August 17, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 339

Are Nanny Grampies Under Sexist Attack
By The Christian Science Monitor
Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

       GROUND ZERO, New York City, August 17--On August 1, I wrote and published a story about the "granny nannies," sparked from a story in the Christian Science Monitor (CSM) extolling the virtues of grandmothers who take over the job of child care for their grandchildren.    It was a wonderful tribute to what grandmothers are willing to do.
       But then this Thursday my wife left for a week trip to Montana to visit her elderly parents.  Granny Nanny was gone. 
       So was my daughter's husband, who is in Guatemala on trip to work with the indigenous people there with his brother, and sister-in-law, a native Guatemalan.
       I realized that not only is my wife a Nanny Granny, but I am also a Nanny Grampy.
       This morning I scanned the Christian Science Monitor for news, as I do the NY Times and LA Times, in search of story lines that are both timely and timeless.
       After ready the "glowing" reports of email received by CSM staff writer Marilyn Gardner, author of the Nanny Granny story, my ire was stabbed.
       I realized that the story had all but eliminated any reference to Nanny Grampies, or their role in helping Nanny Grannies.
       So I dashed off a letter to the CSM.   I reprint this letter for your consumption.   And if you agree, maybe you can send your Nanny Grampy story to the CSM.  Whether they respond or not is not important.  What is important is that Nanny Grampies exist, and do an important job in helping their grandchildren ward off the Terrorisms of childhood.
      Here is the letter I emailed.    Below, I've listed links to both my story, and the CSM story.


Are Nanny Grampies Under Sexist Attack By The Christian Science Monitor?

From:  Cliff McKenzie
To:  Marilyn Gardner/Editors
Re:  Sexist Attack on Nanny Grampies?
Date:  August 17, 2002

