Dear us in 30 years:
Congratulations, me — you’re a grandfather! You raised children, they left, maybe stopped talking to you all that much, and now one of them has had a kid and suddenly needs you again. This is good.
Since it’s been awhile since you’ve had kids (and, more importantly, since you’ve had in-laws … and you are now an in-law yourself), there are some things you need to be reminded of.
Remember, this is all aimed at helping you out.
I love you. Because I am you.
So here it goes …
It’s not important to spend every visit analyzing whether your grandson has Uncle Ted’s chin.
In fact, there really is no competition over which body parts the kid has inherited from which side of the family. Your grandchild is a few weeks old, and chances are his appearance will change over the coming years.
When you come over to visit, you are not on vacation.
Do not ask your children — who are now very tired parents — for coffee or something to eat. Get it yourself. And then take out the garbage, load the dishwasher, fix the sink … do something. Unless you are in everyone’s way. In that case, get out of the way.
It’s not helpful to discuss the various ways that the new grandchild can be killed accidentally.
None of us needs to hear what they are telling us these days about how tinfoil is carcinogenic or how babies can die from second-day drowning.
Don’t talk about that horrible thing you watched on cable news last night — that thing that’s afflicting children that the government is doing nothing about.
In fact, stop watching cable news entirely, if it still exists. Rest assured that your kids, who are new parents, don’t have time to watch it.
Don’t discuss your experience changing your son or daughters’ diapers with their significant other.
Once one of the children has begun talking, that is not a sign that is time to start discussing your thoughts on the afterlife with him or her.
Leave that to their parents.
If your new grandson or granddaughter tells you that you smell or says that they hate you, you really do not need to be offended.
Your kids said these things all the time, because children before the age of 17 are basically erratic moody monsters.
Some gifts say, “I want to play with you and have fun!”
And then some gifts, like clothes, furniture, and bike helmets say, “I’m judging you and I know the way things should be done.” Don’t give those gifts.
Your time with your grandchildren should be about joy, not fixing your child’s parenting.
You’ve already had time to mess up your own child’s psychology. Visits from Grandpa are not opportunities for you to “fix Junior’s behavior problems.”
Don’t be the one who introduces the little ones to TV, computers, virtual reality, or whatever digital entertainment we are all enjoying now.
That is not your job. Get on the floor and play with your grandbaby.
Babysit a lot and don’t complain about it.
You have nothing else to do. You are old. You can watch CBS at home any night. Your kids never sleep now, rarely shower, and usually eat microwaved leftovers over the sink. Let them get out of the house as often as possible.
Don’t make that face that means, “Don’t look at me, I don’t know why he doesn’t listen. They need to make him listen.”
Because you probably forgot, but once upon a time you couldn’t magically just make your kids listen on demand either.
When the kids are getting ready for dinner, bed, bath, or whatever hellish routine concludes their day and your presence is so obviously making it worse?
Instead of staring away in awkward silence, or worse, getting involved and escalating things, take it as a cue to leave.
If you don’t get all the visits and holidays you want, take it in stride instead of inflicting guilt bombs through the phone.
In fact, let the holidays go when it’s time. Yes, there is a tremendous amount of emotional attachment in every moment of hand-basting that turkey, carving the ham, or setting a beautiful table and having all those you love gather around the centerpiece to look at you with matriarchal or patriarchal wonder, but it’s time to have all that happen at someone else’s house for once. Be a guest — you’ve earned it.
Stay at a hotel if you can.
Sorry, but it had to be said.
Don’t get your feelings hurt if one of the kids doesn’t adore your gift, is grouchy, or even yells at you.
You weren’t all that graceful manners-wise at age 5 either.
Be your grandkids’ special friend.
You finally got to the cool part where you don’t have to mold or be a role model or any of that stuff — you can just make the kids happy and be their buddy. When push comes to shove, choose mischief over scolding.
Us — 30 years younger