Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here


Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

(Video) Jane Seymour, the Grandmother: Jane Seymour explains the art and joys of grandparenting

Annie Korzen Asks: Are You a Thoroughly Modern Grandmother?

The TV actress of 'Seinfeld' fame compares raising a grandchild from then to now

spinner image Are You a Thoroughly Modern Grandmother?
Raising children has changed since the 1970s.
Getty Images

This year my son and his wife presented me with a beautiful baby boy.

Hey, it occurred to me, this makes me a grandmother!

Then, just as quickly, I calculated that no one could be less qualified for the job. Back in the 1970s, you see, we raised children differently:

Early childhood activities

Now: Swim classes at 6 months, cognitive-development coach at 1 year

Then: Eating, drinking and pooping, often simultaneously

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership


Flash Sale! Join AARP for just $9 per year with a 5-year membership. Join now and get a FREE GIFT

Join Now

Baby food

Now: Fat-free, carb-free, gluten-free. The organic produce is locally grown, the water distilled

Then: Whatever could be easily mashed, including last night's spaghetti with spicy meatballs


Now: "You want to hold the baby? Sure — do you mind wearing these surgical gloves?"

Then: "Please don't let the baby eat anything that's been on the floor longer than three hours."


Now: That Dolce & Gabbana outfit was only $575?

Then: Hand-me-downs from friends and family. Maybe the pink tutu wasn't appropriate for my son, but the price was right.


Now: Once an applicant has been vetted by Homeland Security, her every move is tracked by nanny cam.

Then: Once you hired the high schooler next door, you prayed the house wouldn't smell too strongly of weed on your return.

Getting around

Now: Responsible adult chaperone on all excursions until the child is walked down the aisle

Then: For his 12th birthday, we gave our son a subway map. "See you at your high school graduation, sweetie!"


Now: No screen time before age 2; studies show it impedes healthy brain development.

Then: Unfettered access to the world's cheapest babysitter

After-school activities

Now: Soccer, ballet, band practice, tae kwon do, app design; I'm telling you, Mondays are just packed!

Then: A couple of piano lessons, then lots of unstructured time for creative pursuits (leaning out the apartment window to drop yogurt on passersby, for one)


Now: Kids join the guests at the dinner table; the conversation is with and about them.

Then: It was strictly "No comments from the peanut gallery!" at the kids' table. But they were close enough to the dirty jokes and cigarette smoke to feel part of the festivities.


Now: When he wants to eat all his Halloween candy in one sitting, lovingly explain the consequences of such a rash action until he understands and accepts your point of view.

Then: When he wanted to eat all his Halloween candy in one sitting, you'd bellow, "Because I'm the mother, and I say you can't!" Occasionally, it was necessary to confiscate the offending articles — and eat them all in one sitting.

See more Health & Wellness offers >


Now: "Schuyler, I'm not disappointed in you personally; I'm disappointed in your action [of stabbing the cat]."

Then: A swat on the butt, followed by a heartfelt "May your brats be twice as bad!"


Now: Professional magician, live jungle animals, solar-powered bounce house, gift bags from Tiffany or Apple

Then: A bucket of fast-food chicken, then spur-of-the-moment party games: "Timmy, what did I tell you? There's no crying in poker!"

Rites of passage

Now: Destination bar mitzvahs in exotic lands (Hawaii, Tahiti, Tibet) where the grownups eat too much and the kids act stupid

Then: Destination bar mitzvahs in exotic lands (Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx) where the grownups ate too much and the kids acted stupid

Summer vacation

Now: Fat camp, music camp, tech camp or a European jaunt

Then: A one-week stay at the country home of elderly relatives

The teen years

Now: Weekly family visits with a therapist to stave off drug addiction, unsafe sex and eating disorders

Then: Teenagers were known to be sociopaths, so contact with them was wisely minimized.

Boomerang kids

Now: After college, the child moves home while "looking for a job" — that is, playing video games and rolling his eyes when asked to clean his room.

Then: "We changed the locks!"

Actress and writer Annie Korzen played Doris Klompus on Seinfeld.

(Video) Jane Seymour, the Grandmother: Jane Seymour explains the art and joys of grandparenting

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?