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