Reasons Why My Grandmother Was So Smart


Photo by Jason Stare


I had a great relationship with my paternal grandmother. I was one of 6 grandkids and the “chosen one”. My brothers and cousins would all agree that I was my grandmother’s favorite. I think it was because I was born on my grandfather’s 60th birthday and I spent many wonderful days at their house just hanging out. As I grew up, I knew my grandmother was a cool lady and she lead by example; I learned a lot from her and I continue to realize how smart she was. As a mom and a pediatrician I use her sage advice every day. Let me tell you why I think she knew what she was talking about.

  1. On Raising Kids: My grandmother was a working mother of 2 boys long before moms worked outside of the home. She told me that family always came first and that as a parent you could never tell your kids that you loved them enough. I remember her saying that parents are not their kid’s friend; rather they are their kids’ She would say that it was important for her kids to have responsibility and contribute to the family. That way the boys would have practice with skills they would need in a job. My grandmother had a list of chores for the boys to complete along with their homework before she came home from work each day. She once told me that she would have the boys clean out their desks once a week because it would keep them occupied for at least an hour after school while they were home alone. Clever! There were rules and expectations for the boys and it was expected that they were followed and fulfilled.

My grandmother was a fanatic about sleep! Everyone had to be well rested or you wouldn’t perform at your best. My dad said that he and his brother had the earliest bed times of anyone in he knew as a kid. My grandmother swore by warm milk before bed, “It will help you sleep.”

  1. Nutrition: My grandmother had a big container of bacon drippings (Grammy was from Louisiana) on her stove and I think she added it to everything she cooked! We always ate all of our green beans at my grandmother’s house; much to my parents amazement. Grammy knew that if you made vegetables taste good kids would eat them. My grandmother always said that you need to start the day with a big breakfast with protein!! (I don’t think there were articles being written about the importance of protein in the diet in those days.) Lunch was generous as well and dinner was small. Everything was homemade and she insisted on 2 vegetables on the plate at lunch and dinner! This was long before the Half Plate Healthy campaign. She really did say, “moderation is important in a healthy diet”! As she got older and the amount of processed food grew on the grocery store shelves, she would tell me that she didn’t think eating things with strange names was a good idea. Grammy talked about macronutrients before the term was tossed about commonly in nutrition articles. A meal always contained a protein, a carbohydrate, and healthy fat (bacon drippings!). I think Grammy’s food tasted so good because of those drippings.
  2. Medicine: Grammy used many natural remedies for common ailments. Honey with a drop of lemon juice was her cough syrup. A cold was promptly treated with BenGay rubbed on the chest and under the nose at bedtime. She knew it would help with the congestion overnight. Warm water with ginger was a stomach ache treatment and if you vomited, she would say, “well that wasn’t too bad to throw up now wasn’t it?” She was right. If any of her grandkids were to fall and get a cut, the dreaded Mercurochrome would be grabbed from the medicine cabinet and applied despite loud protests! That stuff stung like crazy but I would bet that no microbe could survive it! The only medicine I remember by grandmother using was aspirin; and that was used sparingly. “Our bodies are smart, it knows how to heal itself most of the time”, was a common statement. To my great pride, my grandmother was a champion of vaccines! She insisted that her boys and grandkids get their “shots” because she lived through the fear of her kids getting polio, measles, or diphtheria. I remember her stories of the closed neighborhood pools during the summer when an outbreak of polio occurred on their street. I wonder what she would say about the current lack of vaccination by so many parents.

Many of my families will recognize some of these items that I attribute to my awesome grandmother who was smart, kind, loving and the person I emulate. Thanks Grammy for all of your advice! I hope that I can carry forward some of her best ideas about kids. I am sure there are many of you who have grandmothers like mine. Let’s not forget their advice and let’s not get too fancy.