Bragging is the inalienable right of grandparents. We get to tell all our friends how adorable, talented, brilliant, precocious the offspring of our offspring are because we earned it. Like our parents before us, no longer involved in the nitty-gritty details of actually raising the children, we are free to sing their praises to anyone and everyone whose hearing aid is in working order.
Free to sing, all right, but that doesn’t mean anyone has to listen. Nothing clears a room faster than a sentence that begins, “Did I tell you about my grandson, Jimmy (Peter, Paul, Prescott)?” So Rule Number One: Never come right out and say, “My grandson, Jimmy, is a genius; everybody says so.” You’ll be talking into a dead mic. What you have to do, if you want a friend, a neighbor or relative to know what a talented, gorgeous or genetically advantaged grandchild you have, is bring up the subject in a carefully planned, spontaneous manner.
I, personally, have been very successful with the innocent photo technique. This is the one where you bring out a photo of Jimmy (or Alex or Casey or Roger), ostensibly to illustrate how much he’s grown since your friend saw him last. And there he is, stretched to his full 48 inches, standing, it just so happens, in front of a huge banner that says:
Fairbrook Middle School’s Most Outstanding Student Ever: James Ward
Next to it, you may choose to place a large magnifying glass and purr softly, “He is getting big, isn’t he?”
If a suitable photo is not available, you can work almost any conversation around to the point where you can slip in a subtle reference to your grandchild. On the surface, a discussion of the Middle East doesn’t seem to offer too many possibilities. But listen:
Me: “I don’t know what we’re going to do in the Middle East. It’s such a mess.”
My cousin: “It is. I think one of the reasons we’ve had so much trouble in Muslim countries is we don’t have enough people who speak Arabic.”
Me: “You’re right. I was just saying that to our Suzy the other day. You know she’s absolutely fluent in French. She has such a natural ear. I told her she should try Arabic, if they offer it in fourth grade. But you know kids, today; she’s determined to learn Chinese.”
The photo; conversation: good ploys, but probably the best way of boasting without boasting is to let your guests discover for themselves how talented Samantha (or Jenny or Clyde or Patsy) is in mosaics (woodworking, painting, pottery, decoupage). Instead of your saying, “I must show you the exquisite bowl Samantha made in her mosaic class,” you simply arrange to place the bowl, along with the picture frame, the mirror, the candy dish, and the wall plaque in strategic spots around the living room until it is alight with those tiny, shiny tiles.
Then you put the bowl – using as little fruit as possible, no doily, so the intricate mosaic design shows up in all its glory – in the middle of the bridge table and wait for the players to take their seats. At that point someone is sure to say, “What a beautiful bowl. Where did you buy it?” And here’s the opening: “Buy it? Oh, no. My granddaughter, Samantha, made it. Let me see – did I put out a few of the other things she made? Oh, yes, there’s the vase, the picture frame, the mirror, the candy dish, and that’s the wall plaque on the wall next to the photo of Jimmy.”
You wonder why am I willing to share all my carefully developed techniques with others who may very well use them against me, should we meet someday? Let’s just say I’ve learned a lot in my twenty-five years of grandparenting, and I want to give new GP’s a leg up. And, as my grandson, Jeff, the humanitarian, said to me when he called from Nigeria, where he’s working night and day, without pay, in sweltering heat, to stamp out infertility, “Grandma, I guess I’m just like you. I always want to help others.”