Grandma's Pearls

I would like to invite you to join me on a journey. On November 1st, 2003, my mother died of pancreatic cancer. Her passing meant not just that I had lost a cherished family member, or that our community had lost a compassionate human being, but as a grandma she had a plethora of "pearls" on nearly any topic of child rearing, and these were gone with her as well. When I became a pediatrician in 1988, I would tap into her common-sense knowledge on a regular basis. Through the years, I found that many of my pediatric patients' grandparents enjoyed sharing their words of wisdom with me in my office, and I found these pearls especially valuable when I started my own family over ten years ago.

The journey I'm proposing is a shared attempt to capture this vast collection of accumulated wisdom on my blog. "Grandma's Pearl's" will celebrate a very special group of individuals who deserve to have a forum for sharing their hard-earned life lessons with others. It will be a compilation of advice from grandparents from all walks of life...capturing the insights of the grandparent-next-door, to the still-out-in-the workforce grandparent, to more.

My hope is that "Grandma's Pearls" will be a ray of inspiration for both new parents and experienced parents alike. Not a "how-to" manual on baby care, but rather a collection of practical, no-nonsense tips on how to raise good kids. You can share a couple of sentences, a paragraph, or a full-blown story if you'd like. I welcome you to share your pearls of wisdom and wit with the world!

Questions (these are suggestions only)....substitute in "dad, grandfather," etc. where appropriate:

  1. What tips do you (or passed down from your mother, mother-in-law, or grandmother) have on raising caring, happy, responsible, and well-adjusted kids?

  2. What did you (or your mom) do right, and/or what could have been done better?

  3. Was there a transforming moment in your (or your mom's) life that served as a guide in raising children? As a result of this moment, is there a "pearl" to pass on?

  4. Do you have a favorite "grandmotherly" quote that has helped you in parenting your children?

To submit a "pearl" click on:



Monday, October 22, 2007

Foster Dad

Jamie Jones M.D. was one of the original inspirations for this blog. Not only has he raised numerous foster children, but he raised them as a single dad. Through the years, I've listened to his many stories of wisdom about raising his kids, and now his many grandchildren. Here are a couple of his pearls...

Teenage Lies:
“Dad, I’m so sorry I’m late. Honestly, we were at the dance and left in plenty of time to get everyone home by their curfews, but on the way home we got a flat tire. We couldn’t really see very well in the dark, and no one had a flash light. We finally felt our way around the trunk, got out the spare and then realized Jack didn’t have a spare to use. So we called Triple A, waited for them to come, which took forever, then had to drive the girls home first and the other kids and I’m the last before Sam headed home.”
“Son, you’re not telling the truth.”
“What gives dad? I’m telling you the truth.”
“Son, I don’t know you are lying, but you know you are. No one who is telling the truth goes into all that detail. Truth tellers just say we got a flat tire, but all the additions you make tell me that even though I don’t know you are lying, you know you are lying and you are trying to cover up something.”

I have had several foster children. Each time a new child arrived, I had to integrate them into our family and try to get them interested in some pretty unusual interests: mine. Often the stereotyped interests, at least for guys, are pretty basic: sports and cars. But I have an interest in art and theater, and being on a resident’s salary meant that my kids needed to go with me if those interests were to be allowed. So whenever we went on vacation, we’d visit the local art museums. This is how my kids would earn trip money. We’d enter the museum and for every painting that they knew the painter, they’d get a quarter. If they knew the country of the painter—another quarter, and if they knew the type of painting, impressionism etc., they’d get another quarter. If they didn’t know the answer, they lost a nickel. As you well know, most museums have several works by an artist close to each other. So even without a trained eye, after seeing one painting and learning the country and epoch, the rest is an easy redundancy. When the kids didn’t know the work, I’d have the opportunity to describe it. Sure, the child might have lost 15 cents, but then could gain it back and then some with the other paintings nearby. I did this for years and my kids would always love to go to the museum. Sure, at first, it was because they earned money, but gradually they ended up becoming familiar with so many of the paintings, and over time they’d ask to go to the museums without any mention of allowance. As the years progressed I’d change the deal, a nickel for each they knew, a quarter off for ones they missed. They all ended up with quite an appreciation of art. Now, years later, often when we visit cities, our first stop is a museum. My kids are all adults now, but now their kids are busy earning their trip allowances in the art museums!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I have a friend who is loving, balanced, insightful, and an overall great human being. Her parents divorced while raising their family. Her mom, Joyce, grandmother of ten, offered this advice about how to minimize the impact of divorce for all involved:

"Keeping the focus on the origin of our problem helped maintain as much harmony for the family as possible.

