Grandmotherhood inspires retired Fredericton teacher's first book

Janet Robinson holds her beloved granddaughter Lennon, who inspired her children's book about grandmotherhood. (Submitted by Janet Robinson - image credit)
Janet Robinson holds her beloved granddaughter Lennon, who inspired her children's book about grandmotherhood. (Submitted by Janet Robinson - image credit)
Submitted by Janet Robinson
Submitted by Janet Robinson

When Janet Robinson's daughter had her first baby in the spring of 2021, the Fredericton teacher and guidance counsellor felt "a wave of emotion" that inspired her to become an author.

"It was just this beautiful feeling," she said, describing the birth of Lennon, and of how a fourth generation was being welcomed into her family.

Robinson, who is also a grandmother to her step-daughter's two children, channelled those feelings into writing and has now self-published the first in a planned series of three children's books.

Never Wake a Sleeping Nanny is about the importance of grandmothers and the love and guidance they offer in a child's life.

"It takes a village. It really does," said Robinson, who believes the most important role for a grandparent is simply to show up and be present.

That's why she never misses a dance class.

Submitted by Janet Robinson
Submitted by Janet Robinson

"There is a line in my book that says, 'She'll cheer the loudest in all you do. She's dreaming about you. You are the apple of her eye, I know that much is true.'"

Children can learn a lot from their grandparents, said Robinson, from "little life lessons" to practical skills.

She's currently teaching another granddaughter, Zoey, how to knit.

And in families with divorced parents, Grandma can be a comforting "neutral territory," she said.

Diving into a writing project

Friesen Publishing
Friesen Publishing

Robinson worked 37 years at George Street Middle School. She started out teaching English language arts before moving into guidance counselling.

After she retired last June, she still wanted to do something to benefit children — so she dived into this writing project.

"I guess I wanted to give something for my grandchildren to read," she said. "I want to be that kind of grandmother that is the one that they will talk about 50 years from now," she said.

She built on an idea that had been born about a year earlier, when she was holding and gazing upon her grandbaby Lennon.

"I thought, you know, I wonder what she's thinking."

That led to thoughts of her own grandmother and suddenly she was imagining the roles reversed.

She began writing poems from the perspective of someone standing over a sleeping grandmother and narrating her thoughts and dreams.

LISTEN | Janet Robinson talks about how becoming a grandmother opened a literary chapter in her life:

"She's sleeping, but she's dreaming about you. She'll remind you it's important to look for beauty everywhere, to see the goodness in everyone."

A lamp post sent a welcoming message

The poems morphed into a little rhyming book, which Robinson said, reflects the grandmother she had as well as the one she wants to be.

"I had the most amazing relationship with my grandmother," she said.

Submitted by Janet Robinson
Submitted by Janet Robinson

"She lived across the lawn. We took a snowblower and kept a path between the houses so we could go back and forth. She was an integral part of everything."

If her grandma's lamp post was lit, it was an invitation to stop in because it meant she had cooked a surprise, such as molasses cookies, soda bread or macaroni and hamburger.

Robinson and her two siblings each took turns sleeping over at their grandmother's once a week.

"When it was our turn, you just got spoiled rotten — eat on a tray in front of the TV, breakfast in bed the next morning," she said. "I want that for my grandchildren — to come here and feel good and feel spoiled and loved."

Submitted by Janet Robinson
Submitted by Janet Robinson

The next two books in the series will be told from a grandchild's perspective.

Book 2 is about a child experiencing anxiety — or "belly flies," and Book 3 is a child observing their grandmother being kind and generous during a trip to the grocery store.

They're already written, said Robinson. She's just "waiting to see how things go" with the first.

Never Wake a Sleeping Nanny is available at a few stores in Fredericton, including Pharmachoice locations on the north and south sides, Westminster Books, Room to Remember and directly from the author.