By Deb Silverthorn
The greatest of loves — of grandparent and grandchild — has lightheartedly, with a sprinkle of truth, been explained as the love between two generations who share “a common enemy.” A morning of understanding the best of this relationship will take place March 6, at the Aaron Family JCC, with family expert and “Unconditional Love: A Guide to Navigating the Joys and Challenges of Being a Grandparent Today” author Jane Isay.
The program, cosponsored by the Aaron Family JCC’s Margot Rosenberg Pulitzer Dallas Jewish BookFest and the Goldberg Family Early Childhood Center, is free and open to the public.
“When the grandkids come, the tic-tac-toe game of life gets played in 3-D. There’s nothing like it.” said Isay, grandmother of four who treasures the bond and hopes to help others glean the most they can. “Regardless of proximity, whether you see the kids twice a year or every week, the love crosses the generations. Grandparents are ‘Switzerland’ — always a safe place.”
Isay, who has edited nonfiction books for more than four decades, discovered Mary Pipher’s “Reviving Ophelia,” and commissioned Patricia T. O’Connor’s bestselling “Woe Is I” and Rachel Simmons’ “Odd Girl Out.” She also edited classics, including “Praying for Sheetrock” and “Friday Night Lights.” Before publishing “Unconditional Love,” she wrote “Walking on Eggshells,” about parents and their adult children; “Mom Still Likes You Best,” regarding adult siblings; and “Secrets and Lies,” about family secrets and revelations. “I learned a lot from my authors,” Isay said.
For many grandparents, a grandchild offers a second chance to become the parent they maybe didn’t have the time or the energy to be when raising their own children, the opportunity to turn missed moments into wonderful memories.
Drawing on her personal experience, dozens of interviews and psychological research, Isay explores the realities of today’s multigenerational families, identifying problems and offering solutions to enhance love, trust and understanding between grandparents, parents and grandchildren. She also provides practical advice from when to get involved, when to stay away, and how to foster strong relationships when separated.
“Using an authoritative yet friendly tone, respectful of all three generations involved, and startlingly deep insight into the impact of the past decades of social and economic change on family life, Isay shows the reader how to navigate the new choreography of grandparenting and enter into a dance of grace and delight,” said Wendy Mogel, gracing Isay’s book cover. Mogel herself is the author of “Blessing of the Skinned Knee,” “The Blessing of a B Minus” and “Voice Lessons for Parents.”
“I heard Jane speak at a Jewish Book Council event and she was absolutely engaging. Her book is for every grandparent — the new and the seasoned. It’s really written for all family relationships,” said Rachelle Weiss Crane, JCC director of Israel engagement and Jewish living. “We’re excited to partner with our Goldberg Family Early Childhood Center, and to make a daytime event possible.”
“Grandparents are ‘it’ in the eyes of our children and that is the greatest blessing. We have grandparents running carpool, volunteering in classrooms, and touching their grandchildren’s lives every day. It is beautiful,” said Tara Ohayon, director of early childhood education at the Goldberg Family Early Childhood Center.
Ohayon went on to say that her parents, Helen and Bill Sutker, played an integral role by caring for her own four children. “We love having both generations in the building to share the learning, Shabbat mornings, the Jewish connections, and the bubbies and zaydes so hands-on in the daily care — the fun and the responsibilities.”
Isay is the daughter of Rose N. Franzblau, a New York Post human relations columnist, and the late Abraham Franzblau, a former dean of Hebrew Union College who also practiced psychiatry.
After years of editing at Yale University Press and in New York publishing, it was time for Isay’s next calling. Her two sons were then busy building their own lives in their twenties; she, working to develop the next step of relationship with her now adult children, couldn’t find a book to help her through. “I decided to leave the corporate world and write it myself,” said Isay, whose late husband, literary agent Jonathan Dolger, sent out “Walking on Eggshells.”
Days later, right after her first grandchild was born, Isay got the go-ahead. “My writing and my family have grown together,” the author said. “I now have four grandchildren and four books — and I’m incredibly proud of all of them.”
Isay might not have known her own grandparents — all had passed before she was born — but she is, academically and of the heart, experienced in the ties of grandparents and grandchildren. Friends of her mother filled in the “you are perfect no matter what you do position,” she said. “It’s not the blood, it’s the love,” that builds the connection.
The author, known as Grandma Jane, said she is not the “cheerleader at all events close” to her grandchildren, but the “be there, share experiences, and make Grandma’s special chicken close.”
“Grandparents are the hinges of history,” she said, “reaching back to our own grandparents, reaching forward to our grandkids.”
Jane Isay will speak at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, March 6, at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center of Dallas, 7900 Northaven Road The event is free; RSVPs are necessary. For more information, visit jccdallas.org/event/jane-isay.