In Grandparentland the streets are paved with unconditional love, and grandchildren always seem to have the right of way. It’s as if these little guys and gals were putting up kid-friendly road signs that compel you to do their bidding.
STOP for Häagen-Dazs when grandchildren are present
GO directly to McDonald’s for Happy Meals (only Playland locations, please)
YIELD to temptation and pick up a Bratz doll for your granddaughter
SLOW down and spend more time with your grandchildren
NO PASSING a toy store without buying a Tonka truck for your grandson
This isn’t one of those exotic locales you envisioned for yourself when you cranked up Led Zeppelin on the stereo or played all those beer-drinking games in your misbegotten younger days. But now that you’re here, you’re settling in nicely while retaining a healthy level of your early cool.
Along the highways and byways of Grandparentland, you’re discovering a very different landscape right in your own back yard. Where you used to have eyes only for the newest sports bar or Italian restaurant, home improvement stores, art galleries or kitschy second-hand shops, now you’re scoping out tot lots, puppet shows and ceramics classes for children.
Parks and playgrounds are your new stomping grounds, where there’s nothing more entertaining than watching Dylan and Olivia on the climbing equipment or pushing Connor in the swing. It’s a natural high.
Just as Chutes and Ladders is your new favorite game, you’re cheering from lawn chairs at soccer practice and looking on with amazement as kids run the bases in the wrong direction during T-ball. (Yes, sometimes there is crying in baseball.)
One day, you’re attending a post-game pizza party, the next day a preschool graduation.
Numbered among the many fringe benefits for citizens of Grandparentland are free tours by the people who know the territory best: your grandkids. For instance, if you have trouble navigating all the ins and outs of a Build-A-Bear Workshop, your grandchildren will be happy to assist you. Naturally they get to keep any bears you create.
Or if you’re new to water parks, they’ll gladly show you around each splish-splashing attraction, drenching you at every opportunity. Look out for those cannonballs.
Grandkids know what’s up at the multiplex concession stand, too. Not only will your little sweeties introduce you to that fabulous offer known as the kids’ combo, but they’ll show you how fast they can make it disappear. Then everybody will need to visit the restroom just in time for the climactic scene of the movie, and you’ll never know how it all turned out. So much for happy endings.
Taking up residence in Grandparentland is like setting sail on your own special edition of The Love Boat. Except now you’re Captain Stubing and your grandkids are Julie, Gopher and Isaac, who are constantly getting into mischief and need your gentle guidance to stay on a smooth course.
Since these youngsters are a generation once removed, you can maintain the easygoing attitude with them that you wouldn’t have dreamed of showing toward their parents when they were growing up. Even so, grandkids alternately delight and exasperate you because it’s their job to ensure that nothing goes as planned when they’re part of the equation.
Fortunately what your grandchildren lack in consistency, they make up in adorableness, which they can pull out of their pockets like fairy dust and sprinkle wherever it’s needed. Research indicates this mystery substance is more potent in Grandparentland than anywhere else on earth, particularly when it’s paired with bad behavior. So try not to laugh even if they misbehave in the cutest ways, because grandkids are very quick to learn what their Nana and Pops will and won’t let them get away with.
In fact the stay-young-forever grandparents of today are the most laid-back grammies and grampies in history. In other words, you’re a whole lotta fun.
You’ll find countless rewards in Grandparentland, but there are some sacrifices, too, beginning with those not-so-subtle changes in your home and lifestyle. Can you dig it?
|Say Goodbye To||Say Hello To|
|A tidy house with pristine furnishings||Ketchup-stained sofa cushions and fingerprints on the walls|
|Stimulating conversations with your grown children about politics and philosophy||Endless monologues by your grandkids’ parents about breast-feeding and new child-rearing techniques|
|Romantic wine-and-cheese evenings for two||Boisterous Chuck E. Cheese’s evenings for too many|
|Lace-trimmed towels in the guest bathroom||Mud-streaked towels all over the place|
|Colorful language||Ixnay on the adbay ordsway|
|Linen tablecloths||Plastic placemats|
|Eagles and Chicago reunion concerts with your friends||Shrek and Scooby-Doo DVDs with your grandkids|
|Chocolate soufflé by candlelight||Cotton candy by the merry-go-round|
|Tooling around in your red sports car||Loading kids’ car seats into your gray sedan|
|Privacy, peace and quiet||Grandparentland Central Station|
Diana J. Ewing is the author of The Baby Boomers’ Guide to Grandparenting