The grandkids are here, for the first time without their parents and for a whole week. The first three days have simply been marvelous, with more delights to look forward to. Though it came from a gesture to give breathing room to their parents at a needed time, this is no altruistic do-gooder decision. It is (mostly) pure joy and happiness.
I know that even as a grandparent, I have to be available for comforting skinned knees, friendship issues, hurt feelings. I have to resist a steady diet of ice cream and advocate for spinach. I have to help build resilience and face the harsh truths of this life without promising rainbows day after day. With the added responsibility of helping my mixed-race grandkids navigate through the horrendous legacy of an unchallenged White Supremacy.
But truth be told, I just want to give them as much happiness and rich experience and fun as is humanly possible. Follow their whims, offer suggestions, insist on some non-negotiables (like the afternoon out-of-the-house “adventure walk” or bike ride), play, play and yet more play. The organized kind, like five different cards games, frisbee/ catch/ paddleball/ soccer, Sorry/ Boggle/ Taboo and the spontaneous kind, like making statues on tree stumps, building stick huts, racing leaves in a stream.
I want to read great books to them, not just the kind with a punch line and concrete correct message, but the kind with characters/ plots and images that let their imagination soar, with pithy little metaphorical messages that might guide them their whole life— the Little Engine That Could chanting “I think I can! I think I can!,” Owl’s “Tear-water tea that is a little bit salty, but is always very good,” and for goodness sake, “Let the wild rumpus start!” Then the old movies, even in (gasp!) black-and-white —like The Absent-Minded Professor that had them roaring with laughter and wholly engaged, or for the older one, the trilogy of cross-dressing in Some Like It Hot, Tootsie and Mrs. Doubtfire.
Naturally, much art, much singing, some improvised music on piano/ Ghana xylophone/ rubber chickens and pigs. Helping out making waffles or roasting vegetables or grating cheese for burritos. And fun also means responsibility—the daily clean-up, consequences for the inevitable sibling bickering, owning up to mistakes made. Oh, and did I mention madcap wrestling and boxing and swordfights with cardboard tubes?
Adulthood is always so somber and serious after the unabashed laughter and tears of childhood, but never so much as today, with certifiably deluded people who will believe any conspiracy theory dominating the news, the near demise of democracy, the year anniversary of the pandemic and climate change with an alarming timetable. So maybe more important than ever to let the children be wholly children, not burden their fragile shoulders with too much weight, give them more ice cream than you think is good for their “character.”
My theory, for the moment, of modern-day grandparenting.