“Nana Camp,” Jan. 3, 2017

Once in a great while, an idea comes along like a bolt of lightning out of the blue, dazzling you with its brilliance and making you want to shout it from the rooftops.

This idea is not that good. Not even close. But it’s not bad. It may never change the world, but it could make it more fun.

I started thinking about it six years ago when my first grandchild was born. I’d always wanted to be a grandmother. My grandmothers meant the world to me. I wanted to be just like them. Except for their fondness for dipping snuff.

Raising three children of my own had taught me all I needed to know (and then some) about the care, feeding and nurturing of children, not to mention, how to outsmart and survive them.

Or so I thought.

Imagine my surprise to find myself ill-equipped to be a grandmother.

In the 1940s and ‘50s, my mother’s generation became the first to take to its bosom, so to speak, the practice of feeding infants a mass-produced “formula” from a bottle, rather than “mother-produced” breastmilk from a breast.

Bottle feeding became so common that by the ‘70s, when I chose to breastfeed my babies, my mother was appalled.  My grandmothers, however, were proud of me. I felt so smart. I read all the baby books, learned all the latest. I was Supermom, raising super-human kids.

And yet, much of what seemed so right to me back then has since proven wrong. A lot of the “good” foods I fed them were actually bad, laced with chemicals and Lord knows what else. Their toys were lethal weapons. Their jammies were flammable. The car seats I strapped them in, praying to keep them “safe,” were junk. I could’ve twisted them into pretzels with my bare hands.

The car seats, not the kids.

In time, as a mother, I learned to count on four things: Love. Constant vigilance. A good friend to laugh or cry with. And the unfailing grace of God.

Those things (plus a roof over our heads, bad food on our table and a strange sense of humor) served me and my children well. They’re the same things I now count on as a grandmother.

But there’s lots that I’ve forgotten. And everything keeps changing.

OK, so here is my big idea. I’m still fleshing it out. Before I finish, someone else might rip it off and run with it. Just remember, you read it here first.

Two words: “Nana Camp!”

Picture a day-long seminar for rookie or veteran grandmothers who want to brush up on their skills or just prop up their feet and laugh until they cry.

Food, snacks and drinks of choice will be abundant and sublime. Seating will be in recliners, no folding chairs. Pedicures and massage will be available throughout the day.

Classes and workshops will be led by experienced instructors on a wide range of topics such as:

  • “How to Buckle a Car Seat or Fold a Stroller without Losing Your Religion”;
  • “How to Change a Diaper on a Newborn Male without Getting Hosed”;
  • “How to Respect Parental Boundaries without Trashing Your Own.”

A special session on make-up and fashion tips (“How to Be a Grandma Without Looking Like One”) will be added if I can find someone qualified to teach it.

I personally will deliver the keynote address and lead the audience in a lively “Q&A.”

Best of all, ample time will be given to small groups in which participants will share stories and photos of their grandkids.

Sounds like a hoot, doesn’t it? Stay tuned. It’s coming soon (before I die) to your area, or any place that will have me.

If you’re a nana, or just wish you were (my dear friend has no grandbabes, but she’s happy to share mine) we are all in this together. Things change, but we can do what smart women have always done: Learn from each other, laugh and cry together, and prop each other up.

I’ll leave a light on for you.


  1. Marjorie Yoder says

    Great idea! I am forever struggling with car seats, strollers, and buckles. Despite these challenges, being a grandmom is the best gig ever!

  2. Loretta Whitney says

    We started having “Grand Camp” 25 years ago! Our grandchildren still talk about those adventures!

  3. Judi Kalvelage says

    Another great article!!! I am grandmother to eight grandchildren. Our grandbabies are growing up, however, so now waiting for those great-grandbabies. We have three children, and in 2004, all three were pregnant. I never dreamed that would happen. Emily Ann was born in July, Austin in December, and Dylan in January, 2005. Being a grandparent is such a blessing.

    Happy New Year to you, Sharon, and keep on writing, girl! Love your work!

  4. I’m in! Expecting our first two grandchildren in the spring and summer, and I’m already worried about what I don’t know! And is there a book recommended for us newcomers?

  5. Cheryl Steffins says

    I’m a grateful Nana and your Nana Camp sounds amazing!

