Lessons Learned
May 13, 2010 12:08 PM   Subscribe

What are the most important and valuable things I can teach my new granddaughter? What endeared you the most to your grandmother?
posted by SoftSummerBreeze to Human Relations (60 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
My grandmother tried to teach me how to hand-sew.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 12:13 PM on May 13, 2010

Teach her how to cook.
posted by sanko at 12:13 PM on May 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Whatever it is that you do, teach her. Cooking, woodworking, crossword puzzles. Let her help you, let her just sit near you while you're doing it.

My grandmother taught me about birds and the superiority of sour apples and to always put on gloves before you put on your hose if you're wearing sparkle nail polish.
posted by JoanArkham at 12:14 PM on May 13, 2010 [4 favorites]

tell her family stories
posted by raw sugar at 12:15 PM on May 13, 2010 [8 favorites]

Cook with her. I got the greatest joy out of just watching my grandmother cook and bake.
posted by litnerd at 12:16 PM on May 13, 2010

Various domestic arts. (Knitting, crocheting, hand-sewing, etc.) She wayyyyyyyy outlived her husband but always said that women needed to have their own hobbies. She showed me the importance of charity (as she worked with the Red Cross her whole life) and that knowing how to cook and take care of yourself is extremely important, no matter where you wind up in life.
posted by sperose at 12:17 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was lucky enough to know two great grandmas as well as my grandmas. My great grandma taught me how to make a pie crust from scratch and the other taught me how to knit. We gardened, we cross stitched. We sat around and sipped tea. I still love listening to the stories of what life was like when they were my age.

I think what I came away with was an appreciation for things that can't be done via email or texting. We always started from scratch, whether it was a sewing project or a dinner, and in the end, we made something awesome. There is so much love in those projects.
posted by chatongriffes at 12:18 PM on May 13, 2010

Just teach her whatever it is you like to do, whether you view these as traditional "grandmother" activities or not. She will be interested in all of it- kids are like that.
posted by bearette at 12:19 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I adored my grandmother. She let me hang out with her, and sit beside her on the couch. She took me around with her when she delivered her Avon, and she introduced me to her friends and made me feel like she was proud to be my grandmother. My brothers and I picked blueberries behind her house, then we'd eat some in a bowl with milk while she made blueberry pies. She also baked bread the afternoon we'd arrive, so the house would smell like fresh bread when we got there. Basically, she made us feel like the most special kids in the world. Nothing beats unconditional love.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:19 PM on May 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

Seconding family stories, especially of your earlier years, when she's old enough to listen to them. Amoung my best memories of my grandmother are her stories of her childhood and early adulthood.
posted by Kurichina at 12:20 PM on May 13, 2010

My grandmother had the patience to teach me fiddly handwork, like crocheting and knitting and knife skills. Things my mother would have ended up killing me during the process of attempting to teach. She also taught me silly songs from when she was a kid.

Now, my mother has the patience to teach my kids these things. I expect that I'll develop the patience in time to teach my own grandchildren.
posted by padraigin at 12:23 PM on May 13, 2010

Special K with half and half and a dose of sugar

How to win at Gin Rummy
posted by caddis at 12:24 PM on May 13, 2010

My grandmother taught me (and funnily, my mother -- not her daughter -- before me) to drink coffee.

It sounds trivial, but it meant that when I was in high school and had a free period at lunch, I could go to her house and have coffee with her and my grandfather and visit with them. Sure, I didn't need to drink coffee to be able to do that, but by teaching me to drink coffee she really taught me how to interact intergenerationally with her on a level that wasn't kid-adult but person-person. Learning to drink coffee with my grandmother was her way of teaching me that she wasn't just a grandmother but also a person, someone I could have real conversations with.

As a little kid, though, the most important thing she did for me was show me that I was the most loved kid in the world. And that I was her favorite -- just like all 17 of her grandchildren. Funny how she managed that. :) And that there was always room in her heart to love even more people, like my husband.
posted by devinemissk at 12:27 PM on May 13, 2010 [4 favorites]

How to appreciate a garden, what wild wintergreen looks like in the forest, how to find wild asparagus, how to crochet a doormat from plastic bread bags.

posted by Stewriffic at 12:27 PM on May 13, 2010

I adored my grandmother. She let me hang out with her, and sit beside her on the couch.

