It’s been a long time — a really long time – since I was a young parent with small children running around the house.
Back then, I had two things going for me. I had a lot of energy. And I basically was ignorant about child rearing, which means I didn’t know enough to be afraid of all the ways I could mess it up.
So when my grandchildren, ages 3 and 5, come for an extended visit it’s like starting all over again.
I have learned one thing from these visits: things are a lot more complicated than they used to be.
Take car seats, example. Back in the old days, they were flimsy little things that you strapped in with a seat belt. It took about five seconds and you were ready to go.
Car seats today are more complicated than a computer. There are all kinds of straps and snaps and pads. My grandchildren look well-protected — in fact, they look like astronauts strapped in ready for a trip to Mars. They’re safe, but just trying to install one of those seats is a threat to old people’s health. I had to call in the expert (my wife) to finally get the job done.
Then there are strollers. In the old days, people had lightweight strollers with ineffective wheels that made using one like trying to steer a runaway grocery cart. My children all learned to walk and run at an early age because riding in our stroller was like going off road in a car without shock absorbers. It was easier for them to use their feet than to ride in the stroller.
Now strollers are huge with gigantic tires and cup holders and sun shades who knows what else. Fortunately, my grandchildren are pretty much past the stroller stage so this time around we didn’t have that problem. In fact, it won’t be long until they’re pushing me around in one of them.
Then there is the electronic age. When my children were young, home computers were fairly new. You could play clunky games on them but we always limited their time on the computer. Today, there aren’t just computers. There are tablets and iPads and all kinds of other devices.
I have to make a confession here. Since I am no longer young and energetic (although the ignorant part is probably still up for debate), I sometimes resort to using these devices as electronic pacifiers. At the end of the day, when I have a choice between the 16th wrestling match to the death or having the grandchildren sit on my lap to watch a LEGO video, I fire up the computer. It’s all about self-preservation.
This brings up another thing about being a grandparent. I have to say there are things I would have felt guilty about as a parent that don’t bother me at all now that I’m a grandparent. Resorting to the Lego videos is one. I also bought them chocolate doughnuts with sprinkles. Yes, I did! We use them for bribery — you know, eat your carrots and you can have a doughnut later. Works every time. I figure the carrots and the doughnuts cancel each other out, so at least we return the children to their parents in no worse shape than when they started out.
You see, when you’re a grandparent you’re supposed to get a little extra leeway. You want your grandchildren to be excited about coming to see you and sometimes that requires a chocolate doughnut or maybe a little later bedtime. It’s all worth it when you take them to the airport and as they’re waving goodbye, one of them breaks away from her mother and runs back to tell you, “I’m really going to miss you.”
That may be so. What they don’t know is they won’t miss us nearly as much as we miss them.
David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at email@example.com.