Where have all the Maw Maws gone?
If the word “Maw Maw” was in the dictionary, the definition would look something like this:
Maw Maw (pronounced maw maw)
1. noun: slang terminology for grandmother; from the slang term “Grandmaw”
2. adjective: to describe a grandmotherly appearance - ex:
short curly perm, wearing of polyester pants and floral blouse; to
describe “grandmotherly” ways or to describe someone who acts too old
for their age - ex: driving a Cadillac, Crown Victoria, Lincoln sedan
(any land yacht) before the age of 40.
Being a “Maw Maw” in my home was always right up there with wearing
white shoes after Labor Day. It just wasn’t done. My mother prided
herself on being totally different from her mother. My mother was a
baby boomer and proud of it. She was hip and cool and she drank
wine…good wine…not like her Southern Baptist teetotalling Mama, who was
content to watch Lawrence Welk on Saturday night while she crocheted
afghans for the church craft fair. No, my mother, a divorced
professional woman, wouldn’t be caught dead doing anything so…well…”maw
Alas, I have to say that I miss the days of “maw maw.” Maw Maw is
what I called both of my grandmothers. They were frugal, God-fearing,
collard green stewing, crafty, tight curly perm wearin’ women. Did I
happen to mention that I spent most of my time with them?
If my mother had a date, business meeting, unexpected girls’ night
out, vacation, etc….Maw Maw was there to keep me. I can’t tell you how
many days and nights that I spent over at Maw Maw’s house. I helped
Maw Maw plant tomatoes, snap beans, grocery shop, and she taught me to
sew. Maw Maw told me that cigarettes were “cancer sticks” and that
beer was “horse piss.” (My mother smoked and yes, she drank)
Maw Maw made my Easter dress every year. If I happened to spend the
night on a Saturday, it was expected that I’d go to church on Sunday.
Everyone at both Maw Maws’ churches knew me. It was commonplace at
Redeemer Baptist Church for the organist to cue up “When the Roll is
Called Up Yonder” when I’d appear on a Sunday morning. The organist
knew it was my favorite hymn. The only time Maw Maw freaked me out was
when she told me about how Jesus would come back in the Rapture and
take me alive…if I believed in him, got Saved, and made him my Lord and
Savior. I didn’t tell Maw Maw, but I would secretly pray that God
would let me go to college first…then He could come get me in the
Why this trip down memory lane? Well, several of my girlfriends and
I were lamenting about not having a sitter for one event after
another. Many of us just don’t do dates with our husbands or bookclub
as much as we’d like because we can’t find a sitter. Plus, with the
economy in shambles, many of us have opted to forgo sitters all
together. While discussing this issue, one of my friends commented
that her mother lived in town…as did mine. Why had it not occurred to
ask Grandma to babysit? It seems as though it’s far too complicated to
hash out. When my friend and I looked at each other, I knew that we
had the same problem. We didn’t have a “Maw Maw.”
Many of us “X” generation moms just don’t have a “Maw Maw” kind of
mom. They don’t want or desire to be anything like their mothers….and
this includes babysitting. Where the baby boomer mom could just drop
off little Sally or Johnny for a day, the same baby boomer mom is just
not interested in babysitting now that they are the grandparent. At
least, this is what I’m hearing out there.
(OK, if you are the babysitting kind of grandmother…don’t
comment or feel compelled to email, etc. I’ll cover you in a minute.
Bare with me. Thanks!)
I do know of several moms, who are my age, whose mothers are more
than content to babysit their grandchildren. I have one friend in
particular, Patti, who does such a phenomenal job as a Grandma that I
bet she’d be thrilled to call herself a “Maw Maw.” I know Patti would
wear this title as a badge of honor.
Sadly, I know too many older women who just never felt like they
were “old enough” to be a grandmother…not at 55, not at 60, not at 65.
It’s almost like some women think that the moment they become a
grandmother it will suck the lifeblood out of them. Like grandchildren
will become some drain on their fleeting youth.
Some grandparents require two weeks notice before babysitting or
refuse to do it at all. I even know someone who has had her mother
cancel on so many occasions at the last minute, that it’s just not
worth it to ask anymore. Another friend of mine, almost lost her job
because her mother backed out of their agreed paid
childcare arrangement when she was a mere two weeks into a new job and
no other childcare could be found. She finally found an opening at a
Mother’s Day Out program at the last minute.
I have one friend in particular who told me that her mother came to
visit her and chose not to spend any time with her grandchildren.
Instead, she wanted to shop with her daughter and go out to dinner -
all sans grandchildren. My friend was upset because she felt like her
children missed out on being with their grandmother. I told her that
it was the other way around. Her mother was the one who missed out.
Am I saying that grandparents should babysit? Absolutely not. I’m
just saying that there are benefits…on both ends…of having a
relationship with extended family members. It helps everyone out. I
know that plenty of us, “X gen’s” listened to our parents advice as
they told us:
“Have fun in your 20’s, don’t get married ’till your 30, and you can take as long as you want to have kids!”
Not so great advice, Mom & Dad! Thanks to all of your party
lovin’ groovy advice, we’ll be spread thin by the time we’re 50! We’ll
have college to pay for when we should be worrying about retirement…and
we’ll have to care for aging parents. Sandwich generation? No, call
us the pressure cooker generation. I’m just saying that it would be
nice to feel more gracious about what we have to face down the road if
the extended family was more deeply rooted.
I also believe that “do overs” don’t come very often. We can get
the chance, as parents, to parent well with our own children. If we
are fortunate, we can learn from our mistakes and do things better
(patience, love, understanding, fun) when we welcome grandchildren into
Ameriprise Financial Services has a t.v. ad spot featuring Dennis
Hopper. Mr. Hopper and all of the baby boomers are dressed in black
leather jackets throwing pottery on a wheel and listening to acid rock.
The ad discusses the “alternative” retirement options for their
intended audience. It can’t be mistaken that the ad doesn’t picture
any of the elderly audience surrounded by family and grandchildren.
Instead, the actors are portrayed as living out in Arizona…alone….being
creative and hip. Definitely not “maw maw.” No, way, man!
Sophistication has its place, but you can seriously miss a lot in
life when you are so “grown up” that you can’t relish children. It’s
not botox that keeps you young. Wearing a Nicole Miller ensemble won’t
do that for you, either. Listening to the latest music doesn’t make
you cool. Throwing pottery on a wheel or listening to the Grateful
Dead won’t do the trick. Youth is fleeting.
I have three sons. I love them. I like them as people. I love
being a mother. I definitely look forward to having grandchildren…but,
hey, I really like kids. Kids keep you young. Kids know how to really
have fun. I think being a “Maw Maw” will be great.
So I have to ask: When did becoming a “Maw Maw” become passe? I’m not sure I’ll ever know the answer to that.
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