What I recall (and pretty much all of it is positive) of the one grandmother I properly remember is not what she consciously taught me; it was more her overall kindly, generous, passionate, good-humored take on life. She truly loved to laugh, and it was infectious.

And she let us stay up after our bedtimes to watch hockey as long as we called her in whenever there was a good fight.
posted by philip-random at 12:28 PM on May 13, 2010 [6 favorites]

The best things my grandmothers ever told me were embarrassing stories about my parents when they were kids. Totally changed the way I thought about them.
posted by albrecht at 12:28 PM on May 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

things i will remember that my grandmother taught me until the day i die:

handsewing - maybe seen to be old fashioned now, but as a 7 year old with was immensely rewarding to be able to make a skirt and top for my barbies. i got to pick out the fabric (from her scraps - she's a quilter so she has amazing scraps), i got to design in (within my limitations) and i got to see it come to fruition.

quilting - hand tying a quilt was so much fun as a little girl!

cookie sundays - so i was raised mormon and after the chapel portion of church, grandma would take me and my brothers to an empty classroom and we'd talk about the service. she'd ask specific questions (what was the opening song, who gave the benediction, what verse was the bishop reading us today, etc) - we were allowed to use the program and notes we took. then we'd discuss our favorite parts of the lesson and which parts we maybe didn't understand. at the end, we'd get a fresh baked cookie (to be consumed there so we didn't make the other kids jealous). this took all of 5 minutes. even though i'm no longer christian, those moments are still very dear to me. it enforced the entire idea behind my upbringing which was "kids are worth talking to, listening to, and reasoning with". it helped me become a more active listener and it helped me learn how to discuss esoteric ideas that were maybe over my head.

a love of reading and history - my grandma and grandfather were both teachers and they made sure we had a strong backing in literature and history - and not just church history or american centric history - but critically taking a well rounded approach to the world.

as an aside - my other grandmother taught me that women should be in the kitchen, men should watch sports, women were only good for gossip and sharing bad news, that being quiet was more important than learning as a child, and that unless you're married with kids you have little to offer.

both of my grandmothers have human faults, but i will be eternally grateful for the one that admitted to those and treated me with respect.
posted by nadawi at 12:30 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Every once in while, when I would stay over, we would eat chocolate chip ice cream for breakfast.
posted by R. Mutt at 12:30 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ditto the cooking suggestions. Also, learning how to play games, take turns and be a gracious winner and loser were skills my mom's parents taught me. We played gin rummy, Yahtzee, checkers, doubles solitaire and it was wonderful. I also recommend the reading suggested above. My grandmother and I would make weekly trips to the library and then go home to read side by side on the couch.

Basically, I think my relatives tried to share with me things they liked to do and that I showed an interest in. I don't think you can go wrong with that strategy.
posted by victoriab at 12:35 PM on May 13, 2010

Teach her to hope and believe in possibility.

My grandmother told me that she thought I would be good at things - that she could imagine me being a diplomat, a scientist, an artist, a writer - a whole range of things, which really inspired me to imagine limitless opportunities and adventures ahead, and to believe that anything I reached for was possible.
posted by jardinier at 12:35 PM on May 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Mine taught me to look for four-leaf clovers.

I believe I was the best four-leaf-clover finder at Georgia Tech.
posted by amtho at 12:37 PM on May 13, 2010

Mine taught me about nature and respect for it. She wasn't a crunchy, hippie grandma by any means. But we would go on nature hikes and learn about moss, bird calls, mayflowers, and animal tracks. And we would lie in a hammock for hours on end with a book about clouds and learn, together, the names of each kind.

Even though I don't have much interaction with nature (NYC-based), it did instill a lifetime of curiosity about "how stuff works and why."
posted by functionequalsform at 12:56 PM on May 13, 2010

Write down all your recipes for her, keep them in a book or nice box. If you cooked that dish with her or for her on a specific date, write that down in the margins. It will make a very nice and meaningful present when she graduates college or gets married or whatever.
posted by egeanin at 1:00 PM on May 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

I agree with Bearette: don't go contriving new things that will come off as non-genuine. Instead, take whatever it is that you actually already do very well, whether that's your own special pot-roast or your own special arc-welding technique... and teach her that. She'll remember it forever as something her grandma taught her.

