How to be the Best Grandma (and Drive Your Adult Kids Crazy)

by Erris Klapper July 15, 2016

My mom is a grandma on steroids, blinded by adoration, paranoia, and utter subjectivity when it comes to the objects of her perfection – oops, I meant, affection.

She is wild about her grandchildren. So what exactly is the problem? Well, she does some things – lovingly, of course – that annoy the life out of her adult children.

Here are 7 of her nuttiest quirks:

1. She feeds the kids incessantly.

My mom believes that it’s impossible to be “not hungry."

“There’s always room,” she says.

Sure Mom, if you want us to explode. Whenever I try to explain that we’ve already eaten, she acts as though she’s either hearing impaired or she's hearing this concept for the first time. She flits about her kitchen opening and closing the refrigerator while covering every available surface with platters she prepared at 5 a.m., ignoring our protests.

By the way, she's up that early because she’s worried about the grandchildren – anything could’ve happened overnight.

2. She thinks dessert is a food group to be consumed with every meal.

I beg my mother not to sneak brownies behind my back all day, but she insists that she only serves brownies once at most.

The other four desserts were just, “a little something." A tiny cookie or two, a cupcake, chocolate and some candy. She'll claim that last one doesn't even count because she pulled it out of her purse on the way to the ice cream truck.

3. She’s forgotten all about the rule regarding wasting food.

My mother has conveniently forgotten all about the starving kids in Africa we heard so much about growing up.

Her new motto is, "No one should eat what they don't want to eat.”

If that had been her motto when I was kid, I would’ve subsisted on chocolate, bread, and French fries. But she didn’t allow that kind of nonsense back when she was a conventional person.

4. She is fiercely overprotective of her grandchildren.

My siblings and I heavily monitor what we share with my mom regarding the grandchildren’s schooling. She’s not exactly what you’d expect from a well-respected, retired teacher who went on to get a PhD and become a full professor.

When she found out that a kid at school had picked on my niece, she launched into, "What? Someone picked on you at school? I'm calling that dumb-useless-no-good-principal of yours!"

Um, Mom? No, you're not. That's not how we handle conflict. Please stop calling the principal names in front of the kids.

5. She calls her kids every day, at all hours of the day.

The same woman who sent us off to college and trusted that we could take care of ourselves all week long until our weekly check-in, now calls ten times a day. I mean, after all, these are her grandchildren we’re raising.

The calling is lovely, but the start time, not so much. My mother is especially fond of pre-7 a.m. calls on her way to swimming laps with her early-riser friends. That way she can check in with us to verify that everyone is eating breakfast – how can you function on an empty stomach?

6. She is consumed with grandchild-related paranoia.

On any given day my voicemail is filled with, "I’ve already called twice this morning on your home phone and three times on your cell, and you didn't pick up. I left messages for the kids too. I'm wondering if I should just head over to the hospital."

For years I've explained that our mornings are nuts. I may be upstairs, outside, or just busy. My kids are not likely to pick up their phones during school and maybe – just maybe – I can't get to the phone.

The likelihood of the grandchildren lying in a ditch at the crack of dawn when we just spoke the night before is slim-to-none, but that doesn't mean the disaster scenarios in her head don't take on an ugly life of their own.

7. She acts as though her grandchildren are perfect.

My mother truly believes her grandchildren are perfect. As the mother of two of her grandchildren, I can assure you she’s wrong.

To help convince me, my mother offers, "I just saw photos of so-and-so's grandchildren. Not so cute and not so smart, if you want to know the truth."

When I tell her that I’m sure she’s wrong, biased, and that no, I don’t really want to know “the truth," she’s completely shocked. I ask her how she'd feel if someone said that about her grandchildren?

“Well, that wouldn’t happen because mine are perfect."

My children have always worshipped their grandma, and I mean, why shouldn't they? She adores them, dotes on them, protects them, and loves them with abandon.

When they were little, and the kids had spent a weekend with my mother, engage in a rewiring protocol designed to bring them back to reality. We worked over-time to correct, redirect, and drive home the point that our house rules were different from Grandma's, and non-negotiable. Now that they're teens, my kids understand the shtick and appreciate the eccentricity, without fully buying into it.

And even my mom has found a way to laugh at herself – but she's not changing any time soon.

Erris Klapper


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