Dear Editors,

           At first, I was impressed with the article on nanny grannies written by Marilyn Gardner and published on August 1, 2002.
           I gave it tribute on my VigilanceVoice webpage, located at    But, as I was reading the glowing email responses to the story this morning, the more I thought about the story being a "sexist overlook" of an equally important role the Nanny Grampy plays.
    I'm a Grandfather of Vigilance, a Nanny Grampy, using your terms.    I take pride in watching my grandchildren.   I eagerly look forward to helping out my daughter.   I love taking the kids, Matt, 6, Sarah 4, to give my daughter some relief from her many challenges and burdens.   I also do as much as I can with my wife when she is being Nanny Granny to them, to help her lighten the load of managing two thirsty youth who have boundless energy and whose minds hunger to know everything about everything.
      We came to New York City to be a Nanny Granny and a Nanny Grampy for our daughter.   I suggested we move from our home in Dana Point, California to be near our grandkids.   We gave up a beautiful ocean view, quiet serene surroundings, to live in the hustle, bustle, noisy, crowded streets of New York City where you are lucky to see a sunrise or sunset through the cracks of a concrete forest.
       We're also conservative Republicans from Orange County, California, so adjusting to the highly liberalized, diversity of New York City was in itself an emotional challenge.  But we had a goal bigger than our politics, or our unstable financials.   Being with the kids overshadowed those deficits.
        We arrived here in December, 1999, just in time to ring in the millennium.  Our daughter was fulfilling a lifetime dream--getting her Masters Of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary here in New York.   She received a Presidential Scholarship, enabling her to afford to attend, but her two children's loving care posed a major challenge. 
        Her husband also works with disenfranchised, marginalized people of New York City.  He manages a home for elderly "street people," demanding endless time and care.
        We decided we'd be here for her as well as her family.  
        We found an apartment close to hers, in the East Village, a far cry from the beauty of Dana Point.   It was affordable, but not efficient.   It has no elevator.  We walk up 59 steps to reach our fifth-floor abode which would fit into our California home's master bedroom.  But by New York standards, it was a dream.   Four rooms, a kitchen, living room and bathroom and, only a few short blocks from our daughter's apartment.   We made one room a "grandkids room.".   And the house is full of toys, children videos, the cupboards filled with juice and animal crackers.
      While I can't take the full-time credit of Nannying the kids, I do feel I have an important role-- I'm the back-up Nanny--the Vigilant one who stands ready to step in and act, or support the wear and tear young kids deliver to any grandparent's patience and tolerance.    In sports terms, I'm a Nanny Sweeper, the utility player that can be called in to perform any task when needed, but who lets the primary players rain in the glory of competition.
       But this week, I have been the primary Nanny Grampy.
       My wife misjudged her visit to Montana.    She thought our son-in-law was coming back from Guatemala on Friday, the day after she left to visit her parents.    However, he's not returning until Sunday evening.   She was upset at the thought of leaving our daughter to fend three kids, wishing she had better scheduled her departure to coincide with our son-in-law's return.
       That left me--Nanny Grampy--to fill the gap.  
       I love kids.   When our children were born, my wife worked early in the mornings at a hospital as a microbiologist, leaving at 4 a.m. and returning around noon.  I was in sales and budgeted my time to be at home with the children, two lovely daughters.   I was then a Nanny Daddy.    I did all the things a mother would do, loving every minute of it.   When my wife would come home, I would transfer the duty to her.
       I read books, taught the kids to read and think, watched Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, played, took them to Sea World almost every day--we had season passes and it was just down the street from our home in Pacific Beach, California--and bonded with them in a way only a parent can who spends quality time with his or her child.  My goal was to teach our children to stand tall in a world that often tries to limit their potential.   Our two daughters have--one is a social justice worker, the other a federal law enforcement officer.
       So, when my wife left, I was well-armed to handle my grandkids.   In my estimation, I was a proven Nanny Grampy, regardless of that omission in the CSM article.
       Each day, I've assumed total responsibility for the kids, or helped my daughter with them.   I even bought an $11 stroller from K-Mart and extended the handles so I could push it without bending over--(I'm 6-4 and weigh in at 266)--so my four-year-old granddaughter could ride in it and not on my shoulders--her favorite place to avoid walking.
       I take them to the Museum of Natural History where we examine the history of things, especially the dinosaurs.   I play Rescue Hero, and make sure we stop at Toys 'R Us on 42nd Street to ride the Ferris wheel and watch the kids play on the huge Thomas Train display.
       I've taken them swimming at Tompkins Square park, Vigilantly assuring I keep an eye on both of them, swimming with them on my back to teach them not to be afraid.   One of my favorite Nanny Grampy places to go is FAO Schwartz Toy Store on 5th Avenue, where the grandest toys are out for all the children to play with.  FAO story tellers dressed in costumes gather the children every couple of hours to dramatically read them a fairy tale or two.
       Yesterday, I took the kids for the entire afternoon while my daughter attended to some correspondence that had been piling up.   We lazed around the apartment in air conditioned comfort as the temperature swelled to over 90 in a major heat rash invading New York City.  We watched Little Bears, Thomas Train, The Bearington's Search For The Lost Dinosaur, Powder Puff Girls, and a host of other lesson-filled videos.    We read books, played with robots and Cinderella figures.
       In the cooling of the evening, I went to 4th Street Park with the kids to hook up with our daughter and baby Angus, our newest grandchild born nine months after September 11, a symbol of how life must go on in the face of tragedy.
         It was a refreshing evening at the park.  I took my grandson home and we got the two-wheeler bikes and brought them back and rode around the cool park until it was closed, at nearly 10 p.m.    I made a trip to the local grocery store and bought a chicken,  juice and Gatorade.  We had a picnic as the kids played.
       Today, I'll also take on some "watching" of the kids.    But as a Nanny Grampy,  my job is more than just to be a pair of eyes so they don't get in any danger.   My real job is to teach them about life.   To offer answers, to burrow into their minds and help them understand life from their perspective, to offer reasons why they should do this or that, and to teach them to learn to think, and to act fairly with others and themselves.  My wife does it.  So do I.   Granny Nannies or Granny Grampies aren't about watching kids, they are about teaching kids about life.
       The other day I reminded my six-year-old grandson he was the "man-in-charge" while his father was gone to Guatemala and to help his mother by not whining and demanding.    I suggested he say, "How Can I Help You, Mom?"  We had this conversation in private, just he and I, two guys talking.  He agreed and said he would try.   
       Watching children and worrying about them is a tiring but rewarding job.    I certainly don't want to suggest by any measure that a Granny Grampy has any edge over a Granny Nanny.   But I am suggesting that there is an equality, an equity for the Granny Grampy that was overlooked in the Christian Science Monitor article.
        In a way, it could be called "sexist."
        It didn't give us Granny Grampies any true credit for what we do, or suggest the teamwork that exists between the grandmother and grandfather in relation to the care necessary for their children's children.
        As a Grandparent of Vigilance, I keep a watchful eye on the Terrorisms that can infect a child.   I do my best to guard them from intrusion of Fear, Intimidation or Complacency into their minds.  I try to balance those demons of Terrorism with the tools of Vigilance--Courage, Conviction and Right Actions.    My wife does the same.
        I know that there are countless Granny Grampies like myself.    We just aren't in the spotlight.  We're utility players.   We're also a vital balance to the health and well-being of a child's development.
       So, I wanted the Christian Science Monitor to consider doing a story on Granny Grampies.   
       I think that would be fair. 
       But whether or not we get any ink isn't relevant.    Granny Grampies do their jobs because they love their grandkids just as much as Granny Nannies.
       When a grandchild puts his or her arms around you, and says, "I love you G-Pa," there's no story in the world in any paper that could rival that feeling.

      Respectfully Submitted,
      Clifford A. McKenzie--aka--Nanny Grampy.
link to Aug 1 story Vigilance Voice

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