Exactly how grandmother made me feel!

In honor of Grandparents Day, I made a list of the things that made my grandmother wonderful, loving, unforgettable, fun, thoughtful, fantastic and fully awesome. Obviously not a comprehensive list, but it’s a start:
1. Never forgot my birthday
2. Always sent me something on my brother’s birthday, even if it was flowered underwear
3. Let me win every game of Crazy 8s we ever played, and I didn’t suspect a thing.
4. Paid attention to every word I said, and remembered it later on
5. Told me stories about her childhood, back in the day.
6. Cut out and sent crossword puzzles to me for the entire 2 years I lived in South America
7. Shared her opinions and insights freely, with her unique perspective
8. Went back to college to finally earn her degree around age 50
9. Found friends for us in her neighborhood when we visited
10. Was always there for me.Happy Grandparents Day!

I had a slightly surreal experience last night, and I need to add on to my post yesterday about 4 reasons I am Jealous of My grandmother. Here’s the catchy title for reason #5: ‘Confused about whether my child is having an anaphylactic reaction from peanut desensitization or just still recovering from whooping cough.’

For the last 12 weeks, our daughter has been participating in a program to desensitize her to peanuts. It’s basically like allergy shots, but instead you give the person tiny doses of peanut over time, gradually building up to whole peanuts. It had been going really well until she caught the virus her younger sister had a month or two ago. She had a mild reaction to her dose, so we lowered her dose for a while.

We continued at this level, but her coughing kept going, and going and going. Just like her sister’s. First, it was diagnosed as environmental allergies, then the doctor suspected pneumonia, but both of their xrays were clear. The word pertussis, or whooping cough, came up, but it seemed unlikely given that both of our kids are vaccinated.

The younger girl finally improved (she had a 3 week head start), but her older sister was still going strong. We had another visit to the allergist, and she started to suspect that both had had pertussis and were recovering. Apparently, as more parents choose not to vaccinate (not passing any judgments here) and the virus is becoming more common, the doctor has seen more people get pertussis, regardless of their vaccination history. But it still seemed a little unlikely. Her coughing became less regular, and she seemed overall to improve.

So last night, my daughter started coughing and gasping after her dose of peanut. We popped over to the ER to see if she was still just recovering from her virus, or having a mild anaphylactic reaction to peanut. Lo and behold, despite the timing of her coughing – right after the dose – and her gasping for air, the doctor felt she was still just whooping a little. ‘They call it the 100 day cough in China,’ he smiled. He found no evidence of an allergic reaction, and the girls haven’t been contagious for weeks, so could go to school. And we found ourselves saying, ‘Thank goodness, it’s just whooping cough,’ because we were thrilled that we could continue with the desensitization program. And I know my grandmother never had THAT experience.

I was thinking about Grandparents Day again, and about my grandmother H. I thought about her life and how she raised her kids. And, while I was packing up a few hundred things to take my kids to the pool, I realized I was a little jealous of her. Now, I am not suggesting for a minute that her life was easier, but there are some things she never had to think about that drive me crazy. Here they are:

1. Food allergies and intolerances. My own daughter has a severe peanut allergy, and it seems that every product we look at has a warning for traces of peanuts. It’s incredibly frustrating to be stressed over something so basic as what food my child eats. And as more kids and adults are avoiding more types of foods, having people over for dinner has become a challenge as more dietary needs need to be met.

2. Toxic pajamas. Have you tried to find a pair of loose fitting pajamas for your child that doesn’t have flame retardants on them? If you do, please let me know where you purchased them. Now that I am aware how toxic these chemicals are, especially to girls, I am of course trying to avoid my kids’ exposure to them. I wish kids’ clothes simply didn’t have chemicals.

3. Cyber-bullying and stalking. I probably am painting too rosy a picture, but I think when my grandmother’s kids were at home, they were in a truly safe place – no bullying, no teasing, no stranger danger. Now, new online services and networks expose kids to all of those things, no matter where they are. I hate to think that my kids are not going to have a place that is truly safe. For this reason, we have chosen to be extremely restrictive with the internet, limiting them to a couple educational apps (we picked these with the help of www.commonsensemedia.org), and DoubleScoop. But they’re still young, and I already dread how much time it will take for me to stay on top of their online lives as they get older.

4. Sunscreen. I hate sunscreen. And then, I find out that the chemicals in some sunscreens might be worse than the damage from the sun itself. So now we use a ridiculously expensive pasty white organic sunscreen that is impossible to rub in, and impossible to get off anything, such as my car, furniture and clothes. Except of course the moment anyone gets wet, and it seems to trickle off their bodies in steady white streams.

I wish I knew what my grandmother thought about her grandmother’s life. I know a little bit about her mother -Ma – but I never thought to ask about her grandmother. Maybe this Sunday, Grandparents Day, is a good time to see what you can find out from your grandparents.

Grandparents Day?

September 4, 2012

Before I started this job, I had never heard of Grandparents Day. Given that I have been extremely close with my grandparents all my life, I was a little surprised. At first, I wondered, ‘Have I been missing out on something?’ I also realized that this was the first year that I don’t have a grandparent alive to honor. My last grandparent died about a month ago. This all got me thinking about Grandparents Day, and what it might, or might not, be all about.

Grandparents Day is a relatively ‘new’ celebration. Marian McQuade founded Grandparents Day, with the goal of educating the youth about important contributions seniors have made. In 1978, President Jimmy Carter made the day official, and described the purpose of Grandparents Day “to honor grandparents, to give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children, and to help children become aware of the strength, information, and guidance older people can offer.”

The reason for Grandparents Day makes sense to me. But did I personally need a separate day to honor grandparents? I was fortunate as a kid in that my grandparents visited me often, and I was able to visit them, even though we lived in different states. I felt that we honored them every time we saw them. A visit with the grandparents was always special – the food was good, we had special treats, we learned to be patient when they told stories. I think if you asked them, they would not suggest that they needed more recognition for their role as grandparents.

Every family is not the same however. More grandparents are helping with the day-to-day tasks of raising their grandchildren. This changes everything. Just like Mother’s or Father’s Day, these grandparents might enjoy being recognized for their unique contributions to a child’s life. Additionally, as a community, I think it is important to take time out of our busy lives to appreciate the contributions seniors have made, and how we have benefited from their efforts.

I am fortunate that my kids and their grandparents are always showing love for each other throughout the year. They were on the phone last night with the grandparents in New York, and on DoubleScoop this morning sending messages to their other grandparents on a cruise ship somewhere. So this Sunday, I probably won’t encourage a special communication from my kids. But I might ask around and see if a senior needs help in our neighborhood with their fall cleanup, and make sure my kids help out.

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