By Jane Glenn Haas
The Orange County Register
First thing you have to know is this: My five grandsons are cuter and smarter than yours, and someday I just know I'll have a granddaughter who will be president of the United States.
That said, you'll agree that when I drove past a major outlet mall last week, I had no choice but to brake for sales at Baby Gap and Ralph Lauren Kids.
I'm walking past Barneys New York ("70 percent off!" the signs scream) and Coach handbags ("SALE") and Liz Claiborne and Pottery Barn. I'm ignoring the Harry and David closeouts and the Sweet Factory Valentine candy come-ons.
I am a focused grandma.
I've been dubbed part of the "Nanas and the Papas" generation by ABC News.
I play "Tickle Elmo" on the computer with my 17-month-old grandson, who lives locally, and send Fisher-Price Little People sets to the one in New Hampshire because his father loved to play with those Little People 33 years ago. And I toss my Hawaii grandkids in the back seat of a convertible to tool around Maui with the top down and the stereo up.
I'm a cool grandma, too, so I walk out of Ralph Lauren with a pair of 24-month jeans marked down from $26.98 to $9.98. What a steal! It even says "POLO" on the loop where the kid can hang his hammer.
The jeans join a bunch of T-shirts and sweat shirts from Baby Gap, all purchased at remarkable sale prices.
My grandparents would swoon.
Having survived the Depression, the last thing they did was waste money on foolishness like designer-label baby clothes.
But the times, they are a-changin', says Phil Goodman, president and owner of Generation Transitional Marketing.
"Boomer grandparents are more involved with their grandchildren," he says. "A lot of grandkids are their play toys. They have a different relationship - they are more active with the grandkids, they travel with the grandkids.
"So, they are doing things for themselves as well as the grandkids."
We're having a great time reliving our youth, Goodman says. And our attitude is so far removed from any other U.S. generation of grandparents that he doubts it will ever happen again.
One of my friends regularly takes her grandkids on sleepovers at the San Diego Zoo. I've got another friend who Rollerblades along the beach with her grandsons, and others who take cruises and hiking trips with the children.
Well, for one thing, we're the generation ignoring being 50 and figuring that 60 is just another decade for fun and adventure.
More than 20 million boomers - or about 30 percent of the boomer generation - are already grandparents, says the Kipplinger Report.
We are used to getting our own way and doing our own thing.
But - and here's the choice part - 28 percent of us who are grandparents have divorced, remarried and have second or third sets of children. Our children are playing with our grandchildren.
Well, not my grandchildren. I knew when to stop having babies.
But I've never stopped looking for fun and adventure. And I never stopped shopping.
Grandparents spend more than $50 billion a year on products and services for grandkids, Kipplinger says.
There are those college funds, important but not offering immediate rewards.
And there are those Polo jeans, size 24 months.
Just wait until you see Mark hang his toy hammer from the POLO loop. Talk about cute!
© 2004, The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.).
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.