It was a blow, but our children have finally discovered that it isn’t them we’re interested in; it’s what they bring with them that’s the focus of our attention. Wiping noses, kissing scraped knees, laughing at their jokes, and cheering them on have a whole new meaning when it’s the grandkids
First birthdays are the best. It’s a time when the little one has learned how to cry on demand and demand and demand. Cute little first words, “mamma, dada, no, hot,” and if it’s a second child, “mine.” Just like their parents. All we have to do is show up. The balloons, cake and hats are provided. We don’t have to buy but a single gift. Everyone is invited, family, friends, neighbors, UPS man, mail lady, and a car load of scouts wanting to do yard work.
Only one candle in the cake that everyone will try to blow out even before it’s lit. The birthday person gets to have center stage although older friends, siblings, and some kid with his golf clubs right off the golf course will try to cut in. We sing “Happy Birthday” in harmony, and everyone blows. The cake slides two inches toward the child. This will be the only time his parents will allow him to put his hands right in the middle and withdraw sugary goodness. A great time! The back yard is a wreck. Then we, grandparents, look for a clean square of skin on the birthday person in which to plant a good-bye kiss and leave.
This goes on for several more years until we hit the fifth birthday. “Who can afford all this,” my husband “the grandfather” says, looking at Magic by Marvin, The Fairy Godmother,
a live monkey show, or bounce house stuffed in the back yard. There is nothing cheap here. Gifts are extravagant. My cheap Malibu Barbie or big Tonka truck gets passed over for the Cinderella Barbie and motorized pick-up costing more than a week’s worth of groceries.
The computer games that once were limited to a single brand are now so numerous, I can’t possibly remember who has what. They’re mini, interactive, graphic phonomonias using pure skill. These advanced electronic baby-sitters are wonderful as long as you have multiple sets, controllers, and bodies to kill, compete, or run off the road.
But then we have my fun, too. We get to buy new baby furniture, port-a-cribs, high chairs, umbrella strollers, and car seats. Just like when we were parents. We get to baby sit and go to all the recitals. We get to go to the three-year-old soccer matches where everyone runs in and kicks in the same direction. The heartache of defeat? Not here.
The grandfather now has a purpose for all his loose coin while I grovel for even a ten spot. He gets to teach them to play golf when he tells me to just pick up my ball! He lets grandma give them a bath and I come out soaking wet since they all have to show me what they learned at swim practice. He lets them play in the front yard and wash his truck. They can take a nap together just before bedtime without a bath. He doesn’t care what they watch on TV. And they all eat in the living room and sip beer!
I’ve given up on the car seat (featured item in next garage sale) because I can’t get the blasted thing in the back seat. The last time I tried, I had the little fell strapped in so tight his face was turning blue. How was I to know it had to be attached to the car until I made the first turn.
Occasionally, I get to go to their house for a weekend. I get to be boss. I scoot the parents out and the grandkids and I learn about each other. I learn that I cannot stay up after they go to bed because they’ll still get up at five. I’ve learned that if you give them a drink of water before they go to bed, they better not be in mine. They’ve taught me that the tub is not a pool and will overflow if more than one person wants to swim underwater with his goggles and floaties.
I have discovered opossums die when the dog catches it and they learned how to dispose of it by using oven mitts, tongs, a large bag, and a dumpster at a near by gas station. I’ve learned you cannot find the library in Jacksonville, Florida by just driving down the street. They learned everything about the Science Museum and that Grandma had enough money to pay for everyone to get in. And they learned that you can always jump out of the car that’s next to a police car to get directions back home.
They learned that you don’t have to have a swimming suit to go swimming in the ocean. A towel would have been nice, though. That sand sticks to your feet and tastes salty when you lick your fingers. That disposal diapers can hold a WHOLE lot of water and if you’re naked nobody cares.
They all know I will make chocolate chip cookies and you don’t have to cook them to eat them. They learned that sticking a hotdog on a stick and roasting it over the gas grill was fun even for the dog. That even if it’s raining, we can still make S’mores in the kitchen over the stove.
They all know that mud can be made and played in because there is a hose to clean up with and “the grandfather” will have a shirt for them to wear until theirs is washed and dried. No one will wear “the grandfather” underwear, however.
And that even if all they say is “Come and eat,” in the school play, we’ll be proud. If they play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on the trumpet fifty-two times until they get it right, we’ll clap every time. When they tell a joke that makes no sense, we’ll always laugh. They know their grandfather will pay them twice for the same drawing and pay anyone who is brave enough to dust the bookshelves even though they can only reach the second shelf. And finally, they know, too, that no matter how bad they are we’ll never tell.
Written by Judy Lee Copyright ©2017 Judy Lee