My cousin Shirley Wolfe Cameron, commented on a story I wrote a couple of days ago, and while this story and that one really have very little to do with each other, her comment sparked a little memory for me. My story was on my great grandmother, Henriette Schumacher’s debilitating arthritis, but it reminded Shirley of our grandmother, Anna Schumacher Spencer when she was in a wheelchair with debilitating arthritis. Shirley is Grandma’s first granddaughter, and while she is not the oldest grandchild, she was always very close to Grandma. Grandma lived with the Wolfe family for many years, and so the two of them shared many good times, and Shirley has many great memories of those times, and of her grandma. They are memories that most of us younger grandchildren wish we had too. I don’t remember my grandmother at all, because she died when I was just three months old, but in some ways, I really think I must be a bit like her…especially when it comes to my grandchildren.
Shirley told me of the times when she was in trouble with her mother, my aunt, Ruth Spencer Wolfe. She said she would run in to Grandma, yelling, “Grandma, Grandma, Grandma!!” Then she would climb up in Grandma’s lap a wait for her mother to come in after her. Grandma was always a bit of a peacemaker, and like me, she hated to see her grandchildren being disciplined. As grandmothers, we know they have to be disciplined…otherwise, they turn out pretty bratty, but it still breaks our hearts that our precious little babies have to get punished. Unfortunately, their parents don’t always like our soft hearted ways. They think that Grandma is a pushover…and, really we are. So, our pushover Grandma, would lift Shirley up into her lap and make a game of protecting Shirley from her mom’s punishment. Aunt Ruth got frustrated during those little episodes, like most parents would, but most of the time, in the end, she laughed along with her mother and her daughter, because she knew that this battle was lost.
My grandchildren were totally my weakness too. I was a fairly strict disciplinarian with my daughters, Corrie and Amy, but when it came to the grandkids, I was a pushover. Everyone knew it, from the grandkids to their parents, and even my parents and sisters. Even if the kids did something wrong when they stayed with me, their parents never knew it, because I didn’t want them to get into trouble. Thankfully, they are good kids, and they don’t take serious advantage of their grandma…or maybe they do, and I am too much of a pushover to realize it. My status as a pushover became a family joke of sorts too. The kids always knew that if Bob and I went out of town, we were going to bring them something back. They have had a variety of toys, candy, souvenirs, and t-shirts, including one of my favorite t-shirts. It was the one that went something like, “When all else fails…Call 1-800-Grandma.”
We have laughed at and used that saying many times over the years, and while I can’t say for sure that they ever really told on their parents, they did do their best to spend the night often. Maybe their parents were grouchy, and they wanted to go spend time with the pushover, or maybe they just liked to spend the might with their grandma, I can’t say for sure. One thing I can say for sure, however, is that kids have been calling 1-800-Grandma in one way or another, for as long as grandmothers have existed. There is simply no way for a mother who was a good parent to their own kids, not to relax and realize that you don’t always have to take life so seriously with your grandchildren.