Made the mistake of grocery shopping while I was hungry. Saw a box of store brand Tuna Helper and bought it for a late evening snack. Darling Husband read the title on the box, “‘Tuna Cheesy Pasta.’ Mmm. Sounds nutritious.” Which reminded me of this humorous essay I wrote six years ago for a college class. Here it is:
The Grandparent Guide
Being a successful grandparent can be a daunting task. Many have tried, have failed, and have fled to Florida. You, however, need not join their sad, sunburned numbers. Knowing a few easy techniques will transform you into a successful grandparent who is revered by your children for your sage advice and worshipfully adored by your grandchildren for your selfless generosity.
Before you begin grandparenting, you must raise one or more child beyond the dependency stage and into adulthood. Once that task is accomplished, your children should now marry and present you with your grandchildren in short order. If they don’t, gently encourage them by peppering your conversations with subtle hints such as, “When are you going to settle down and give me my grandchildren?” or, “I hope I don’t die before I see my grandchildren.” They will be motivated by these inspiring words.
Finding a mentor to guide you on your grandparenting journey is not critical, but it is highly recommended. Your mentor will coach you on issues such as how far to raise a skeptical eyebrow and the exact number of noisy toys with no off switches that you can buy before the parents threaten to cut off all ties with you. Mentors must be grandparents of at least one grandchild and exhibit the traits you wish to emulate. Namely, they must have the veneration of their own children, and they must induce a state of rabid hysteria in their grandchildren at the mere mention of their name. Here is how it’s done:
Grandparenting the Parents
Contrary to popular belief, much of grandparenting has little to do with the grandchildren and much to do with their parents. It seems like only yesterday that your own children were busy drinking from the toilet and leaping from the shed in their Superman Underoos. They are obviously incapable of raising Sea Monkeys, much less your grandchildren. Unfortunately, they will believe that they are prepared to raise children without any help. They may make preposterous claims such as, “Mother, I am 35 years old. I can wash the binky without your help.” They conveniently forget that you spent decades of your life raising them. Your attempts to impart your wisdom will fall on deaf ears until you learn the subtle hints listed below.
A proven method for keeping the parents relying on your superior wisdom is called The Old Switcheroo. Do not be intimidated by this technical term. It simply means to keep the parents off balance by implementing an inexplicable assortment of rules that you must change whenever possible, sometimes from day to day, and with practice, sometimes within a single telephone conversation.
An example of The Old Switcheroo is as follows. If your infant grandchild is dressed in a coat in fifty degree weather, you could say, “Oh, that poor baby is roasting!” Later that day, if baby is still dressed in the same coat in fifty degree weather you could say, “Why, the poor little dear is freezing! Where is baby’s hat?” Comments like these will erode the parents’ misplaced self-confidence and soon they will be calling you daily for your insightful tips. Other areas that are fertile with The Old Switcheroo possibilities include: pacifier use, appropriate footwear, and age to potty train. Be creative and have fun.
Be forewarned, the parents may rebel against your guidance and try to undermine your attempts by cleverly citing incidents of your parenting from their own childhood. There are two defenses against such attacks: qualify or make something up. For example, if the accusation is, “But you never made us wear coats at all,” you must counter this with a qualifier, “It was never fifty degrees when you were growing up.” If they ask in a sly tone of voice, “Why didn’t you follow the advice Gram gave to you?” you would make something up such as, “Gram had multiple personalities and was always switching her advice from day to day.”
After just a few months of practicing the above methods, your grandchildren’s parents will be wholly dependent on your sage advice and you may now turn your attention to your secondary goal of grandparenting: obtaining the devotion of your grandchildren. Your first step is to separate the grandchildren from their parents for short periods of time. This is known as babysitting.
There is a hidden benefit to babysitting: favor swapping. Be aware that reaping this benefit can be difficult and you may need your grandparenting mentor to coach you in the subtleties involved. When the parents ask you to babysit the grandchildren, you must delicately maneuver the parents into believing that you are going out of your way to help them and that you expect a favor in return. Make a show of checking your calendar. Tell them you’ll have to talk to your spouse and call them back later. Mutter under your breath something like, “Well, I could always reschedule Aunt Edna’s viewing…” and then reluctantly agree to watch the grandchildren. Later, when it’s time to resurface the blacktop on your driveway or spray the wasps in your attic, you can sit back, drink a glass of iced-tea, and collect on your favor.
The first major responsibility of babysitting is snack time. Pediatricians have been assuring parents for generations that children will seek out and consume the food their bodies need. When you provide them with the nutritious snack food that they naturally desire, they will know just how deeply you love them and will return that love. The challenge at snack time is to determine which foods are nutritious.
Dairy is nutritious. The Food Pyramid recommends 3 servings of dairy a day. Cheese is a dairy food. Fruit is also nutritious. The Food Pyramid recommends up to 4 servings of fruit a day. Therefore, anything with the word “cheese” or “fruit” in the name is nutritious. Cheese puffs, Cheezits, Cheez Whiz, and Cheetos are all good choices for dairy. Fruit Roll Ups, Froot Loops and fruit punch are excellent choices for fruit. Lollipops come in fruit flavors and are also a healthy choice. Encourage your grandchildren to eat their fill of these wholesome snacks.
The second major responsibility of babysitting is play time. Many grandparents are advanced in years. Play time can be difficult for an easily tired older adult attempting to amuse a young child full of boundless energy. You are fortunate to live in a day when there is an educational and stimulating source of entertainment already in your own home: the television set. Set up a big bowl of cheesy Doritos, dim the lights, and settle in for a marathon session of Disney movies with your grandchildren.
Parents may be uneasy with the amount of television the grandchildren watch at your home and may cite studies that suggest television use should be limited for children. Common sense tells us differently. What better stimulates the young mind: looking at, but not touching, your Hummel figurine collection or watching the brightly colored and richly textured images of children’s programming? If the parents are still unconvinced, comfort them with these words, “We let you watch television all day and you turned out ok.”
The last major responsibility of babysitting is nap time. In order to make the most of your limited babysitting time with your grandchildren you must keep the grandchildren awake at all costs. Most grandparents find that antioxidant-rich chocolate is an effective stimulant. Other choices include antioxidant-rich chocolate chip cookies, antioxidant-rich chocolate milk, and antioxidant-rich chocolate cake. It is acceptable if the grandchildren wish to lick only the frosting off of the cake. There is adequate stimulant in the frosting that the cake may be discarded.
So that the parents do not miss out on their precious time with their children, be sure to give the grandchildren a parting dose of antioxidant-rich chocolate shortly before their parents arrive. You may even choose to tuck a few pieces of antioxidant-rich chocolate into their pockets for the ride home. Then, you can take a well deserved nap while the parents spend quality time with their wide awake children.
By now you can see that being a revered and loved grandparent isn’t as difficult as many people think it is. You’ve learned the technique of The Old Switcheroo. You know how to crush parental rebellions by qualifying or making something up. You can endear yourself to the grandchildren by providing them with nutritious snacks, wholesome entertainment and the gift of togetherness. In a few years, with practice, you yourself may be a mentor to new grandparents. Your only reason for going to Florida will be vacations with the grandchildren to Disneyworld.