Things Grandmothers Teach

What I want my granddaughters to know

I am blessed with having two precious granddaughters and a third granddaughter who will be making her debut into the world any day now. There are so many things I want them to know.

Granddaughters and grandmothers have a very special relationship. And wisdom is part of the experience.

I loved my grandmothers. They were both so different, one was a girly type of grandmother and would let my sister and I do her makeup by dabbing rouge on her cheeks, lining her lips with red lipstick and sitting patiently while we combed her hair. 

She had little tea parties for us using her best china. She would serve us saltine crackers spread with butter and cinnamon sprinkled on top.  She played the piano while we danced. Mother Maie taught me about having fun. 

My maternal grandmother was a farmer’s wife.  She was a very busy woman who was always doing things for other people.

She would make sure my sister and I were up on Saturday morning in the summer to help harvest the veggies from her garden: shucking corn, shelling butter beans, and making blackberry jelly.  She let us make the biscuits that she normally made everyday for my grandfather’s lunch.  She also taught us how to make cakes and let us lick the spatulas from the mixmaster. 

She took us fishing. We went with her to see Aunt Annie who was bedridden. She would cut her hair and bring her meals.  MaMa taught me the value of getting things done and about caring for others.

I learned from my grandmothers just by being around them. I was lucky to spend so much time around these two special women. 

I’m planning on being with my own young granddaughters as they grow up but since we live great distances from each other, I may not always be physically with them.  I’ve been thinking about what I want them to know. 

Dear Avery, Ella, and Kate,

There are so many things that are helpful to know as you live your life.  In case I forget to tell you, I’ve written some things down so you can remember them.  I imagine as time goes along, I’ll add to this list.  Here they are:

1. Always trust your instincts.  They are absolutely right.  Sometimes you can feel it all the way into your tummy.  Sometimes it’s just a knowing, something that might be hard to explain. That’s your wisdom and you can trust it. Every time.

2.  Know your body.  Love it.  Honor it by not criticizing it.  Take good care of it because it will be the only one you get. The bodies of women in magazines, TV, or the internet show females who have flawless skin, thin thighs, and flat tummies…this is not always real.  Your own body might not look like that.  This does not mean anything…your body is beautiful and perfect just the way it is.

3.  Sex.  This is a very special, sacred thing.   Don’t let anyone anywhere tell you that you have to do anything that you don’t want to do.  Pleasure comes in all different ways but it must be because you want it.  Choose wisely here with the person you want to share this experience with.

4.  Respect.  Don’t ever let anyone disrespect you.  This particularly applies in relationships.  If someone is not cherishing you, loving you, and respecting your opinions… run away as fast as you can.    

5.  Finances.  Always have money of your own.  Whether you’re married or single, this is important.  Your parents will probably give you money to learn with or maybe you will earn it by helping out around the house but the more you handle it, you become familiar with it and it’s not a big deal. 

6. Abundance.  That’s a big word for knowing that you have many, many riches all around you.  It comes in the form of family, friends, jobs, opportunities, learnings.  When something in your life ends, another thing will replace it.  Sometimes it’s even better than what you dreamed of.

7.  Love your parents.  Honor them.  They have spent an inordinate amount of time and energy loving you, teaching you, and you can trust them.  They are wise and they will always have your back.

8.  Love. Know that you are surrounded by love. If you love with abandon and receive love with grace, you can achieve or be anything you want.    

9. Dreams.  Never ever let anyone tell you that you can’t have your dreams.  Your desires and wants are real.  They are part of you and a guide to how you want to live your life.

10.  Travel.  Go far and wide.  See how other people live.  Notice the differences in languages, in scenery, in the way people live. Take in the beauty and the uniqueness of each place.  Don’t be afraid to have adventures.  But be wise and use good judgment.  I hate to tell you this but there are people in the world who will try to hurt you and so you have to know when you can trust someone and when you can’t.  Again, your best ally is your gut, your instincts.

11. Stay in touch. With your family and friends. That’s your parents, your siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, people you probably don’t know yet but who will share experiences with you in life. And your grandparents.  Yep, that’s where I come in.   We were loving you even before you were born.  We grandparents will make a stand for you every time and it is our right to spoil you 🙂

12. Keep a journal.  Write down your thoughts.  Keep it private but write in it.  You think you will remember things but it’s easy for the memories to fade.  Write about what you love, the things you’re happy about, the things that make you sad.  Write a love letter to yourself.  Make a page where you list all the people who are not as fortunate as you or are sick and send them good thoughts. 

13. Gratitude.  Always, always be grateful for what you have.  Your good health, your family, a good meal, people who guide you, anything that you can think of. Be thankful everyday. Always have a grateful heart.

14. Dance.  When you feel down, dance. When you’re happy & in love with life dance.  Dance when you’re at weddings, at parties, at family gatherings, with your friends. Dance on the beach by the light of the moon.  Dance in the rain.  Dance by yourself.  Dance when you’re angry.  Move your body and feel what it’s like to be alive.   

15.  Let go of worry and fear.  These emotions will only drain you. Instead, focus on gratitude (see #13) Most of the time, what we worry about doesn’t happen.  What we’re scared of can shut us down and keep us from doing what we want.

16.  Contribute. There are way too many people in the world who do not have the opportunities or freedoms that you have.  Find a way to help, share your knowledge, your gifts and talents to help them have a better life.  The reward is huge and with your kindness and creativity, it could change someone’s life. You will only gain from making a contribution and helping people in the world.

