A year after her daughter gave birth, Paula began writing about grandparenting for the Times. Her column, Generation Grandparent, appears four to six times a year. It has explored topics from digital grandparenting to the increasing numbers of grandparents per child and grandparents’ influx into delivery rooms.
We were standing in line at the ferry dock in Provincetown, Mass., on a glorious, crystalline day last summer that made saying goodbye a bit harder than usual.
“End of an era,” said my daughter Emma, bound home to Brooklyn after our annual summer stay in a rented house on the Outer Cape.
Kathy Koehler had made elaborate plans to meet her first grandchild. Her daughter, who was expecting a baby last March, lived in London, and Ms. Koehler intended to fly there from her home in Ann Arbor, Mich.
She had collected a small stash of blankets, toys and clothes to tuck into her suitcase, and reserved a bed-and-breakfast near her daughter’s flat for the month of April.
“I’d be there every day and help out and get to know this little guy,” said Ms. Koehler, who’s 63. “I could not wait.”
That trip never took place, of course. Nor did her daughter make a planned visit home in October to introduce her new son, Elya, to the rest of the family. Covid-19 intervened.
Preparing for my granddaughter’s first solo sleepover at my apartment bore a certain resemblance to welcoming a head of state or some other V.I.P.
At the supermarket, I laid in provisions: the breakfast cereal she liked, cocoa for hot chocolate on a cold afternoon, ingredients for baking projects. I’d been buying secondhand books and toys for a while, but now I ordered additional art supplies and a simple board game.
What else could help occupy a 4-year-old over 24 hours? Bulbs! We could plant daffodils in the still-soft dirt outside the front door and watch them produce flowers next spring. I drove to a garden center.
When my granddaughter was born, my own role was very clear: Keep a packed bag handy. Head for Brooklyn as soon as my daughter, Emma, called to say she was on the way to the hospital with her husband. Move into their apartment for the duration to walk and feed Pearl, their sweet ancient Labrador. Wait by the phone.
Being assigned to canine care was perfectly fine; I was glad to be useful. It never occurred to me that I could actually be in the delivery room when this baby arrived, and it didn’t occur to my daughter to invite me, or anyone else.
Emma wanted a quiet, private birth with her partner and their nurse-midwife. Her own birth 30-some years earlier had been much the same.
What I call Bubbe’s Folly began when a catalog for a British pottery maker showed up in my mailbox a few months ago, intended for a former tenant who’d moved away, not for me. But I leafed idly through it — and spotted something wonderful.
The earthenware plate had blue and white stars sprinkled around the rim and, charmingly painted in the center, my granddaughter’s favorite bird. Because the pattern was being discontinued, I could buy both the plate and a matching mug for a reasonable 30 bucks. I headed for my computer to place an order.
That wasn’t the folly part.