Also, in general, treat her like an adult, especially if her own parents don't.
posted by rokusan at 1:08 PM on May 13, 2010

My grandma nurtured my love of languages from a young age, we still write to each other in French. The other things I have learnt from her were more from her leading by example rather than teaching me a specific skill.
posted by ellieBOA at 1:10 PM on May 13, 2010

My only grandmother refused to discuss her ancestors, as she was first-generation American and seemingly wanted to jettison her Old World associations. I wish she had compiled a document on her family history, one that integrated the many old photographs we found among her possessions after her death.

OTOH, she was a gifted seamstress, and what I remember most are the little dresses and ponchos and slippers she made for me over the years -- the quilt made of my father's old ties -- the blanket chest of fabric scraps I pawed through on visits -- the little toy sewing machine she taught me to use. I think of her each time I pick up a sewing needle because she cared enough about me and about her own handiwork to sit down and patiently teach me how to thread the machine and to decorate little hankies.

She gave me pieces of herself; I wish there had been more, and remain grateful for those I still have.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:11 PM on May 13, 2010

I'm not a girl, and she's too young for it right now, but one of my fondest childhood memories of my grandmother is her watching football with me, even though she had no idea how it was played, and had little chance of figuring it out (she barely spoke English). I think she just got a kick out of seeing defensive backs put hits on receivers that would be prosecutable offenses now (this was in the 70s).
posted by Calloused_Foot at 1:11 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Every time I left my grandma's house she said, "Always be kind and good." It has had a bigger impact in my life than almost anything else I can think of.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:16 PM on May 13, 2010

Things my very Southern granny taught me:
-Pay good money for your shoes and your haircut, if that looks good then so does everything in between.
-If someone is being catty and cruel and hurtful, you should always be the bigger person and not play along.
-If someone is being the martyr and wants you to act cruel and hurtful, you should say nothing but nice things about them.
-Always have ice cream in the freezer.
-Just because you have scabbed knees doesn't mean you can't cross your ankles like a lady.
-There is no good reason to be rude to a stranger.
-Only play a musical instrument if you really want to.
-Even tomboys can have manners like a polite young lady.
-The correct way to say "right", "light", and "night" so I didn't have an east Tennessee accent.

Yeah, there were recipes and skills that she taught me, but the really important things were the things I learn were the everyday things that I picked up by being around her and listening to her stories. I may not be the proper lady she always wanted me to be, but I always say "Please" and "Thank you."
posted by teleri025 at 1:20 PM on May 13, 2010 [6 favorites]

My grandmother was nothing like your ordinary grandmother...she didn't dote, sew, cook, bake or do any other typical grandmotherly things. But she was great in kind of that "fabulous" way. She was opinionated, loved going shopping for the latest fashions, got her hair done regularly, lunched with the ladies, drug my grandfather out dancing, and traveled extensively.

She was nothing like me (a tomboy) and yes, a little snobby and superficial. But she was all her...no way or no how was anyone going to make her into someone she didn't want to be. She lived her life fully and unapologetically.

Despite the fact that we were very different people, she loved me as I am and never tried to make me into someone I wasn't. I never had to apologize for not being something I was not and I never got so much as a hint that she wished I was different in some way.

She was a force of nature and I try to emulate the enthusiastic way she approached every single day. God, I miss her.
posted by murrey at 1:27 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Things I valued most that granny taught me:
Having a party trick is a great skill -- hers was reciting "The Sword of Robert Lee."
How to work a room.
How to pay and receive compliments gracefully.
How to be disarming and charming.

I come from a very gregarious family, so I never really had to be super-outgoing and was kind of a wallflower, but knowing her lessons and knowing that she thought I was charismatic and charming made it much, much easier to make friends once I was away from the crew.
posted by superlibby at 1:28 PM on May 13, 2010

Teach her your phone number.
posted by mechrisd at 1:34 PM on May 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't remember my grandparents, but someone on Scrapheap Challenge on TV once said that they were first inspired by their grandmother who welded them their first go-kart.

