Who hasn't heard the parental howl, 'Don't play with your food!'? It came to mind one day while I was visiting my sister, Ronnie Seidenberg, who lives five miles from me in Voorhees, N.J. When her
year-old grandson threw blueberries across the kitchen floor, I thought, uh-oh. As a parent, she was always cleaning up after her children when they were toddlers. Playing with food was not an
accepted activity. But here was my sister, smiling!
She caught me staring, mouth agape. She leaned over and sheepishly said, 'I would never have allowed my own children to do this.' No kidding! I didn't know what her grandson's parents thought about this -- they were sleeping and I wasn't about to wake them to tattle on my sister. I did know that she was breaking her own parent rule. As I said, aliens.
Dolores 'Mom-Mom' Kozielski of Marlton, N.J., has three granddaughters who have heaps of toys with which to play. But they'd rather amuse themselves with the forbidden things. Their mother doesn't let them try on her jewelry. That doesn't mean grandma won't! Mom-Mom not only allows her granddaughters to open their mother's jewelry box and play with the contents, she joins in the fun. They play jewelry store together. Says 60-year-old Kozielski, 'I tell my daughter, 'this is my house with my rules.'
'My daughter is obsessed about the kids,' says Southampton, N.J., grandma Peg Ryan. 'Somebody needs to break the rules to help them relax!' At home, her grandchildren have to be in bed by 9:00 p.m. On school nights, grandma abides by the lights-out rule. 'I don't countermand anything that's important,' says 60-year-old Ryan. 'But when I babysit on the weekends, I let them go to sleep whenever they want.'
When I ask Mary Simons from Pittsburgh if she breaks her grand daughters' parents' rules, she says 'Absolutely!,' without a hint of remorse. Which ones? 'Whichever ones I want to,' says Simons, 62. 'When I'm babysitting, I do what I want.' She buys her two granddaughters things that their parents might not choose for them. 'If their mother thinks they should have a particular toy and they want a doll, they're getting a doll,' she says. 'I figure grandparents have privileges.'
Frances Cosney from Pomona, N.J. often stays with her grandson when her daughter goes out of town on business. He's now a teenager but when he was younger, she says, 'I let him come into the bed with me to give him some extra love.' She remembers when he was four or five years old, he would wake up at night and crawl into her bed. She knows her daughter didn't agree with that but she wanted to comfort her grandson. 'He's my charm and my joy,' says 79-year-old Cosney.
Bradley Beach, N.J., author Harriet May Savitz is an admitted rule breaker. Her four grandchildren know that when they visit, all rules are out the window. Particularly rules about television. At
home they are allowed to watch until 8:30 p.m. or 9:00 p.m. However, on weekend sleepovers at their grandmother's place, they can watch as late as they want to. She watches with them! 'They watch
'til 10 or 11 o'clock,' says Savitz, 74. They've even watched until 3:00 a.m., which her grandchildren thought was very cool. 'It's our special time,' she says.
Well, maybe we don't turn into aliens. What I hear in these grandparents' voices is delight in being with their grandchildren. Rules come second. There is a sense of perspective here. Says Ryan, 'As grandparents you realize that you drove your kids nuts for absolutely no good reason.'
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