In short, the adult relationship was the root of our issues, not the children and family unit. We did not want to make our divorce the childrens' problem.

Remembering this vital distinction allowed us to come together as a family, even after we each re-married. Dissolving the marriage also allowed us to re-unite in friendship."

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Pearl from Pearl

Ronny submitted these pearls from her mom...

Pearl Joyce Vanderhoof is a 3rd generation Pearl. She is 85 years old. She has 2 grandchildren named after her. She has raised 4 well-adjusted, happy (if such a thing is actually possible) children. All 6 of us adore each other. We have 5-6 family reunions a year. Pearl and our father Fred still travel the world and continue to be very active.

When asked what her "pearls of wisdom" were concerning raising her kids, she replied, "Make sure they have a father that feeds them and bathes them. But just as important is that they are very involved in household chores. Not only do they learn there are no free rides in life, but that they are a valuable contribution to their home."

All 4 of us kids got up on Saturday mornings and cleaned the house and yard. We got a break to watch Saturday morning television when "My Friend Flicka" came on. We worked for several hours. All of us working and complaining together. I remember it fondly now. I have instilled this same value in my own children.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


According to the doctors, Amy should never have lived to see all seven of her grandchildren. Ten years ago, just before retirement, she was diagnosed with an advanced cancer of the uterus that had spread to her colon. Her doctors estimated she had little time to get her affairs in order. But Amy decided to fight back. She endured through three surgeries, chemo, and radiation. Although Amy's body was so weak that she was confined to a wheelchair and unable to even lift her head, she continued to believe in herself. With the support of her oncologist, her family, and the prayers of her church family, she embarked on journey of healing that not only included Western medicine, but acupuncture and other Eastern therapies as well.

One day, a friend invited her to come to her dance lessons, and Amy came to watch, wheelchair and all. That was a turning point in Amy's mind. She believed she could do it. She was going to dance! Now, ten years later, Amy and her husband are on the dance floor, kicking up their heels every week. They are enjoying their grandchildren, and have just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

Here is Amy's pearl: "Parents should give their children the encouragement they need to feel good about themselves. Self-esteem and self-confidence are so important in their young lives growing up. They just need to know that they are their own person, and that they can do and be whatever they want to do and be. One thing they will never need is to have their parents (or any other adult) put them down. Help give your children the confidence to believe in themselves!"

Thursday, February 1, 2007

A Loss

As I was looking over my reading list recently, I thought it would be nice to ask for a "pearl" from the mother of Richard Carlson, the author who is best known for his "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" series. Judging by Richard's philosophy and outlook on life, I would suspect that Mrs. Carlson is a wise and wonderful mother and grandmother.

In checking out the "Don't Sweat" website however, I was saddened to discover that Richard had just passed away at the young age of 45. He was on a flight from San Francisco to New York City last December 13th, and died of a pulmonary embolism, resulting in cardiac arrest. Richard was the best selling author of 30 books, which focused on the themes of kindness, patience, gratitude and generosity.

Athough he didn't live long enough to enjoy "Grandpa" status, Richard's books are chock full of wise and wonderful pearls. Even if you've read his books before, pick one up and read it again. I guarantee that you'll learn something new. His words seem all the more powerful, now that his too-short time on earth has come to an end. You can read more about Richard's life on his website:

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Joan and Bert's Story

"One thing we have found difficult to admit is that our grandchildren have terrible manners. They don't make their beds, they aren't cheerful in the mornings, they don't look people in the eye when they are introduced to them, and they never write or call to express thanks for Christmas and birthday presents. How's that for starters? They live in poverty circumstances with a foster mother, but we do spend a lot of time with them out here in California. They do much better when they are with us, but they revert back once they leave. In talking with other grandparents, we are not alone.

The one thing I encourage parents to do is to let their children understand that we live in a society of give and take. It's not a one-sided, "we give...they take." Several of our friends, even the wealthy ones, are appalled at the manners of some of their grandchildren, so manners and common courtesy seem to be a more prevalent problem than we had imagined. Our advice is to keep the children as close to the grandparents as possible. Don't be afraid to stand up for the grandparents' rights in helping them grow up sensibly.

