When she’s not teaching classes at a local college or writing yet another book or giving workshops, Penny Warner is hanging out with her grandchildren. No gray-haired granny, this sixty-something Californian provides a great role model for grandparenting 21st century style. As she says, “You have to bake cookies and go hiking!”
Ms. Warner’s books range from The Official Nancy Drew Handbook, to activity and party book for kids, to novels for preteens and murder mysteries for adults. “When my children became teenagers started thinking about writing murder mysteries,” she said laughing in a phone interview last week from her Danville, CA home.
Mothering21 discovered Ms.Warner after reading her hilarious post, “Valley Life: G-Ma tips fo shizzle” in the Contra Costa Times. In the piece she describes four grandma “types”:
- The “Kick-Back Boomer” type tends to take a “whatever” approach to grandparenting, and goes with the flow. She’s likely to be chill-axing on the couch with the G-kids watching “Jersey Shore,” playing “Angry Birds,” or reading to them from “Twilight.”
- The “Tough-Girl Granny” type views life as an action film, preferring a Harley over a rocker. She likes to challenge her grandkids with exciting adventures, such as competing in Japanese game shows, running with the bulls, and playing “Guitar Hero: 3-D.”
- The “Handy Helper” grandparent wants to help her grandkids learn a useful skill, such as knot-tying, hair-braiding or fire-starting. But she also enjoys learning skills from her grandkids, such as My-Facing, party-hosting, or shizzle-speaking.
- The “Cartoon Character” grandparent wears her gray hair in a bun, sports an apron decorated with cats, and knits yard-sized shawls. If you fall If you fall into this category, you need to dye your hair orange, replace the apron with an Aerosmith T-shirt, and ink your own tats.
We chatted with her about her take on grandparenting five kiddies from age eight months to five years. She had just come from a morning of teaching a child development to college freshmen, followed by babysitting so her daughter could go to a yoga class.
So which G-ma are you?
No one is classically me; I steal a little from each. There really is no one typical grandma anymore.
Your article mentions that “grandma” as a name has fallen from favor. What do your G-kids call you?
My kids were dismayed when they heard I didn’t want grandma or GG as some friends are called. I wanted “Queen Mother” but they call me Penny since it’s sort of a fun name anyway. One of my favorites is Goldie Hawn’s choice, Glam-ma.
And your husband? You write that the man formerly known as “grandfather,” has become Big Daddy, Captain, Chief, Coach, Doc, Glad-dad, G-Pa, Moneybags, PopPop, Professor or Grumpy.
He and the grandkids like Pop Pop. It seems to fit
You have about three careers yet still find time to be a very hands-on grandma. What do you enjoy about it so much?
I didn’t think I would fall head over heels in love with them yet I have. And, they keep me young beyond the obvious. While I am often teaching them something I find that I am learning from them too. I know how to play Super Mario Wii thanks to my five-year-old grandson. He shows me which buttons to press and I’ve become pretty good!
I like that you can be almost subversive and let them have a little fun beyond what they might be allowed to do: What happens at grandma’s stay at grandma’s! Then Grandma becomes your best friend, at least until age 13!