A genius has been described as a stupid kid with adoring grandparents, and the truth is we do love our grandchildren to the extent that we think they are gorgeous, cute, brilliant and unique.
We are allowed to have photo albums called "Grandma's Brag Book" and friends indulge us when we whip out our grandchildren's photos, treasuring and relating every pearl of wisdom that drops from their lips.
With our own children, mixed with the love was a heavy sense of responsibility, guilt for their peccadiloes and a high level of aggravation from "the terrible two's" through their adolescent years. When they completed each rite of passage - bar or bat-mitzvah, graduated school, finished the army, got a degree and stood under the chupa (wedding canopy) - as well as love and pride, we were feeling an enormous sense of relief that the difficult job of child-rearing had reached a successful conclusion.
But grandchildren are pure, unadulterated love. I am lucky enough to have 18 of them, all in Israel, ranging from age eight years old to 27, plus five great-grandchildren with another two on the way…
Yes, I talk about my grandchildren and great-grandchildren too -- all the time. I have my fund of stories that I repeat "ad nauseum," and of course each grandchild is adorable and special. One edited his school paper and is a computer whiz; his brother draws fantastic cartoons. One little girl is a Marilyn Monroe look-alike; her brother is a real Torah scholar with the sweetest singing voice; another boy won a prize for Judo. One, David Lavi, is a successful singer, composer and musician, and was runner up in "Kochav Nolad" - the Israeli version of "A Star Is Born."
The oldest granddaughter, now a mother herself, is a talented artist and a qualified social worker. Some years ago, while still at school, she spent three weeks with me one summer when she attended a day camp in Jerusalem, and we became very close. We had picnics and fed the ducks in the Botanical Gardens, and had an affectionate "rapport" the entire time. She is named for my mother, so I feel a special bond.
There is also a special bond with 20-year-old Shir, maybe because it's like watching her mother grow up all over again. She is a beautiful, intelligent young lady, who also always makes me laugh and about whom I have a never ending reservoir of stories -- my favorite being when she asked me how old I was when she was about five, and -- when I told her -- replied in utter amazement, "Did you start from one?"
Being a grandparent is a special role. We try to pass on family traditions, as well as our values and beliefs. We sing them the songs we sang to their parents, and repeat the same jokes and nursery rhymes starting with "This little piggy went to market..." almost as soon as they are born.
But there is a line we must not cross.
We have to remember that they are not our children, and their futures, discipline and the road they will travel is for their parents to decide. We had our turn at parenting, so we must allow our children the same prerogative even if we don't always agree with their choices.
Permit me one last story about my grandson Daniel, who lived on the mountain-top settlement of Allon before he was married. From the time he was a toddler, he has been fascinated with all aspects of nature, particularly animals. He truly loves them, knows all about their habits and tenderly nurtures his whole, extensive menagerie. If he feels any of the animals are unhappy in their captivity, he lets them go free. Toys have never interested him – even as a toddler he preferred his collections of shells and stones.
When I used to go abroad, he asked me to bring him back an unusual stone -- a small piece of raw opal, or a hunk of amethyst. And when I visited him, from the age of four he always had something for me -- a pine cone, a shell or a beautifully rounded pebble.
It is a Jewish custom to place a stone on the grave, not a flower. Although I hope to be around for many more years, I know that when I go to my final resting-place, Daniel's stone -- his last gift to me -- will be a very special one.
None of us knows if we will reach the age to become great-grandparents, amd now that I have, I feel truly blessed. How wonderful it has been to see our grandchildren successfully pass the rites of passage as their parents did, to dance at some of their weddings and to see them produce their own progeny.
When our time is over, we can be comforted that probably one of them loves us enough to name a child for us, so that we continue to be remembered for a few more generations. Whether you're called Savta, Nanna, Bubbie or Grandma, it is the sweetest name in the world when it issues from the lips of a beloved grandchild.
Dvora Waysman is the author of 13 books, one of which, The Pomegranate Pendant, is now a movie, titled "The Golden Pomegranate". She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org