I must admit, I never was very big on the whole grandparent mystique. Every time one of my friends subjected me to adulation after exaltation about one of the spectacular accomplishments of that special little grandchild, I would acknowledge it outwardly with a polite smile, but inside you might as well have gagged me with a spoon.
It always seemed somewhat revolting to me that I should be forced to have to listen to perfectly rational adults extolling the incredulous feats of their offspring’s offspring. For instance, here’s little Miranda, who at age three years, five months and 11 days, already displays perfect pitch and does a hot jazz version of Mary Had a Little Lamb on her xylophone.
And then there’s superstar painting artist, Jeremy, who has not yet hit the age of five, but even now shows a post-modern flair with his bold strokes and choice of colours. Sure, that may look like a couple of stickmen standing under a tree to you, but in actuality, Jeremy is portraying the senseless angst which is stifling the ancient archetypes in these pre-Apocalyptic times.
And let’s not forget that our mini-Einstein, Orion, has already revised or refuted about a dozen previously accepted laws of physics while experimenting with LEGO and Playmobil toys at the Tree Frog Daycare.
It’s not that any of these grandkids are not lovely, intelligent and talented children. It’s just that these qualities are magnified a gazillion times in the eyes of their grandfolks. In the words of author Lois Wyse, “A mother becomes a true grandmother the day she stops noticing the terrible things her children do because she is so enchanted with the wonderful things her grandchildren do.” Or more simply put by American political wit, Gore Vidal, “Never have children, only grandchildren.”
It’s that change in perspective from being a parent to becoming a granny or grampa that throws everything out of perspective.
In the opinion of poet Ogden Nash, “When grandparents enter the door, discipline flies out the window.” Humourist and journalist Sam Levenson expressed the affinity between grandparents and their grandchildren with even more profundity with, “The reason grandchildren and grandparents get along so well is that they have a common enemy.”
That was before. Now that I am actually a grandparent myself, I have become illuminated and it all makes sense to me. I get it. Our little Athena can do no wrong in our household.
Although we encourage her to say “please” and “thank you,” we stand ready at her beck and call whether she chooses to be polite or not. When we ask her to help put away the vast array of toys she has strewn throughout the house, she may decide to comply or she may give us that “you want me to do what?” look. Either way, we let out this sigh of, “Isn’t she wonderful?” and proceed with the clean-up.
Sometimes our children justly drop hints that perhaps we are being too lenient with our perfect little Athena and undoing the months of conditioning they have been struggling to instil. We sympathize with their plight, but secretly conspire to change nothing in our behaviour. There’s not much they can do about it anyway, as our little cherub has been training them since her inception to schlep around like exhausted zombies due to the sleep deprivation she has imposed on them.
In our mind’s eye and in moments of clarity we know that we are not improving the situation, but we just can’t help ourselves. All objectivity disappears as soon as she steps through that front door. We find ourselves speaking in squeaky little voices and using monosyllabic language to commune with our dear one. We spend hours entertaining her with barnyard noises and ask her to identify which sound is the pig and which is the cow.
We get down on our hands and knees on the floor to play at her level even though we know our bodies will exact revenge for our folly after she has left for home. We pretend to eat the food her parents have sent with her and smack our lips obnoxiously loudly to show how good it tastes. We gladly let her boss us around and there is no request of hers we could possibly not indulge. We are truly smitten.
British writer and television producer Pamela Brown has noted, “Becoming a grandmother is wonderful. One moment you’re just a mother. The next you are all-wise and prehistoric.” There’s a lot to be said about appearing to be prehistoric. It puts us in the same category as dinosaurs and we all know how revered these creatures are in the eyes of Athena and her cronies.
Nobody asked me, but I’ve come a long way since my pre-Grampa days when I could not understand what all the fuss was about. I’m not quite to the point yet where I will pull out photos of wee Athena and inflict them on perfect strangers. Nor do I relate cute little anecdotes of her latest adventure to all who will listen, whether they know her or not. I say I’m not to that point yet, but you never know.
After all, she is the most wonderful creature ever created.