  6. Kate Sciacca says

    I’m in! I’ve twisted MYSELF into a pretzel trying to buckle the &*%# car seats! I nursed six of the eight (ran out with the last two) and OF COURSE did the ’70’s natural childbirth thing… a couple years ago I watched my beautiful daughter smile through labor and delivery with an epidural… hmmmm….. But at least I realized that the low fat/ no fat thing they were pushing on kids in the ’80’s was just dumb…. I made sure my kiddos had lots of butter, cream and high fat milk… felt pretty darn good when the experts later realized that kids needed fat for healthy brain development ? Maybe the hostess donuts and Lucky Charms weren’t the best idea ?

  7. Melanie Jackson says

    Nana camp sounds amazing! I’ve been reading your column for years Sharon and never tire of your down-home wit.
    I hail from NorCal and have a precious and precocious 3 year old grandson that I adore to the moon and back AND have another one on the way! ~ keep me posted on the Nana Camp:)

  8. Heather Hennessey says

    Nana Camp? I’m in!

  9. Nancy Toombs says

    Sharon, My husband and I have had our own Grandparent Camp for the grandkids (5 of them) for a number of years. It has been lots of fun, but I’ve never been to a Nana camp to be trained! Never too old for such as this. Would love to come, sounds like a “hoot”. I’m a CA Nana, and wouldn’t mind coming to Nev. Are you hosting?
    Love your posts.

  10. Yes, please sign me up for “Nana(or in my case, Gigi) Camp!” My husband & I are both in our 70’s & didn’t get our first grandchild until 2 1/2 years ago; to tell you the truth, we had just about given up. We live in Texas & our son & daughter-in-law live in CA “of all places.” This summer, we were able to spend a whole month helping them out w/the newborn grandson & the 2 year old granddaughter! It was a wonderful, exhausting experience, but we were glad we had our own place to retreat to! There are so many new rules, do’s & don’ts that it’s hard to know what to do when! It’s really hard to live so far away, but thank goodness we get to FaceTime at least once a week. Any help I can get would be greatly appreciated!

  11. Oh, how I could have used a Nana camp when my grandkids were babies! Figuring out how to strap them into their car seats was a never-ending challenge, and the strollers!!!! Yikes! More than once, it just got shoved in the back of my son’s SUV (which I drove when I babysat, so as not to have to manhandle carseats from one vehicle to the next) fully upright, because I couldn’t figure out the “magic” button to push to fold it up! But the basics of diapering, burping and rocking-to-sleep came back easily, thank goodness!

  12. Sign me up for Nana Camp!
    On two continents, have 9 beautiful, intelligent, joy-to-be-with grandchildren, ages 22- 22mos.
    Will you add a workshop on long distance Nana-ing?
    Thanks Sharon!
    Count me among your friends in Muncie, IN!

  13. Linda Jones says

    At 64 last year I became a grandma. I was even allowed to be in the delivery room. The love I have for my grandson is so strong and I cherish every moment with him. Funny how we let our grandchildren get away with things we never would with our children. Our children and grandchildren are blessings from heaven. Love them to the fullest!!!!!

  14. The clothes and colors for baby rooms sure have changed. How many
    pairs of shoes does a new born need? LOL, and I never had grandparents
    near enough to help. Still I’m so happy that I am near and get to have her
    two days a week!

  15. I love it! I’m a Nana with 11 grandkids now, but I remember when Grand #1 came along, and I kept him while mommy worked. Notice I said HIM…I had raised three girls! What did I know about little boys? Well, I figured it out, and we had a grand time digging for worms, playing baseball in the backyard, and racing matchbox cars! All it takes is loving on them and spoiling them…and an adventurous spirit! (Maybe I’ll teach one of your classes!)

  16. Davey Myers says

    Count me in Sharon!Sounds wonderful (even better than Phoenix). Hopefully I’ll need a Great Grandma Camp this year. Can’t wait…miss the little ones. Love the big ones soooo much though. We are blessed. Happy New Year my Friend!

  17. It’s always been my dream to be a grandma because I loved mine so very much. But I must disagree with you about one of your topics. There’s something special in wrinkles and thinning and/or gray hair. That’s when the true beauty shines through the mask.

  18. Alicemarie from Tennessee says

    I’m with you, Nana or in Swedish I’m Mormor (Mother’s Mother translated) You deserve all the credit for YOUR suggestion.

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