A Boomer Asks: How Did Our Kids Survive?

If you are younger than a baby boomer, don’t read this. It will only upset you. Give it to your parents or grandparents. They will relate.  


I am almost 60 and became the beyond-words-thrilled grandmother of my daughter’s twins three years ago. Heaven. We live a few blocks from each other in Manhattan, and they recently bought their own house in East Hampton. I would not have been too happy about losing them from under our summerhouse roof except their new house is only 500 yards away. Close call. Literally.


My daughter is the writer in the family. Published, successful, MBA and now full-time mom. It all started with their first trip to visit us in our winter home in Arizona. I treated to the first-class tickets – five of them, to accommodate the nurse and car seats (plane seats), which young people and their babies require today. I rationalized the extra expense because it’s a long flight. Five and a half hours.


Back when I was a new mother, my daughter was what we called a “lap child.” Remember? She flew for free as long as she stayed on my lap. I prayed for an understanding seatmate my first time out, and my baby ended up sleeping through the whole trip from New York to Ohio in a cardboard box at my feet, which the stewardess (not flight attendant) gave me and helped me assemble. True story. This is an example of why this generation of parents should just skip this story. It’s just too inconceivable for them. We both arrived safe and sound (and well-rested).


My wonderful husband of 10 years went to Hertz the day before their arrival in Arizona and rented the biggest car/wagon/SUV/

almost truck he could find. If big families are in your future, I’d buy Ford stock straight away. Our Ford Expedition seated eight, which, of course, we needed since the car seats plus the three adults plus us grandparents all had to fit. We drove it to the airport to greet them, and soon, down the ramp came our two precious babies each being strolled in their own car seat-cum-collapsible wheels and handle. Perfect for travel. This is only one of a few models my daughter and her husband own having checked out the variety they would need online.


In anticipation of their trip here, my daughter had emailed me a required list of equipment to have on hand. It was detailed, to say the least, and even included “can opener” for the quarts of formula. She clearly forgot that I cook in my house. I emailed the list to two other local grandmothers to see what I could borrow. One responded ASAP, but the other never did and when I ran into her and asked her why I hadn’t heard back from her, she was surprised. “Oh, I just thought you sent the list to me as a joke to see how hysterical it was.”


Well, she didn’t have anything for me to borrow anyway.


A trip to Babies “R” Us with my husband and his visiting daughter produced a scavenger-hunt mentality for the three of us and in record time we crossed off most everything on the list.


But upon arrival at home with the babies straight from the airport, I quickly realized I failed “Pac ’n’ Play” 101. The borrowed one was too low. How could a baby possibly sleep that low? It seemed the same lowness as the one in the store, but who was I to judge? Hadn’t heard of  “Pac ’n’ Play” until recently anyway. I have been busy learning a new vocabulary. So, like any totally grateful new grandmother, thrilled that they were visiting, I ran to Target and returned in record time with the new one. Different? I just don’t know!


I’m not that bright, but I did get the hint my daughter had dropped about homemade baby food. I mean, made in my home. So as a “surprise” for her, I cooked carrots (“OK”), applesauce (“Way too chunky – where’s the food processor?”) and sweet potatoes (“They’re so yellow.” … “You said sweet potatoes not yams.” … “Oh, is there a difference?”) But they loved my food processor, which is now at home on their counter in New York. Must remember to run to Target to replace it so I’m ready for their next visit.


Let’s discuss strapping-in. Remember our high chairs – those big wooden slatted things? My daughter scolds me when I question the need to strap the babies into their fully padded high chairs. But who am I to question?



I don’t think I’ll tell her about the totally unstructured, unsupported cloth umbrella stroller she sat in when she went on errands with me. She has not complained of back pain yet. And on those errands I remember picking up some latches to keep the bathroom and kitchen cabinets closed as well as some solid plugs to plug up electrical outlets around my apartment. There. The home was childproofed.  


Not so fast! My daughter and her husband have had their country home childproofed by a professional child-proofer. Seriously. Cost? “A lot” was all I could get out of them. But now they are considering using the same guy for their New York home since they liked him better than the first guy who didn’t cut the mustard with them. Where do they find these people? Is this a registered business?


Guess they found their “sleep expert” the same way. At seven months, the twins (did I mention they are a boy and a girl?) were on a fairly sketchy schedule. Dressed to kill in little-people clothes (whatever happened to onesies all day long on babies) and totally sleep-deprived despite a lovely baby nurse still under contract who slept with the babies, my daughter and her husband hired and followed the sleep professional’s plan for letting the babies cry it out while reassuring them every five minutes that Mom was still there. Hmmm. Wasn’t this in one of Dr. Spock's chapters? It seems vaguely familiar. Anyway, we don’t butt in or offer advice (unless asked), and after a few days, the sleep plan worked. Success. Happy babies, happy parents. Nurse? Well, we’ll see.


So here I am for the first time with the babies alone, that is, with my daughter and son-in-law away for the day, and me at home with the nurse, my housekeeper’s 12-year-old daughter (inspired, huh?) and my loving husband. How did I manage to find the time to write this down with the minute-by-minute schedule the babies are now on? Guess I’ve been shirking my grandmotherly responsibilities, but I just had to share this with someone! The joys of grandparenting, which I wouldn’t trade for the world!  


Story by Ellen Katz, written in February 2008. Her twin grandchildren have survived her grandparenting and are now 4½.



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