I have a photo of my grandmother, in the 1920s, in the middle of her young women's hockey team, all grinning gleefully. I wish she had been around long enough to tell me all about it.
posted by emilyw at 1:40 PM on May 13, 2010

My grandmother lived by herself out in the country and kept a .22 by the back door and could get a rabbit in her garden from forty feet away. At age 87.

At 91 she decided to move into town and put down a deposit on a condo that hadn't been built yet, and lived there before finally stroking out at 96.

My grandmother taught me to get back on the horse that throws you, always wear a hat outside against the sun, and that just about any occasion is a good excuse for banana split pie.

In retrospect, I wish she'd taught me how to shoot too.
posted by ambrosia at 1:45 PM on May 13, 2010

My mother's mother taught me how to write in cursive (or, rather, script, which is what she called it). She's also responsible for my love of baking, and many of my ideas about what is tasteful and elegant.

But she also taught me some things by negative example: why it's so important to maintain a good relationship with my sister, that things are less important than your relationships with other people, and that you should be careful with your words because words can leave scars much deeper than wounds. These are lessons I am glad to have learned, but I wish with all my heart I could have learned them another way.

My father's mother (whom I never knew) taught me (through her children) that it is possible to make an indelible impression on someone's life even if you are only in it for a short time. She also taught me that one can be a nonconformist and still be beloved in one's community (she was a Canadian city girl who'd been a radio performer who married a farmer and moved to rural Southern Illinois. She taught English at the local high school and painted her classroom pink. Students of hers still tell my father how much they miss her).

One of my paternal great grandmothers taught me that happiness can be as simple as oatmeal cookies straight from the freezer, lincoln logs, and a place to play on the floor while the adults are talking.

One of my maternal great grandmothers taught me that you should always walk at least two miles a day, that a woman's career can be her greatest asset (especially in her 80s), and that you don't have to have much to live with style.

And my step-grandmother (who married my maternal grandfather after my maternal grandmother—the first one I mentioned—died) taught me (and is still teaching me) that there is no such thing as too much unconditional love. I know that as long as she is alive, I can walk in her house and be welcomed with a big hug and be told how much she loves me and how proud of me she is. She loves all of her twelve grandchildren (step or otherwise) exactly like this, and it is one of the greatest gifts I have ever recieved.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:48 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

From the time I was 10 until the time I was about 15, I spent every summer with my grandparents. I am so grateful for the extended time I was able to have with them, and the way that allowed me to have a much more intimate relationship with them than many of my peers had with their grandparents. I got to know them as real people. My grandmother made sure that our summers were an outright adventure, with trips to museums, parks, zoos, and monuments; long drives out to the country just to show us something she remembered from when she was young; regular social visits to all sorts of interesting people she had gotten to know over the years (a Jesuit priest who taught at a local university, an Italian immigrant craftsman who made plaster sculpture, an elderly French female pastry chef, a junkman who had an eye for antique furniture, a retired ship's captain, etc.) She was just a suburban housewife in the midwest, but she taught me about how wide my world could be in my own backyard.

My gram didn't teach me any of the traditional crafty things, like knitting or sewing. But she taught me about all kinds of quality-of-life things, like tasting a huge variety of foods, having proper table manners, how to be a good host, and simply how to enjoy each day. She also told endless stories about her life, her parents and grandparents, and my grandfather's family. She gave me a huge sense of my family history and an appreciation for how hard life was for the previous generations.

I cherish the time I spent as a child sitting in her lap and listening to stories, singing songs, and laughing. I knew that with her I could do no wrong and that I was adored. I loved staying up late with her to watch the Tonight Show and snuggling with her in bed while she did the crossword. I loved having breakfast in the sunroom, where she served our cereal with half & half and laid out a breakfast spread fit for a king. In short, she just had a way of making every day feel really worthwhile. Along with my mom (her daughter), she instilled in me a sense of curiosity and adventurousness that has impacted my life in immeasurable ways.
posted by amusebuche at 2:00 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

My grandmother taught me the importance of always having a gallon of butterscotch ripple in the freezer. And taking advantage of sales on ice cream. But in seriousness, one of the greatest things she taught me was her world view - stories from her life were told from a perspective that was so different than my own I still puzzle about things years after she has left us. I feel like she gave me a real impression of what life was like years before I was born.

