Forcing Your Grandkid to Have FunJoel Stein
Laszlo was going to build a goddamn bear, whether he wanted to or not. From the moment we got to my mom’s house for our weeklong visit, she started planning all our events around a trip to the Build-A-Bear Workshop. There are factory owners in China less determined to make kids build things.
The bear production went well enough for Laszlo, but less so for my mom. Laszlo didn’t want to participate in the part of the assembly where he had to record what the bear says, since he saw it less as a crucial part in the bear-building process and more as a random adult ordering him to say something clever RIGHT NOW. Also, I think he realized it’s pretty creepy to have your teddy bear say, “I love you” in your own voice. Even three year olds have limits to their narcissism.
The next day, we drove an hour a very impressive water-fountain-filled playground my mom had heard was amazing. We tried to tell her that Laszlo was really happy with the nearby beach and the boat at her amazing New Jersey house. But she insisted we drive an hour. When we got there, she was completely unable to drag Laszlo into the fenced-off area with the fountains, which was crowded with wild kids that scared him. No matter how hot it was or how cool the fountains were, he wasn’t going in there. My mom didn’t literally pout, but she did sit on a bench and use her phone, which is pouting in 2012. Fifteen minutes later, we drove an hour back.
When we spent time with Cassandra’s parents this summer, her mom grabbed her camera and asked Laszlo if he wanted to take a bath with his same-aged cousin, Declan. This did not appeal to Laszlo largely for the exact same reasons this wouldn’t appeal to any human being. made a sad face and try to guilt him into it, like the most pathetic child pornographer in the world. She did this nearly every night. He bathed alone. Unphotographed.
Grandparents fixate on a creating fun memories without worrying about what would be actually be fun. Kids work the opposite way. Which leads to a lot of disappointment. All of which could be avoided by following the basic principle used by every parent everywhere: Make as little effort as possible.
I have some sympathy for Laszlo’s grandmothers, since Desperate Grandparent Memory Making is an extreme version of Desperate Dad Memory Making. Because Cassandra spends more time with Laszlo I’ve tried to even things out with the following: The Muppets premiere when Laszlo was two (we made it halfway through); a Dodgers game when he was three (five innings, all at the food court); Winnie-the-Pooh premiere when he was one (he freaked out over the guy in the Winnie-the-Pooh costume); the Museum of Natural History a few months ago (“No more dinosaurs!” after five minutes.) When Laszlo was an infant, I strongly considered taking him to a strip club, since boobs seemed to be his main interest.
But in his grandmothers and my defense, it’s hard to know when your kid is ready for something. We took him to Cars Land at Disneyland when he was barely three, and he loved it. The Peterson Auto museum didn’t do much for him, despite his obsession with cars. That strip club thing really could have worked. And I bet dads with babies really get doted upon by all those single teenage mom strippers.
Laszlo has so little life experience he has no idea what he’ll like, and we don’t either. So we just have to keep trying things. There’s only a short time between when he starts liking zoos, aquariums and Sesame Place and when he’ll stop liking them. So I’ll keep trying. I just won’t drive too far or buy really expensive tickets without being sure. That way I don’t get disappointed. Because while they may not remember ever fun trip from their childhood, kids remember every time their dad acted like a dick in the car ride home.
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