By Kathryn and Allan Zullo
When we learned we were going to be grandparents for the first time, we experienced a slight moment of panic. What did we really know about being grandparents? It was in the fall of 1995. We were active fortysomethings — nothing like the stereotypical gray-haired grandmas and grandpas who sat in rocking chairs, baked cookies, whittled toys and told stories of the “good old days.” We weren’t like the Ensure-swilling senior citizens or the frumpy, wrinkled elderly neighbors so often portrayed in TV commercials and movies.
We were typical boomer grandparents-to-be — younger, healthier, wealthier, and better educated than our grandparents were. We were more active and less formal than our own parents were at our age. We no longer fit the traditional yet unrealistic image of our elderly kin because they lived in a different period.
We were determined to become the best grandparents possible by relying on our heart, our instincts and the confidence that we’ll do a good job. But life, families and roles are so different now than when our grandparents and parents were tending to their grandkids. Hoping to get a little guidance, we headed to the bookstores shortly after our grandson Chad was born. We searched for a book on grandparenting aimed at our generation, a guide that would offer tips and suggestions helpful to us.
We found several fine books written by experts. But they dealt with older grandparents who had time on their hands. Almost all the books were warmhearted memoirs, detailed studies or straight how-to’s for the retired grandparent. Although many of the experts’ tips certainly made sense for nanas and papas of any age and any generation, we still couldn’t find a book that spoke directly to us — boomer grandparents.
How does the boomer cope with the changing dynamics of today’s family? Deal with new parenting techniques and baby products? Spend quality time with the grandkids while still pursuing work and enjoying pastimes?
That’s when we decided to write The Nanas and the Papas — a book geared toward expectant boomer grandparents and those with infant or toddler grandkids. For the book, we sought out experts who offered relevant tips, suggestions, experiences and the latest research that has the greatest impact on new grandparents.
We interviewed the guru of grandparents, Arthur Kornhaber, M.D., founder of the Foundation for Grandparenting. He and his wife Carol initiated the Grandparent Study to systematically investigate the grandparent/grandchild relationship — research that continues to this day. Dr. Kornhaber, a grandpa who since 1970 has been a tireless champion for grandparent involvement in family life, graciously answered our questions and allowed us to quote from his studies.