17. Have a blast.  Life doesn’t last as long as you think and it’s over before you can figure it all out.  Grab hold of the things that give you joy and follow them.  Follow your heart always.  Go out and make a difference in the world. 

It is very, very special to be a girl and a woman.  We have unique ways of being in the world and the world so needs our ideas and our way of solving problems.  You are powerful.



grandmothers and grandaughters

Your turn:

What was your relationship like with your grandmother?  What did you learn from her?  What would you add to this list? Share your comments below.

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  1. Beautiful advice for your grandkids, Jo.
    I never knew my maternal grandmother, but I did spend a lot of time with my paternal grandmother. We were at her house many Sundays growing up and also shared holiday time. I called her most Sundays once I moved overseas to make sure we kept the relationship as close as possible. She was a hard working farmer’s wife much like how you describe yours. She was tough, resilient, wise, religious and a had an amazing sense of humor. I have said many times in my life that I hope to have her sense of humor when I am “her age,” but perhaps this is a good reminder for me to make sure I have it now too :)! She was also the kind of grandmother who I was able to talk about love/relationships and be vulnerable with her. I was able to have peace with her passing because she had suffered and I wanted an end to that for her, but overall, she was a very lucky lady who lived a good life. What I am most proud of is that I was told by her caretaker and her friends when she passed, that she was always very proud of me…that meant so much. I can easily say the feeling was mutual!

  2. The only things I can think to add to the list would be the importance of laughter and not taking ourselves too seriously and to add to your “have a blast” component of the importance to remember what we are passionate about and naturally love to do when we are young and find a way to include that in our vocations, if possible. Great list for all of us!

  3. Andrew Bohn says:

    Great letter Mom! The girls are lucky to have such wonderful Grandmother.

  4. Alicia Price says:

    Hi Jo,
    I love this article you wrote! It reminds me of what my grandmothers might say to me. I was directed to your webpage by your daughter-in-law Steph Bohn (Wells)….who is possibly the sweetest girl NL ever produced! I’d like to share something my grandmother (or as I call her, Nanna) taught me. My Nanna isn’t my biological grandmother, rather she is my great aunt. Long story short, she never had children of her own, but played a large role in my mothers life. They very much have a mother-daughter relationship. There was never a doubt that I was her granddaughter. We are closer than many biological grandparents and grandchildren are. So what has she taught me? She has taught me unconditional love. She has taught me what it’s like to love someone and be loved by someone with the whole heart. When you are loved that deeply, you can’t help but feel valued. I think a grandmothers love does that. It makes you feel valued, loved, and worthy. It is a love that radiates warmth. It is one of the best loves a person can feel.

    • Jo Hatcher says:

      I agree with you that Stephanie is the sweetest woman and I am lucky, lucky to have her as a daughter-in-law.
      Unconditional love. If anyone has that, they can do anything. I love this story about your grandmother/great aunt. What a beautiful story. I think you said it so well…we feel valued, loved and worthy with our grandmothers. They seem to do it best. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • So true! We love our children unconditionally. .yet my son said that is the very gift he got from his grandma was unconditional takes a village..and I’m thankful for her living my kids

  5. Jo..this was so beautiful! ! It brought tears to my eyes! My Maternal graduate died when I was 3..I was born on her birthday and I wish I could have known her. My paternal grandmother wasn’t the affectionate type and I have very few memories of spending time with her when I was a child. She lived to be 100 and 1 day old. I am not yet a grandmother..but I know I will cherish the experience!! I remember as I grew up thinking 3 vital ingredients in life are Laughter, Exercise, and Perseverance. .so I would want to teach ways that were akways, Jo, thankyou for your heartfelt wisdom!

    • Jo Hatcher says:


      I bet you will be the best grandmother ever. I agree with you that laughter, exercise, & perseverance need to be added to the list. How special that you were born on your grandmother’s birthday but sad that you didn’t get to know her. So glad you shared your story.

  6. Beautifully written! I didn’t know any of my grandparents so this is a bit of a melancholy read for me. I only wonder how my life would be different if I had know a wonderful grandmother as you describe…

    • Jo Hatcher says:

      Leila, my friend,

      I would have shared my grandmothers with you 🙂 Too bad we didn’t grow up together. xo

  7. Jo, that was beautifully written. Since we share grandmothers, it makes it even more beautiful. They were so special and taught us so much about life. The truth is there is hardly a phone conversation or a talk in person that we don’t mention their names and something about them. Thank you for sharing these memories, and you can be sure that Avery, Ella,and Kate will have beautiful memories of their Gran.

    • Jo Hatcher says:

      Ceya, I am so grateful I have you and Maie to share these memories with. We were really lucky, weren’t we? And like you, we will pass much of what we know to our grandchildren. You’ve already done that in a beautiful way. Love.

  8. Grandmothering of Jude and Scarlett is one of my highest priorities. I love your insights and dedication Jo to these children. It is one of the most worthy things you can do with your time and resources. You are a wise woman indeed to know what is most important in life and wrap your time around it. From Grandmother Wolverine aka Helene Van Manen

    • Jo Hatcher says:

      Thank you, Helene. Yes, I agree that grandmothering is a such an important role. You’re a great role model for me! Thanks for reminding me to use my wisdom now as a grandmother.

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