My great-aunt, who was very important to me and my family, taught me a different set of lessons. One of the most important things I got from her was respect. She had an enormously beautiful house - full of museum quality items from around the world - yet somehow there was room for a basket full of toys for us kids, and she even let us play with the precious figurines, over the complaints of my parents. Her respect of me as a kid taught me more about politeness and manners than years of charm school could.

Congratulations on your new addition, and best of luck in the years to come.
posted by fermezporte at 2:06 PM on May 13, 2010

What a heartwarming thread!

I have so many wonderful memories of my grandma. Whenever I slept over at her house (which I loved to do) she would give me a cup of warm milk before bedtime. To this day, that's just about an instant soporific for me. She taught me how to play solitaires, at least 20 of them, and we'd play yahtzee together. She baked her own bread and made sure to have a loaf in the oven when I came over just so I could enjoy that amazing smell. She always, always made whatever I requested for dinner - usually the same thing, her specialty: a 3-course dinner starting with vegetable soup with dumplings (which I got to help her make), then meat from the soup with a sweet & sour onion sauce that I adored, and then her unbelievable caramel custard for dessert. Lord, she was an amazing cook. One of my greatest treasures is her recipe for caramel custard, written in her spidery hand when she'd gotten quite old and rarely put pen to paper anymore.

To echo some of the posters above, she treated me like a valuable person, not a little kid, by respecting my opinions and wishes and was always upfront with me. When I married a woman, she told me frankly that she didn't really get the gay thing but she'd always love me - and even though she couldn't travel overseas to attend the wedding, she sent a truly lovely card with two women on the cover, which she'd obviously spent some time picking out. She spoiled me with chocolate and unconditional love.

I cannot wait to be a grandma. My kids are little (4 and 2), but I think about it frequently. I've already started my grandma toy box, with my kids' favorite toys and books that they've outgrown, and I can't wait to tell them lots of stories about when their mama or daddy was little. I hope they come over for sleepovers all the time and I will make them warm milk before bedtime and give them nutella for breakfast (which I do not do for my kids but probably should, every once in a while).
posted by widdershins at 2:32 PM on May 13, 2010

My Grammy was a very good artist and generally crafty person, and she was always willing to try and show me how to do/make something, and always 100% supportive and encouraging and excited about arty/crafty stuff I brought to show her. To this day I approach my various dabblings with excitement and curiosity (not pessimism or trepidation) and I think that's due in large part to that wonderfully supportive attitude.

Also, for as long as I live the smell of blueberry muffins baking (the kind with real wild blueberries that come in a can) will instantly transport me right back to Grammy & Grampa's house on a Saturday or Sunday morning.
posted by usonian at 2:32 PM on May 13, 2010

What I remember most about my grandmother is her willingness to be part of my make believe play, something my own parents had too little time and energy for, and the stories she told me. She was a history buff and told me stories of the Earl of Huntingdon (Robin Hood) which I believed were absolutely true.

On the other hand, a few days after I got married I visited my husband's grandparents for the first and only time. Grandma was about 15 during the Russian Revolution during which her family's farm was raided by the Red Army. I felt extraordinarily privileged to hear a first person account of one of history's great turning points. Interestingly, she never shared this with her own grandchildren, but me, a relative stranger.

These women shared some of their passion with me and that is what I remember most.
posted by angiep at 2:39 PM on May 13, 2010

First of all, this is such an awesome question. You're already doing great-- congratulations on the new arrival in the family, and I can tell she'll be lucky to have you.

Starting when I was 7 or 8, my grandmother used to take me to work with her-- she owned a small shop and sometimes I would "help" her for 25 cents an hour. It sounds silly, but having a stay at home mom, going to work with granny helped me learn about being independent, and gave me a role model for a woman who owned a business, dealt with customers, etc.

