PICTURE WITH ME an idyllic, mythic tableau of grandparenting. You know the ones that look like the “after” picture of prescription medication ads, not the ones where he’s plagued with those pesky side effects like: constipation, diarrhea, rash, swelling of hands, feet and face, wheezing, irratibility, increased appetite, night sweats and visions of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in the Whitehouse.
In the first frames of these ads, gramps is relegated to the porch with an elephant sitting on his chest while the rest of the family is frolicking in the yard. But, then he takes his meds for HBP, COPD, ED, ADD, RA and XYZ. Now he’s splitting wood, and throwing another log on the campfire, where the kids are roasting marshmallows for s’mores. He gives grandma a knowing wink and a nuzzle, and thinks how much better the whole scene would be if he could light up a pipe and have a scotch. Then he notices something at the edge of the campfire’s glow: it’s Norman Rockwell and Thomas Kinkade painting the whole scene. “I’m so glad I put on my clean cardigan and remembered to zip up!” he thinks to himself.
When you are of a generation that grew up with programs like Father Knows Best, Ozzie & Harriett, Leave It To Beaver, etc., you think of things like this.
Perhaps you’re aware that I am the grandfather to three grands; all girls. AKA, Pops and the Grand-Girls. It is a role I cherish. But, I will admit that sometimes I don’t feel adequate to this high calling. It has to do with gender roles. Don’t panic! This isn’t veering off to some weird place.
I know it’s old fashioned, but my culture has created in me some expectations and understandings—right or wrong. For example, when I think about rites-of-passage, the connections between a grandfather and grandson seem really obvious. A grandfather can teach the boy to shine shoes, oil his ball glove, bait a hook. He can buy his grandson his first pocket knife and teach him how to play mumbley peg or “dissect” a frog.
But who are we kidding here? There is nothing a granddad could pull out of his bag of tricks that will break the trance-like spell an iPad or video game has on a wee lad.
The fact is, I wouldn’t trade my three Grand-Girls for all the boys in the tri-state area. Turns out I love going to the ballet with them. We all love to read. And even though I don’t know an Elsa from an Anna, I’m still invited to sit in the floor and “play” Frozen. We go to museums together and weirdly enough we all like Chick-fil-a and dark chocolate. Who knew?
Sometimes, when spending quality time with the girls, I will suggest an activity, a game, or maybe a plot line and characters for an evolving make-believe story.
Sometimes, my ideas are met with enthusiasm.
Sometimes, not so much.
Sometimes, the creative juices are running way ahead of me.
Often times, our best times together are where memories are made.