Grandparents roles may change, but lots stay same

They spoil you rotten. They feed you treats instead of dinner. And they always have time for one last story.

They continue to enjoy such traditional roles, but increasingly grandparents are becoming the family safety net, filling in for absent parents who are ill, in prison or battling addiction. They pay for the extras that parents struggle to keep up with -- camp, sports, tutoring or music lessons.

And above all else, they delight in you calling them nana or pawpaw, granny and papa or some such variation.

But in the years since former President Jimmy Carter first declared Grandparents Day a national holiday in 1979, the observance has come and gone with little, if any, fanfare.

And yet, local grandparents say, none of that matters. Being a grandparent, as Mildred Pope put it, is the best thing in the world.

"I love my grandbabies to death," she said.

Pope, a substitute teacher and retired AT&T supervisor, credits those grandbabies, now aged 14 to 22, with inspiring her to write a series of children's books.

For years the 62-year-old grandmother was struck by how similar her grandchildren were to her son and two daughters. Growing up, she said, their constant refrain was "but I don’t wanna take a bath, but I don’t wanna go to school, but I don’t wanna clean my room.”

“When I started having grandkids, it started all over,” she said, laughing.

Soon after her mother died in 2007, Pope said she rose one night and wrote “But I Don’t Wanna Take a Bath!” a Mike and Tyke Series.

Whether you've inspired a series of books or not, if you're lucky enough to have a grandparent, you more than likely have wonderful memories of them and they of you.

And so we asked Pope and a few others, to tell us about their most endearing moment as grandparents. Here's what they said:

We were screaming and dancing and I was in love -- with the moment and my seven grandchildren, who were vacationing with me in Hilton Head, N.C.

There was nothing all that unusual about the moment. We spend a lot of time together. If we’re not celebrating birthdays, holidays, we’re gathering for Sunday dinner and the endless rounds of dominoes, tic-tac-toe or Scrabble on game night. And so this was just another in a long line of moments God has given us, my three children included, to remember.

As it happened, we were crammed that night into my hotel room, doing the wobble slide, a popular line dance.

“Grandma, please go sit down,” they shouted, not really meaning it. They love and cherish these moments and the laughter as much as I do.

I ended the wobble slide on the floor, but I was hardly tired. We had yet to form the Soul Train and I planned on being the first in line.

Mildred Pope, 62, Lithonia


The moment we saw him was like the moment we first saw one of our own children, only his birth was hardly a surprise.

Christopher Hendricks entered the world on Oct. 19, 2006, the day doctors scheduled his mother’s cesarean section at WellStar Cobb Hospital.

He was like an extension of Dan and I. His eyes popped open and he looked at us like he had been waiting for the moment as much as we had.

It was as if he said, “I’m here!”

He’s five now and there have been many more moments just as special, including the day he and his mom arrived at our home for a visit.

Just as Christopher stepped onto the back lawn, he spotted his grandfather, threw his little arms out and for the first time called him “Papa.”

As grand as his birth was, it’s hard to imagine a moment to top that.

Dan, 57 and Carolyn Meier, 55, of McDonough


It’s not the big things, but the little things that warm a grandparent’s heart. My 3-year-old grandson Jackson and the day he announced there’d been a fire in his room comes to mind.

Inspection and interrogation showed he’d tried to loop his big sister’s metal bracelet over the nightlight. Pulled out a bit, metal made contact with the nightlight’s electrical prongs, and “snap, crackle and pop,” a plume of smoke, and a lucky kid who fortunately didn’t get shocked, just scared.

Jackson was crying, but just the smile on their face when one of them sees you is enough. And when your grandchild asks, “Why is Papa’s hair grey?” or they call chipmunks “chicken milk”, you can only feel unending love. Going for walks, catching bugs, swinging the swings, it’s all fun and a blessing.

The best part is that they are not your full responsibility, but you love them as if they were your own. And when they look at you and say, “I just want to be with you,” there is nothing better.

Jack, 63, and Darla Gilson, 62, of Fayetteville


When we found out we were going to be grandparents for the first time, Freddie and I were so excited that we decided to go "black tie" to the birthing. Freddie even bought a tux so that, no matter when Jack (and later Mason) was born, that tux would be handy. Everybody chuckled as we waltzed into the waiting room, but we didn't care. We wanted our grandsons, when they saw pictures of their birthdays, to know how special their arrival was to their "Pee Paw" and "Re Re."

Yet, when a friend, soon to become a new Grandmother herself, asked me to explain the higher level of happiness one enters upon becoming a Grandparent, I told her this story:

As a teenager, I loved to read those thick novels about early Chinese emperors: How it often took a whole year to make one set of an emperor's elaborate undergarments. How one emperor's wrists were slashed when caught doing a chore for his own too-royal self.

And how every last one of a particular emperor's bowel movements were immediately GOLD PLATED.

It wasn't until I entered the rarified atmosphere of Grandmotherhood that I completely understood such a fine custom.

Freddie, 67, and Marie Nix, 65, of Knoxville, Tenn. The Nixes grandchildren live in Canton.

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