If other grandparents have any ideas for what amounts to long-distance grandparenting, we would love to know."

Friday, January 19, 2007

Lanie's Pearl

The following story was submitted by my dear friend, Lanie Carter. Lanie is known for being the world's first "Professional Grandmother." She started her unique and amazing career many years ago at Scripp's Hospital in La Jolla, California. Lanie is not only a grandmother, but a great-grandmother as well. She has authored books on both parenting and grandparenting, and has recently penned her autobiography. Here is Lanie's pearl:

"At Christmas time 2006, our entire family gathered for Sofia's first Christmas held at my home...the same home we have lived in for 45 years. By a Christmas miracle, Sofia said "mama" for the first time on Christmas Eve.

Tears came to her mother Dayna's eyes as she looked at her mother, my daughter Ellie and Sofia's grandma. As Ellie, tears in her eyes, turned to me, tears were running down my cheeks. I am Sofia's great-grandmother. All I could think of was how different life will be for Sofia being raised a child in the years of 2000 as opposed to the 195o's when her grandma Ellie was born.

So very much has changed, but not that much at all. As John Wooden said in the preceding note, no matter how much has changed, "The most important thing parents can give their child is to love each other." That's where it all begins, no matter what century we're in.

Just think about it..."

John Wooden's Pearl

Isn't it interesting that my first official "pearl" is not from a grandma, but from a grandpa, and a famous one at that!

John Wooden promptly replied to an email that I had sent to him the other day. His pearl was, "The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother."

Thank you Coach the wise age of 96 you certainly have achieved the status of "legend" in our books!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

GrandPA's Pearls

As much as I've wanted to tap into the minds of all the wise grandMAS of the world, I also realize that the wise grandPAS of the world have just as much to contribute. After all, we want to be an equal opportunity blog, correct?

Growing up as one of four kids, our dad was (and still is) a huge sports fan. Our dad taught us from a very young age that life lessons are learned not only in the classroom, but out on the playing field as well. One of our dad's role models has always been John Wooden, the famous UCLA basketball coach who took his team to 10 national titles (7 in a row) back in the 1960's and '70's. John Wooden became a legendary coach by teaching his players the value of lifeskills such as hard work, enthusiasm, friendship, loyalty, cooperation, self-control, alertness, action, determination, fitness, skill, team spirit, poise, confidence, and doing one's personal best.

Coach Wooden has summarized these lifelong attributes in his now-famous "Pyramid of Success." He is a respected author and teacher, and in 2003, published a wonderful children's book based upon his Pyramid of Success entitled, "Inch and Miles: The Journey to Success." This book has since become the backbone for character development in many schools and sports camps nationwide. Your kids will love the story of Inch and Miles, as well as the colorful illustrations!

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Happy New Year

In doing some "winter cleaning" the other day, I came across an old Ann Landers clipping that my mom had given to me shortly after Ms. Landers had passed away. It contained some great parenting pearls collected by the National Institute of Mental Health. One reader said she had placed it in a prominent position on her fridge many years ago, and while now yellowed and brittle with age, the wisdom and common sense are timeless. Here they are:

1. Love abundantly. The most important task is to love and really care about your child. This gives him or her a sense of security, belonging and support.
2. Discipline constructively. Give clear direction and enforce the limits on your child's behavior.
3. Whenever possible, spend time with your children. Play with them, talk to them, teach them to develop a family spirit.
4. Give the needs of your mate top priority. One parent put it this way: "A husband and wife are apt to be successful parents when they put their marriage first. Child-centered households produce neither happy marriages nor happy children."
5. Teach your children right from wrong. They need to be taught basic values and manners so that they will get along well in society. Insist they treat others with kindness, respect, and honesty.
6. Develop mutual respect. Act in a respectful way toward your children. Say "please" and "thank you," and apologize when you are wrong.
7. Listen. Really listen. This means giving your children undivided attention, putting aside your beliefs and feelings, and trying to understand your children's point of view.
8. Offer guidance. Be brief. Don't give speeches. And don't force your opinions on your children.
9. Foster independence. Gradually allow children more freedom and control over their lives.
10. Be realistic. Expect to make mistakes. Be aware that outside influences such as peer pressure will increase as children mature. One parent said, "Don't expect things to go well all the time. Child-rearing has never been easy. It has its sorrows and heartaches, but it also has its rewards and joys. This is what makes it all worthwhile."