In Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting (Random House, Apr.), Quindlen describes moving into a new stage of life.
You write that Nanaville is a state of mind. How has your state of mind changed now that you know you’re going to be a grandmother a second time around?
Bring ’em on! I hope to have as many grandchildren as my kids can manage, in part because the cousin network is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. As I write in the book, my paternal grandparents had 32 grandchildren.
Do you feel more confident in your role as Nana now?
In my experience, your role as a nana is less about your grandchild and more about negotiating your position with your grandchild’s parents. I more or less know how to mess around with a toddler. But I had to learn what my son and my daughter-in-law wanted me to do, and when they wanted me to back off. I think we’ve all gotten pretty good at those boundaries now.
What’s the most important lesson you want readers to take away?
I once wrote a column about being a mother in which I bemoaned my tendency to emphasize getting it done instead of simply doing. One of the best things about being a grandparent is that it enables you to be in the moment more. At the same time, you have deep connection without ultimate responsibility, which is such a gift. I’m not really invested in potty training or reading readiness. I’m there for the hugs.
At what point did you decide you wanted to write about grandparenting, and how did the book come together?
I could say that it’s because I discovered that there are more grandparents now than at any time in human history because of the demographic bump and longer life expectancy of the baby boomers. But let’s be honest. I had a grandchild, and it was aces. Once I cleared it with his parents, I was good to go. It was pretty light duty, writing about this. You know how most grandparents pull out pictures? I have a manuscript.
You write about reading with your grandson Arthur. As he grows older, what books are you looking forward to sharing with him?
This poor child. He has one of the best-read fathers in the world. It’s going to be dueling recommendations. Nana says Edith Wharton, Daddy says Joseph Conrad. Nana says Ngaio Marsh, Daddy says Ian Fleming. But we will agree completely about Dickens. So I think Great Expectations will be on tap sooner rather than later. Right now, it’s all about Frog and Toad, and Babar.