by Fran Withrow
Even if you are not a grandparent, I invite you to take a look at Anna Quindlen’s “Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting.” With her characteristic charm, humor, and gentle wit, Quindlen shares her observations about the delightful role she enjoys with her first grandchild, Arthur. Her wise, thoughtful take on this new calling is definitely worth your time.
Having a grandparent, or being a grandparent, is a relatively modern-day luxury. For millennia, most humans did not live long enough to enjoy their children’s children. Now that has changed, and currently “there’s a higher level of agreement about grandchildren than there is about…chocolate.” Every grandparent Quindlen meets agrees that grandchildren are the best.
Quindlen is hopelessly in love with her son’s child, doting on his “pillowy knuckles” and his unending fascination with the everything around him. There are plenty of disarming descriptions about how much pleasure she gets from being with Arthur, but Quindlen also offers insights into the delicate touch required to be a grandmother.
She notes that the success of grandparenting depends on many factors. The relationship between grandparent, adult child, and the adult child’s partner are key components to a successful experience. Just as important is to tread carefully in this new role, ever mindful that Nana is not the one in charge, and should respectfully take a back seat to the parents. Her biggest piece of advice for grandparents? “Hold back.” She knows Nana is not the center of Arthur’s world: his parents are. Sometimes his desire for “Nana” is just his longing for a piece of elongated yellow fruit.
Fortunately, she has a positive and comfortable connection with her daughter-in-law, who is willing to trust Quindlen and allow her to support their new family. She acknowledges that this is not true for everyone and that everyone’s grandparenting experience will be different. Therefore she is grateful for the sweet relationship she enjoys with her son and his family.
Interspersed throughout the book are “Small Moments:” vignettes of actual interactions between Quindlen and Arthur. These often brought a chuckle to my lips. Her description of Arthur tumbling into the pool, where his diaper “took on the contours of a flotation device” made me laugh out loud.
This is such a lovely book, but the last chapter, “Small Moments, Imagined,” in which Quindlen conjures up the far-off future when she is in her eighties and welcoming her great grandchildren, feels unnecessary. I wish she had stopped with the previous chapter where she learns that Arthur is going to be a big brother. Despite this minor objection, you will appreciate a trip to Nanaville. Quindlen reminds us that the tender moments experienced across generations are to be treasured. Grandparenting is a chance to marvel anew at the world with children, to remind oneself of how precious and fragile life is. The joys of this gig make all the challenges of navigating this new road worthwhile.
Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting
By Anna Quindlen
Penguin Random House