Meet the First Grandmother

Every day, I read what other journalists are writing about grandparents and their families. Here are some stories that gripped me recently.

Meet the First Grandmother: Michelle Obama’s ‘rock’ of a mother

In 2008, Michelle Obama convinced her mother, Marian Robinson, to move into the White House to help raise Sasha and Malia.

“Michelle calls Marian Robinson her ‘rock,'” says the author of a recent book on the family. “She is steady, she is strong.”

“It’s important to remember the White House is such a bizarre place … I think Mrs. Robinson acts as a calming presence.”

The Telegraph • June 24, 2015

AUGUSTA GRANDMOTHER CUTS AND TIES BLANKETS FOR GRANDSON, FELLOW PREEMIES

When she’s not making baby blankets, Judy Wildes works as a playground monitor at an elementary school. Photo by Andy Molloy.

When he was born this winter, Mason Wildes was 16 weeks premature and weighed just 1 pound, 7 ounces.

No one knew if he’d survive.

“You want to do something to make it all okay,” says his grandmother, Judy Wildes of Augusta, Maine.

So she started making fleece blankets for Mason and the other preemies in the neonatal intensive care unit at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

“I don’t sew or quilt; I can’t knit or crochet. But I can cut strips and tie knots. I’ve been doing it, and it’s kept me sane for these past four months.”

CentralMaine.com • May 31, 2015

GRANDPARENTS WHO MOVE TO BE CLOSER TO GRANDCHILDREN

“One of the risks in moving, many grandparents have learned, is that their children might have to relocate for work, leaving the grandparents behind. So deciding whether to be a nearby grandparent or one from afar takes some soul-searching and analysis.”

The New York Times • June 27, 2015

IN THE IMPOVERISHED SAN LUIS VALLEY, GRANDPARENTS FILL ABSENT PARENTS’ VOID

Bernadette Cisneros is raising five grandchildren, including 12-year-old Rebecca Casados. Photo by Nathaniel Minor.

Bernadette Cisneros, 52, and her husband have taken in five of their grandchildren, but they don’t know how much longer they can manage.

“I’m pretty spent emotionally, physically, financially,” says Cisneros, who lives in the rural San Luis Valley of Colorado. “We’re struggling to get through.”

Poverty and drug abuse have destroyed the lives of many parents in the valley, forcing grandparents to raise kids instead.

“You go to the doctor’s office and there’s grandmas with the grandkids. You go to social services and it’s grandmas with grandkids. It’s really sad ’cause that’s all you see,” one resident says.

Colorado Public Radio • June 10, 2015

GRANDPA THE GARDENER HELPED NURTURE HIS SEEDLING GRANDSON

Santiago Arredondo and his wife outside a Storycorps booth.

“As a kid, on top of me being overweight, I also stuttered,” says 32-year-old Santiago Arredondo, who lives in southern California and was recently interviewed by his wife for the oral history project Storycorps.

“And it was a lot of bullying. So my grandfather stepped in.”

“Every Saturday morning he picked me up at 7 a.m. and we would go to his gardening route. We would spend our days mowing, pulling weeds, and blowing leaves. He started teaching me specialized things—how to prune roses and plant them and create new roses. That helped me develop more self-confidence because I knew how to do something that not everyone does.” 

“And I think that helped guide me to where I am now.”

National Public Radio • May 29, 2015