Play Like a Grandmother
Recently I watched my 92-year-old grandmother play with my five-year-old daughter.
My grandmother is a proper woman, polite, kind, fun, and slightly stubborn. There is a streak of gray running through her mostly-black hair, still naturally dark. I always think she looks the same as she did thirty years ago when I got to play with her, but I guess she looks older now. More frail. You wouldn’t know from looking at her that she once swam with alligators in the bayous of southern Louisiana.
I watched as she brushed the Barbie doll’s hair with poise and dignity, giving it all of her attention and taking time to make it the perfect style. This was after she had read books, watched cartoons, and admired all of my daughter’s other toys and dress-up things all day long. Watching her, it was easy to understand why I loved to spend time with my grandmother when I was a child. She was fun.
When it’s my turn to play, I have a hard time giving all of my attention, and I think that’s normal–expected, even, since I am the mom and not the grandmother. I tend to rely more on doing these supporting activities from the sidelines:
Facilitate – I arrange play dates and plan activities. I listen to her wish list and think about what may delight her. I buy supplies for craft projects and suggest new ideas.
Photograph – I want to have those special memories recorded. I keep records of the funny and notable things she’s said.
Moderate – When little brother gets in the way, I step in. I also worry when she slides down my grandmother’s legs with squeals, and I suddenly notice that my grandmother’s legs look a lot more frail and bony than I remember. I think maybe they shouldn’t do that, but she doesn’t seem to mind.
Watch – I observe what she knows and how she grows. I admire the twirls and all the “Look at me’s!”
These are all good things, but the one thing she wants me to do the most? Play. Just play, mama. Like I don’t have all the time in the world left to play with her later. I can make sure that the time I spend with her is totally, completely focused on her and what she likes to do.
Can you step in from the sidelines today to play with your kids?Published September 20, 2011. Last updated April 25, 2018.