In 2003, after witnessing the birth of her first grandchild, Donne Davis, of Menlo Park, started the Gaga Sisterhood (http://gagasisterhood.com), a social network for Silicon Valley grandmothers to "bond, brag, and benefit." Davis, a retired college outreach counselor in her 60s, started the organization to explore "all the new feelings" that came with being a bubbe and to foster understanding between grandmothers and their adult children.
Membership is open to grandmothers living in the area, and Sisterhood produces a monthly e-newsletter, which covers everything from attachment parenting to how to improve relations with a daughter-in-law. Davis' new book, "When Being a
Q What is the role of the modern grandmother, and how do you think it's changed?
A Today's grandmas are more involved and hands-on with child care and helping their adult children. They are online. Grandmas I know feel more committed and engaged in their grandchildren's lives. My generation didn't ask for as much advice and help from our parents as today's young parents do, and yet we must be careful not to offer advice unless it is solicited.
Q What are the most pressing issues discussed at your meetings?
A The lengths we go to to see our grandchildren and how we get along with our adult children and their spouses. Once a year, we have a member mixer where we talk about who we are when we're not grandmothers. We invite speakers on aging or do a workshop on how to save memories.
Q What do you think grandmothers and their grandchildren's parents can do to improve relations?
A Own your shared purpose of caring for the kids. Value the parents' hard work and empathize. Half of my book is from the mom's (daughter or daughter-in-law) perspective. It's so easy to get into advice giving mode, but if we remember to listen first, be respectful, and ask questions, we can be a better team.
Q What puzzles you about modern parenthood?
A I'm not so much puzzled as I am in awe of today's parents. I wonder how they manage to do it all, especially moms. I read lots of mommy bloggers who seem wise beyond their years. Today's parents seem incredibly dedicated to researching everything they can about parenthood so they can be their best.
Q You say modern parents have more access to information than your generation did. But some of the best child-rearing tips never change. What's yours?
A Expose your children to lots of new experiences, and notice what excites them. Then try to nurture and support those interests and strengths. Be specific when offering praise. For example, "I love how you used so many different colors in your drawing."
Q Did you listen to your mother's advice? Your mother-in-law?
A My mom was very respectful and refrained from giving me advice. I was incredibly blessed to have a very sweet mother-in-law who thought everything I did was exactly right.
Q Why isn't there a Gaga Brotherhood?
A I know grandpas are very involved with their grandchildren, but I wonder if they'd be open to talking about their issues in a group. Personally, I don't have any more bandwidth to create a brotherhood, but if someone wanted to start one, I'd definitely help him.