Around the house, we did domestic things-- she taught me to knit, and we made dinner for my parents together sometimes-- I especially liked that because I got to spend time with my grandma one on one while we were cooking, and then with the whole family together during dinner-- it was just, like, lasagna on a Tuesday night, but it felt like a party or a holiday.

The biggest thing I learned from her was that she thought I was worth including in her life-- the value of that to a kid is inestimable. Have fun with your granddaughter!!!
posted by neitheror at 2:43 PM on May 13, 2010

Definitely be yourself. If you don't bake, that's fine. Don't learn how to make cookies just for your grandkids, unless you think it would be a fun adventure.

I have a favorite grandma, who luckily is still around. There was always something to do at her house. They live on a farm, which helps. Keep a lot of toys at your place. Make sure they're ageless (like crayons), or age appropriate. Dress up clothes are a must. Play with your grandkids.
posted by wwartorff at 2:46 PM on May 13, 2010

I was raised by my Grandmother and Grandfather.

As a girl, the most important thing my Grandfather taught me was a love of baseball and how to throw a mean curve ball. He'd played semi-pro in the 20's and 30's and taught me a deep and abiding love for the game. (Of course, this was pre Title 9 so I couldn't put it into use, but its knowledge that has served me well these many years, especially now as I start to teach my own son about Baseball. Gee, its dusty in here all the sudden). So I guess I'm saying: don't be constrained by gender roles.

The most important thing I got from my Grandmother was a sense of the history of our family; stories about her childhood in the very early years of the 20th century and stories of her experience raising a child during WWII and working in a shoe factory in the 50's and 60's. Teach your Granddaughter not only your family history but your cultural history. Give her a true sense of what it was like to live in an analog world - including, if necessary, introducing her to all the technology that was current in your youth but is well-nigh extinct in ours.
posted by anastasiav at 3:15 PM on May 13, 2010

Values. For the rest of my life I will remember what my grandmother said about gay marriage when it first became legal: "Eleanna, as long as they're happy." She also had very definite sharp political views on other things.

She also took me aside when I had my first boyfriend and had the most frank, helpful discussion about what relationships and marriage really are and how to have a great relationship that I've ever had.

The value of learning: She shared books with me but also learned how to do proper accounting her her 70s to save my grandfather's business (he'd started to develop Alzheimer's) so I knew I was never too old to learn.

She also taught me how to cook and plan a menu and worked with me on my German and Yiddish, but not every granny needs to know how to do that.

Most importantly, she listened, truly listened and laughed at even my silly jokes. She never made me feel like my problems, petty though 7 year old or 13 year old or even 21 year old problems might have seemed to someone who made it through WWII and immigration and husbands in concentration camps, were silly and always gave good advice. She always showered love on all of us.

Second most importantly, she actively fostered my curiosity by letting me ask as many questions as I wanted without getting impatient.

She also taught me the value of a handwritten letter. Which even in this day of e-mail is nice to receive.

As a little kid, she also played lap games (Hoppa Hoppa Reiter and 'this is the way the farmer rides') and clapping games with us and gave lots of hugs and kisses and told us we were beautiful. When we were teenagers, it became how proud of us she was for what we were achieving. She loved us and that mattered more than anything else in the world.

Damn. I miss her.
posted by eleanna at 3:18 PM on May 13, 2010

I loved spending time watching classic movies with my grandmother. But one thing I wish my grandmother had done more of was tell me stories about her life, what it was like when she was young and about her and my grandfather. I hear stories after my parents were born, but before that its all kind of a mystery.
posted by gilsonal at 3:53 PM on May 13, 2010

Anything that involves spending time with you, with her receiving your full (casual) attention, is good -- because that's really what the memories are about, the time and attention.
posted by davejay at 4:24 PM on May 13, 2010

Oh, and the most important thing to teach her is that somebody loves her, will always love her, and won't judge her.
posted by davejay at 4:25 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

My great-grandmother would let me take anything in her kitchen and mix it into a bowl to make my own concoction. Cinnamon, basil, sugar, milk, butter, chili powder. She let me feed it to the birds afterwards.
posted by jasondigitized at 4:50 PM on May 13, 2010

Everybody else has covered skills and time together, so I'll say; since she's your granddaughter, teach her to spot sexism in all its (many) disguises and to understand that it's complete and utter bullshit.

