WHITNEY: Heading ‘up north’ to see grandma

“Go away, mom. Go downstairs. Go on couch,” she says, shooing me away from Grandma Dawn’s upstairs bedroom.

Or when I offer help while camping, she hedges. “Ummm, how ‘bout Grandma Beth do it?”

When we’re in the presence of grandmas, mom becomes second rate, which is FINE. You will indeed find me downstairs, on couch, probably reading a magazine or watching “Law and Order: SVU.”

Our summer weekends get a little bit hectic. We spend a lot of time bouncing back and forth between family compounds, logging hours of quality time for the grandparents and aunts, sometimes at the expense of the mental health and stamina of mom and dad.

This summer, we’re in one of two places. We’re either camping in Morley with Grandma Beth and Mindy the Dog, or we’re in AuGres at the cottage with Grandma Dawn and Shotgun the Dog. Grandmas’ houses are identified equally as well by the dogs therein.

I can’t lie. I don’t always love the hustle and bustle it takes to make this quality time happen. Sometimes I’d rather be home on my own couch, reading my own magazines and not living out of a suitcase three days of the week. But I really, really love watching my kid bask in the company of her grandparents at their respective “up norths.”

When I was a kid (here we go again), I spent a lot of time with my grandma up north. Her up north was South Branch, where a little disabled travel trailer awaited us smack dab in the middle of 10 acres of field and woods. We wasted our days kayaking and driving the lawn tractor before heading into a tiny diner in Lupton for fried food and meringue pies. Sometimes we’d go for a week at a time, grandma, my sister and cousin and me.

Those trips up north cemented our bond with our grandma, and I get a little wistful for them this time of year.

When we had Olivia here in Big Rapids, two hours away from either of our families, I wondered what it would be like for her to grow up with a distance separating her from her extended family. It’s proving not to be a problem.

And it’s getting much easier. Compared with the first year we traveled up north with baby in tow, our load is much lighter. No booster seat for the dinner table, no pack-n-play for a bed, no stroller for trips into town. Two bags, three people, a lap full of toys and snacks and we’re gone.

Before we know it, we’re back in the good graces of grandma and grandpa. Olivia gets to play and sit in a new lap, and for a minute or two I get to relax. And now, standing in my mom’s shoes, I appreciate my grandma so much more.

Whitney Gronski-Buffa is the Lake County Star’s parenting columnist. After four years reporting and editing at the paper, she’s stepped back to spend more time with her family. Read more here each week and reach her at whitney.buffa@gmail.com.