NPR logo

Grandma Robinson Makes White House Transition

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Grandma Robinson Makes White House Transition

Around the Nation

Grandma Robinson Makes White House Transition

Grandma Robinson Makes White House Transition

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The Obamas will soon undergo a historic transition in January as the nation's First Family of color enters the White House. Also making the transition will be Marian Robinson, Michelle Obama's mother. President-elect Obama has attributed the success of his campaign, in part, to Robinson's support, especially as a child care provider.

A roundtable of grandmothers — Dianne Tolson, Sajida Nomani and Betty Noel-Cushenberry — share advice for Robinson and discuss the special role of grandparents.

Notes From A Grandchild

By Catherine Cushenberry

Courtesy of the Cushenberry Family

The Cushenberry family

Courtesy of the Cushenberry Family

In terms of the best and worst of having Nana live with us when we were growing up, there were actually a lot of "Bests!"

1. There was always a Mother-figure around. Even though you two have very different styles and are very different people, I always felt like there was someone there I could trust implicitly.

Other people are always surprised when I send Nana a card on Mother's Day. But I can't imagine not sending her one. I'm not honoring her because she's your mother, or because she was somebody's mother, or even because she's my grandmother. I am honoring her because she always is and always has been "Another Mother figure for me.

2. It transformed the typical love that grand kids feel for their grandparents into something much more. Nana has a piece of my heart. She was there for all the important moments in my life. She saw me take my first falls (physically and emotionally) and she was there to pick me up. It means that today, I would literally do anything for her.

As the youngest kid, Nana and I spent a lot of time alone together after my sister Erica left for college. And I'm grateful for that.

3. There was no getting away with anything. (This was NOT a positive at the time, but in retrospect it was.) You can manipulate your baby sitter or the au pair "not to tell" your parents when something goes wrong. But, you cannot manipulate My Nana. Everything comes out!

4. I think "old school values" were passed on to us at a very young age.

In terms of the downsides:

1. A GRANDMOTHER IS NOT A MOTHER. (It was very clear that our parents made the final decisions.)

2. I think as a family there can be a danger of "performing" because "Nana is around." There is the possibility of not having "the hard discussions" because parents want to project to their parents that everything is great.

3. Nanas don't change with the times (a positive and a negative). You take them as they are.

Nana Noel's 5 'Pearls' For First Nana Robinson's Consideration

By Mrs. Darvine J. Noel


1. Just concentrate on your Grand babies. Nothing else matters.

2. Do not interfere with the "Core Family." Support the mother and the father, equally.

3. "Grand Mothering" is not "Babysitting." The difference is "Jurisdiction." (This means that there is no "appeal" from Nana's rulings.)

4. The weekends are YOURS! For You! I became a docent at the Smithsonian; learned to swim; I attended Church each Sunday with the granddaughters in tow. On Sunday afternoons, I would read the NY Times, have dinner on my own time, not necessarily with the family.

5a. Know when it is time "to leave." Recognize when "your work is done. Keep/Retain your own home so you can "GO HOME."