By Johnny Diaz
City & Shore PRIME Magazine
To millions of TV viewers, Lesley Stahl is best known as the dogged correspondent on CBS’ 60 Minutes news magazine program.
But to two little girls, she’s simply “Lolly.”
Her two granddaughters, Jordan, 6, and Chloe, 3, have changed her in what she calls “transformative” ways, and she has set out to examine why.
The result of her personal investigation: Becoming Grandma: The Joys and Science of the New Grandparenting ($16, Blue Rider Press), which was originally published in 2016 and released as a paperback last month.
“I felt like I was addicted to my grandchildren. It’s the feel-good bonding hormone … I said, ‘Is that me, or is this every grandmother?’ I found out what I was going through was pretty typical,” says Stahl, 75, on the phone from New York City, where she lives with her husband, journalist Aaron Latham.
Stahl says she wrote the book in between assignments for 60 Minutes, where she has been a correspondent since 1991. Stahl has been with CBS since 1972.
In her typical 60 Minutes style, Stahl sought answers for these new feelings. She interviewed a neurobiologist, psychologists and other experts for the book, as well as everyday grandparents and famous ones, including news personality Tom Brokaw and Whoopi Goldberg
Louann Brizendine, author of The Female Brain, tells her that “when a grandmother holds the baby, her brain, like a new mother’s, can also be drenched in the bonding hormone oxytocin,” Stahl writes in the first chapter.
In the book, Stahl describes being “overwhelmed with euphoria” and having “this grandmother elation.” The feeling of being so physically and emotionally attached to her grandchildren was unlike what she’d encountered with her daughter, she says.
Entertainer Whoopi Goldberg tells Stahl she found being a grandmother “redemptive,” and that she has enjoyed teaching her grandkids “all the bad words. I’m like their playmate.”
It’s important to note, Stahl says, that parents and grandparents have different roles in the life of a child.
“We are nothing like we were when we were trying to whip our kids into shape, because as grandparents, our role, our function, is simply to love them, and that’s what we do,” Stahl says. “And it’s very pleasurable. We are not ‘no-ing’ them all the time. We are saying yes all the time.”
The heart of the book is Stahl’s relationship with her granddaughters. Sprinkled throughout are photos of Stahl and her husband with the girls — images of them having a pretend tea party, sharing a good book, enjoying a park slide, walking on the beach in Nantucket.
The girls live in Los Angeles with their parents. So how often does Stahl get to see them?
“Not nearly enough,” she says.