“Call Me Mamanana,” June 30, 2020

Children don’t stay children forever. They grow up and move on with their lives. That is as it should be. But when do mothers stop being mothers?

My kids have been grown and on their own for more years than either I or they care to admit. All three are married with children of their own and manage quite well without me.

Changing roles from “mama” to “nana” has been the best job promotion I could hope for — all the joy without any of the work. And while my grown children always make me feel loved and appreciated, my grandchildren make me feel like a rock star.

I like being my grandkids’ rockstar nana. I’m happy to leave the parenting to their parents. But I can’t quite seem to stop being a mom to my grown kids. For example:

_ It’s hard for me to go more than a few days (certainly no more than a week) without hearing from each one of them. In person. And at length. For at least 20 minutes, but preferably longer. If they don’t call me, I will track them down.

_ Yes, they’re grown, but I still need to hug them often and smell the backs of their necks. They don’t mind the hugs, but the neck sniffing drives them crazy. Too bad, I don’t care.

_ At times, I might offer them a bit of unsolicited advice, but it is always well-intentioned, and in most cases, ignored.

_ I love to tell hilarious stories about things they did when they were growing up. I can do this until the cows come home, or until the kids make me stop. I think they like hearing those stories, even if they insist they aren’t true. Which they are.

Those are only a few of the ways I still tend to act like a mom. Maybe most moms do those things. But here’s one that might seem a bit odd: I need to see every corner of every room of every place they’ve ever lived.

I’m not sure why. It’s not an inspection. It’s more like a familiarization. I just can’t quite rest until I can picture them in their new surroundings.

To do this, I have traveled near and far, across town and across country, to New York or Montana or Los Angeles, any place they’ve called home.

Today, I drove six long hours to spend a few days with my oldest and his wife and their 14-month-old, Jonah, in their new home in Northern California. We FaceTime often, but it had been a few months since our last real visit. I was hoping Jonah would recognize me as the nana who lives in his dad’s iPhone.

He did. But not at first. He took a while to warm up to me. Meanwhile, his mom and dad gave me a tour of the new place. I checked out every corner of every room. It was perfect. Then we sat in the yard and watched Jonah run barefoot in the grass.

We were eating pizza in the dining room when Jonah finally grinned, pointed to me and said the magic word: “Nana!”

I wish you could’ve seen him.

Somehow, it made that six-hour drive seem a lot shorter.

After dinner, Jonah took me in his play room and kept handing me books, one after another, begging me to read to him.

Watching him in action, with his golden hair shining like cornsilks in the sun, I thought once again, as I’ve done so often since he was born, how very much he looks like his dad.

Suddenly, I realized another reason why I love being a nana. Looking at my grandchildren, I can see, not only them, but the children I knew long ago: A cornsilk-haired toddler who begged me to read; a little girl in long braids who picked fistfuls of flowers just for me from the neighbor’s yard; and a blue-eyed boy who loved to catch lizards and hide them in my purse.

My grandchildren, God bless them, are giving me back my children. I am “mamanana.” It’s one great job with the joy of both and none of the work.


  1. Sweet. I’m not a mother but I’m one of eight children and have lots of nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews. It’s been a lot of fun watching my nieces and nephews growing up and now as adults with some being parents now. These are the times to treasure in life. Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. “It’s hard for me to go more than a few days (certainly no more than a week) without hearing from each one of them.” HA, I wish it was once a week here. My Wife & I had one child a son, now 45 yrs. old, but apparently the Dr. forgot to cut the umbilical cord. They text with each other all day long. It drives me NUTS, but if I say anything at all, I’m the bad guy, and, “Jealous.” LOL.

    It is not uncommon at the end of the evening, when I dare open the, “TextNow,” app on my desktop before calling it a day, because there may be ONE TEXT, question to me in there somewhere, that I may see a number of 30+ or way more TEXTS in there. For some reason, he loves to GRP. text, mostly between them, but he includes me in them all too.

    Sometime it makes my head near explode. Smartphones, TEXTING, etc. the worst inventions EVER. I prefer the old landlines, and maybe that once a week call :-).

    If GOD forbid something happens to my Wife before me (I’m 71 Jul 1st, tomorrow, she’s 68), Kid, just contact me on Father’s Day, My Birthday, and maybe Christmas, otherwise, LEAVE ME ALONE, LOL.

  3. Sherry Bishop says

    I love your stories, they hit so close to the heart and soul. I love being mom and nanna, I have to also hear from them at least once a week! Sometimes my youngest daughter 3 or 4 days in a row. I thank the lord for allowing me to be these two people! I pray the lord blesses you!

  4. Barb Fowler says

    This one made me cry…over two years ago, our younger daughter distanced herself, and 4 of our grandchildren from us, basically cut them out of our lives. Ranging in age from 23 to 14, the older kids are afraid to speak to us, knowing their mother wants no contact whatsoever. I have tried several times to reach out to them, to no avail. We have another daughter and granddaughter we are extremely close to. I pray every night for family unity once more, but too many things have been said and done for us to ever be a family again. I am not telling this for sympathy or for pity. Hold your loved ones close, treasure them and hug them tightly when you have the chance. Love reading your column every week, always touches my heart!!

  5. Kate Sciacca says

    Well Mamanana here’s what I totally understood…
    “At times, I might offer them a bit of unsolicited advice, but it is always well-intentioned, and in most cases, ignored.“

    We’re only trying to help don’t ya know????? 😜

    What I find most interesting is that my kids who have kids all call me “grandma” now… and I realized that we did the same with my mom when she lived with us and then with the MIL when she moved in. We’re no longer mom and dad, we’re grandma and gramps, and I love it!

    Six hours to the north from where you are almost puts them at the Oregon border – sounds like they wisely headed out of SoCal. Smart people!

  6. I loved being a mom to my girls and thought there was absolutely no way I could love any other children until I got to hold my first grandson. That was almost 24 years ago and I’ve become grandma three other times! Oh my, I love those grandchildren so much! Their families all live within 3 miles of us and I love it! Not too many days have to go by before I can get my Ne fix! Yes, they call us Ne and Pa!

  7. Patricia (Peggy) Paulin says

    Another great article. I really enjoyed this one. I, too, have traveled far and wide to visit my two daughters. One lives in CA and one lives in TX. I often wonder what I did to make them move so far away! Well, the one in CA IS my fault. My oldest sister lived in Ca, and one summer I took my kids out to visit her. BIG MISTAKE! My 13 year old daughter fell in love with CA, and as soon as she graduated from Indiana University, she headed off to CA. My youngest daughter got married and was living in Indianapolis, a mere 3 hour drive. Went to visit her and she proceeds to tell me she is pregnant. I was elated – until she told me her husband got transferred to TX!

    Sorry this is so long, but one thing more. I believe you visited my hometown several years ago. It is Tell City, IN. I was either traveling (to visit one of those wayward daughters) or my sister neglected to tell me about your visit until it was too late! Always hated that I missed seeing you in person!

  8. Shirley Thacker says

    Being a mom to two daughters has been a blessing. Being a nana to two boys has been blessings and more! Love all around!! You are right about seeing your children in your grandchildren. It is amazingly wonderful!!

  9. Yes, love being Grandma & now Greatgrandma Katie.

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