Teach her that the world is still not as fair as it should be for women, but that it's her job to fight the good fight and keep pushing for change. Tell her about all the crap you remember that came with being a girl, and what's changed and what hasn't.

Teach her that beauty and fashion and princesses are wonderful things, if she's into them, but that courage, skill, strength, and honor are what matter most.

Teach her not to back down when she's right; teach her that she deserves respect. Teach her that anyone who doesn't understand that is not worth her time.
posted by emjaybee at 5:11 PM on May 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

One grandma taught me funny swear words in Polish, how to make pierogies, and how to put on my face (she worked a makeup counter in a Chicago department store for decades).

I got my love of reading from my other grandma, now deceased. She read the trashiest stuff, including the National Enquirer (she even gifted me with a subscription for awhile), but was always going to the library. She couldn't cook or bake for crap, but knew how to mix a mean cocktail. Once my granddad died she became extremely independent and adventurous, traveling around the world and taking road trips often. I loved to get her photos from exotic places in the mail, and she definitely influenced my own love for travel. Damn, I miss that lady.
posted by medeine at 5:31 PM on May 13, 2010

My family lives in Korea, my mom lives in the US. We set up skype video chat and she reads my kids stories. That's been great in forming a bond between them considering the huge physical distance.
posted by holterbarbour at 5:31 PM on May 13, 2010

Mine taught me to play cards. Ruthlessly.
posted by lampoil at 5:53 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

One of my grandmothers was such a delightful contradiction that I learned thine own self be true. She cared about having fun and helping the community more than what people thought. I learned to play poker, to watch baseball and swear (curse) from a 70 something year old, kosher keeping member of the temple welcome committee. She was also an officer of the PTA for many many years. She kept sabbath, but boy those other six days were quite a ride. I remember going to a Newark Bears minor league baseball game on a Friday afternoon with her and having to rush out of the stadium to get home before sundown with the other team having the bases loaded and her muttering the whole way home, "If they fucking lose that game, I will never go to that stadium again." This all while she wore a very conservative ankle length dress, a shawl and a Brooklyn Dodgers baseball hat. And, even though she was kosher, she insisted that together we try the shrimp scampi at this restaurant she took me to because she heard it was "to die for". We were co-conspirators when we pinky swore not to tell grandpa.

My other grandmother taught me to make meatballs and to feed anyone who came to my house. She always tried to get visitors to sit down for a meal.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:26 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Two things:
Teach her how to cook. My grandmother taught my brother, sister and I to cook by sitting us on the kitchen counter for company as soon as we were able to hold ourselves up there. She always talked non stop about what she was doing, providing nibbles and soliciting taste tests. She was amazing at keeping us entertained. She did the same with our children that were lucky enough to get here in time to know her. We all cook cornbread, biscuits, pastries, etc. without recipes.
She also taught us that she loved us absolutely unconditionally.
posted by txmon at 9:27 PM on May 13, 2010

Oh man my grandmother was amazing...really I'd like to skip having children and go straight to grandchildren! I remember my grandmother always thought I was "an angel" and I somehow always behaved really well there, because I never wanted to break that spell!

As said above, I loved following her around and learning to do what she did. My grandmother threw incredible parties, and I learned a lot about being a good hostess. She was also an impeccable cook, and taught me that great meals don't have to be complicated - and that it's okay to not feel comfortable without the recipe in-hand!

My grandma always let me play with her stuff...rather than having a jewelry armoire or something like that, she had all these little trinket boxes spread on her vanity...I would spend hours playing with her jewelry and trying it on. Looking back I'm sure she hid the expensive stuff and just let me touch the costumey pieces, but I had a blast, and I always felt like I got to peek into her world.

I think also part of being a grandma (or aunt, or favorite babysitter, etc), is doing things with the kids that the parents won't/don't do. My mom never cooked, so I loved hanging out in the kitchen with my grandma. My mom was not into makeup or nail polish, so I loved that my grandma would paint my nails and curl my hair. When I spent the night on school nights, she would take time to pack an extra-special lunch - something a working mom doesn't have time/energy to do every day. She also let me do "naughty" things like lick the icing bowl after frosting a cake - I felt so deviant!

