Before I was one, I couldn’t wait to be a grandpa. My belief was that it would be a piece of cake. You spend some time with them with your entire goal being to spoil them, feed them full of sugar, my grandmother actually created sugar sandwiches, (see Being Loved: Sugar Sandwich) and then send them back home with their parents. No sweat, right? Turns out there are a few more requirements in the fine print of that grandparent contract.
The other day we got our two adorable, sweetest, smartest grandkids in the whole world, consigned to us for the weekend. Seems mom and dad needed mom and dad time. Saturday morning they appeared magically at our doorstep, backpacks full of clothes, toothbrushes, toys, games, and projects. Wait, what, they’re staying overnight? I thought we were just being given a few hours to spoil them with hugs and kisses, a few pieces of candy of their choice, maybe a few extra TV minutes and that would be it. Hugs all around and off you go. As mom and dad got goodbye kisses and I heard my daughter say “Now you guys behave this weekend, brush your teeth and go to bed when Mimi and Opa (our loving grandparent handles) say it’s time.” My blood began to run cold! My first thought, we haven’t got enough candy in the house to last the weekend. Dear God, what will we use to bribe them after the candy supply runs out?
Major mistake number one, there were plenty of minor ones, “What would you like for lunch?” Never ask your grandkids that unless you know where the nearest McDonalds or Culvers, or for that matter, both of them are since after lunch comes dinner and then eventually there’s breakfast. And now that creative and fun activity of washing dishes I was planning on is gone. Guess the little amount of TV time will need to be renegotiated and lengthened.
Major mistake number two, wrestling with your grandkids inevitably ends up in injury. It was just a simple dive off the coach, how bad could it wind up? Hint, when wrestling in the living room, remove the coffee table. At least the time spent rocking and cuddling used up some of the 36 hours we were facing. Of course TV time got renegotiated and extended again. “Remember Jackson, mom and dad don’t need to know how LONG you watched TV, just that we watched a couple shows, short shows, really short shows.” At this rate of teaching him to spin the truth, I may have prepared him for a political career (see Being a Citizen: What Happened to Truth in Advertising).
Major misunderstanding number three, their notion of bedtime and sleeping arrangements and our wishful thinking of that would go down didn’t seem to quite align. Actually, they bore no resemblance at all. Yes, Jackson was content to sleep in his designated bed, but not without the perfect combination and illumination levels of the lights, plural. After several trips out to the living room with a request for a tweak to the systems, we got him to sleep at an appropriate time, plus or minus and hour or two, okay, just the plus. Meanwhile, Adela, our youngest and closest relative to story of the Three Bears, tried three different beds and bedrooms before settling on the one she was most likely to possible stay in for the whole night….our bed! Fortunately, that left open two other bedrooms, that upon finding my side of our marital bed occupied by our very own Goldilocks, I could spend the night in instead.
Being a grandparent takes skill. It takes a combination of patience, wisdom and love. And I won’t pretend that we haven’t closed the front door after they have gone without at least once or twice taking that deep relaxing breath as we picked up the toys and pillows and reclaimed our space. Being a grandparent requires all the wisdom you have to answer the many questions; the difficult ones, the deep thinking ones, and sometimes the awkward ones, like “How does the baby get in there?” Don’t forget the ingenuity required to think up the activities that will keep them busy. I have produced a wealth of scavenger hunts in that category. And finally, hone those negotiation skills required to handle yourself in the countless off the books wheeling and dealing you will be led into, example, McDonalds for breakfast! Here’s a tip, if all else fails, use my wife’s strategy, cards with $5 bills in them. A sure rise the to the top of the popularity poll guaranteed. Being a grandparent really isn’t piece of cake, though it might involve cake….. and ice cream….. with sprinkles…. lots of sprinkles.
Those of you know me, know that I tend to exaggerate. This story may just have some of that. Our grandkids truly are the delight of our lives and we have gone through versions of the story I laid out above and have not only survived them all, but have cherished the moments, the stories, and the memories.
For Jackson and Adela, the pride of my life and welcome to spend the weekend anytime.