meaning of the relationship is far more important than any candy.

Just wait -- when my children have kids, M& M's will be nothing.

next: Who Wants My Hand-Me-Downs?!
7 comments so far | Post a comment now
Stephanie Schwartz November 9, 2008, 2:38 PM


Joy November 9, 2008, 4:27 PM

This is so touching. I loved it and agree, my grandma broke rules with me and I do it now. When the parents aren’t here, grandma’s the boss. And believe me, they know it.

Colleen Carr November 11, 2008, 5:44 AM

I loved this story. Being a fairly new grandparent myself, I try to follow the rules given to me, but found myself saying “what’s the harm” and doing my own thing. It’s such a delight to be around my two grandchildren, and now we have found out another one is on the way. I love it! I want to be a fun grandma, just like my grandmother was to me……another tradition passed on. Colleen from Akron, Ohio

GailHoney November 11, 2008, 9:32 AM

This story brought tears to my eyes. I’m Colleen’s younger sister. Our grandma was the BEST…so loving and honest, and FUN. Thanks for the story—-it’s like you just gave all of us grandma’s “permission” to do our own thing with our grandkids (within reason, of course). You may have started a trend here (a wonderful one at that). Gail from Suffield, OH

Anna November 11, 2008, 3:28 PM

As a grandparent of 4 wonderful little ones with whom I spend a LOT of fun, quality time, I think that this attitude is selfish. One can establish a very special relationship and share fun, exciting, memory building times, without condoning(by disregarding) disrespect for the parents’ rules, which have, after all, been established with that child’s best interests at heart. That child belongs to that set of parents - we had our chance and it’s not place or right to say ‘screw it’ to the rules that are a part of that child’s life.

Nee December 16, 2008, 3:44 PM

Nice Story!! I remember my grandmother as a rebel, she would give my brother and I daily rations of candy ( one piece of candy cane), because our mother did not allow us to eat sweets of any kind except for major holidays Thanksgiving and Christmas. My grandmother felt kids should have sweets so she gave us little amounts candy and homemade fruit preserves.

Immobilier Bretagne March 7, 2011, 1:03 AM

Once I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four emails with the identical comment. Is there any method you may take away me from that service? Thanks!

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