Column: With grandchildren, taskmasters become pushovers
Ah, grandparents. I've had them. You've had them. We've all had them. Really, we have. Think about someone with no grandparents. It isn't possible. I've had the privilege of knowing all four of my grandparents, and I still have a grandmother living in Northern Wyoming who is 95 years young. No. Not "young." Old. Very old. But a sweet lady, nonetheless, who was herself privileged to have 15 grandchildren, the most wonderful being your author, of course.
It's fascinating to see a parent becoming a grandparent. Here's this person who has reared you, who has helped you through the scraped knees and the first day kindergarten and the acne of adolescence, and has lectured you about the importance of responsibility as you donned the pizza apron of your first job. This person has watched you grow and sometimes succeed, but has also watched your most cringeworthy failures. This is the person that would, when necessary, lower the proverbial boom of discipline.
And now you watch this person with your own children, this person you've know your entire life, and... it's not the same person. No, your parents will not treat their grandchildren the way they treated you. They will suddenly transform into adorably sweet strangers who bear no relation to the people who once yelled at you for breathing too loudly.
My sainted father, a man I love dearly, is not known for his patience. Rather the opposite, in fact (sorry, Dad). Nowadays, he will happily let one of my four daughters sit on his head. He will listen to pleas, cries, complaints, and even tattles from his granddaughters with admirable aplomb. He will transform into a lazy-boy recliner for any granddaughter wanting a little snooze.
Who is this man? What is it about becoming a grandparent that suddenly makes you... well... nice?
My mother is currently visiting as I write this. My girls love GJ (isn't it interesting how cutesy the grandparent nicknames have become? No longer is it Grandma and Grandpa; it is Grammy and Grumpy, or Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop, or Mumsy and Poopsy. So, in accordance with their personality transformations, Mom and Dad have become GJ (Grandma Janet) and Poppa, not to be confused with Papa.
My mom loves to play with the girls when she visits. Since she only had two sons, I think she's getting some of the girlyness out of her system. She gets to play Barbie dolls (or rather Monster High dolls, Barbie's creepy cousin) with the girls. She'll let them do her hair and paint her toenails, but draws the line at makeovers. As a side note, never let a little girl do your makeup. Even assuming you don't mind looking like you applied your makeup at the bottom of a dark well whilst jumping on a pogo stick, it is safe to say that their makeup has touched the face of every little girl in the neighborhood. GJ is still pretty sharp. She doesn't want a staph infection.
But my mother, much like your humble author, is a natural storyteller, and loves to tell her grandchildren stories about her favorite subject after her grandchildren: me. So, stories that I thought were long dead and buried are resurrected, and my children are rapt with attention to hear about their old dad's humorous exploits. There's one story in particular about a toothbrush that makes me cringe, and makes my kids double over with laughter. Thanks, Mom.
My in-laws also changed after we had the girls. My father-in-law will let them climb and punch all over him while he watches sports, and my mother-in-law will get on all fours and crawl into the playhouse for tea parties.
I do know that my own grandparents barely resembled the people that raised my parents. My Grandpa Martin in particular had a reputation for being rather hard on his own children. However, to me, he was the nicest man ever. I still remember him feeding me lobster when I was 4 years old, and the time that we both snuck pinches of shredded cheddar cheese meant to go in our tacos.
So the next time your parents come to visit and let the kids stay up all night or tell you you're being too hard on them, remember that grandparents and grandchildren bond quickly and permanently because of one simple truth: They have a common enemy. The bad news is that enemy is you. The good news is that someday you will be able to repay your children by being nice to their children.