Last Sunday, most of America’s attention was turned to the somber ten-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks, and rightfully so. It was especially reflective for me, like that day is every year, because I had a job interview at the World Trade Center, and in true Janelle fashion, I was running about 20 minutes late for it. It was tacky at the time, but it has sure meant the world to me since then.

With much less recognition and media coverage behind it, Sunday also marked the observation of Grandparents’ Day. You know, in our community, grandparents are generally an extension of the official parenting team. If you have grandbabies, you know that firsthand. Even though both of my grandparents have gone on to glory, I wouldn’t be the person I am now if it weren’t for my Nana and Granddaddy. 

As far as I’m concerned, grandparents are kids’ greatest advocates, even more than mom and dad. Sure, parents are the first line of defense and have kids’ best interests at heart. But when it comes to really evaluating a situation objectively and interjecting hard-earned wisdom, it’s Team Grandma or Grandpa all the way. That’s not to say the folks directly responsible for the children’s birth shouldn’t have the final say-so in decisions — and my mama and I have gone toe-to-toe over that one. I do believe grandparents should be active participants in raising them. I actually think it’s their right.

When I was a kid, I saddled up every weekend for the hour-long trip to my grandparents’ house in rural Pennsylvania, Amish Country, USA. My mom was a single parent and she worked lots of overtime at her factory job on Saturdays and Sundays, so she took advantage of my Nana and Granddaddy’s enthusiasm to pick up their precious grand (that would be me).

Up until the time he passed when I was 12, my grandfather showed me all the characteristics of real manhood. Now, as a grown woman, the checklist of qualities I want and expect from my future husband has been molded after him: funny, smart, hardworking, protective, quick-thinking in tough situations. And my grandmother was the single biggest influence on my life next to God. I can say with confidence that she was the kindest, sweetest person I’ll ever know. Even now, when I go back to visit family and stop in a store or go to the market and it comes up that I’m Mrs. Harris’ granddaughter, folks hold up the conversation telling me how amazing a woman my Nana was.

As much of an impact as she had on my life, she also helped raise my daughter. I fiercely believe that it takes a village to raise a healthy, happy, inner-peace-filled child, so I’m so thankful for the people around me who genuinely care about and invest in my almost-teenager. My mother and grandmother have been the superstars of that group, each sowing into her in her own special way, even after my pregnancy came to them as a shock. I’m the first person in my family to go to college, so when I came home with more than my grades, it was a huge disappointment. (My Nana, in true grandmotherly fashion, supported me, soothed me and prayed for me. It took my mom a little while to get there.) As I was finishing my degree and proving everybody wrong who said I wouldn’t graduate, they happily took their little infant charge and luxuriated in their Mama and Nana responsibilities.

I’m not sure if Tween Girl realizes how much of a blessing her grandmothers have been — they’ve always been there, and when someone’s always been there, you tend to take them for granted, especially as a kid, but she’s always been assured of their love for her. It’s just a different level of enjoyment seeing grandkids grow up than raising children the first time around.

I knew that was true when I saw my mom buy my daughter a candy bar and a toy from that forbidden section of last-minute items before you get to the checkout counter. My jaw almost scraped the tile because when I was a kid, I just knew better than to ask for anything from there. That was a guar-on-teed shutdown. But now as a grandma, she’s spoiling her — just like my grandmother spoiled me — and willingly volunteers trinkets to make The Girl happy. That is, after all, her main mission. Should be for all grandparents.