Also it's always fun to have special toys and games at your grandparents' house. I watched Mary Poppins over and over at their house - even though I wasn't much of a Disney-a-holic at home. We also played Scrabble a lot. My grandparents had a fairly large house, and my cousin and I had our "own room" which was cool. She got little stools with our names on them which made me feel so special!
posted by radioamy at 9:31 PM on May 13, 2010

The most important thing I learned from my grandmother (and mother) is strength and independence as a girl and woman in a world that works so hard to tell girls and women to be not-those-things.
posted by so_gracefully at 9:35 PM on May 13, 2010

Oooh, storytime!

I went to visit my Great-Grandfather (a little different, because the huge age difference and fact we lived in vastly different countries mean he knew we'd likely only meet the once) when I was three. We didn't even speak the same language. One thing - the only thing - he rememebered about his grandmother was her saying no to him having a slice of cake or a bit of candy. He wanted to be remembered unlike her, so he intentionally gave me cake and things.

My only real memory of him was him handing me cake on a blue napkin as we sat on a park bench. Only years later did I realize the reason for the cake.

Of course, you likely will spend far more time with your granddaughter than my great-grandfather (who died at 104 years old, when I was 7ish) did with me, but I realy wanted to tell the story.

My grandma has always sewed with me. Until about fourth grade, she pretty much made my entire wardrobe too. Luckily I'm still a teenager and she lives near me so I'm hoping she'll continue to work with me this summer, but she taught me from a young age how to sew by machine. Also, she's just the most amazing role model.

My most meaningful moment with my grandfather was earlier this year, when I suggested we get a coffee together. I ended up learning, in a much more cohesive way than ever before, his experiences with the holocaust and the impact losing his entire extended family had on his parents and nuclear family. I'd never really learned that before, and I felt like he treated me more like an adult when he taught me than parents tend to do.

What not to do: I have one other grandmother who does not live as close, which is not the issue, since she travels out at least once a year and has taken two trips just her-and-me. We are not nearly as close after years of trying and failing to have regular email conversation because I feel like she doesn't know that much about me and we don't have a 'thing' we do together. Not cooking, not baking, not vintage shopping, not taking funny pictures. I love her but my most standout memories of her are of her just buying me things, which is not something I love to remember people by. Luckily, she's still alive and I'm hoping to build a closer relationship with her.
posted by R a c h e l at 10:47 PM on May 13, 2010

It's kind of embarassing to sound like I and lots of others are pigeonholing grandmas into the traditional female housekeeping role, but I have to admit those were wonderful things my grandma showed me.
She made plum dumplings from scratch and let me poke the plums inside. She made wonderful pork roast the traditional way. She showed me how to garden and took me for long walks and explained about plants and animals.
She lots and lots of patience, more than my parents who were busy most of the time. When I visited my gran, she had time for ME. She listened to every stupid joke I told her that I'd just learnt on the play ground. She always seemed interested. My grandma. :D

So even if you aren't a "traditional" grandma, show her how to do things you love doing and let her try things out. And above all, listen.
posted by Omnomnom at 7:31 AM on May 14, 2010

Thank you all so much for your thoughtful, insightful and touching stories. It's given me much to think on.

There was so much that my own parents didn't share with me, and I want to break that chain. I feel I have with my own kids, and I try to tell them everything I can about family history, etc, and I definitely want my grandchildren to have as much information as they can.

Thanks again!
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 10:01 AM on May 14, 2010

When I was little and asked my grandmother if I was pretty, she'd say, "If you act pretty, then you are pretty." That stuck with me and I still consider beautiful women who act like asses to be ugly, plus it was a great answer.

Whenever she made pies, she'd make a little tart just for me and say I got the tiny pie because I was the tiny girl and I was special. I will never forget that.

She also taught me dominoes and how to fix a loose button and that ladies don't offer gossip until they're asked twice, and swear words are to be whispered in polite company.

Also, to hug and say "I love you" every time you see someone. One day it'll be the last day, so why not do it every time? I've never regretted taking up this habit.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 7:31 PM on May 15, 2010

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