Essay: Grandpa’s Tips on Parenting Kids and Grandkids
By Roopa Swaminathan
Always Be Honest
You’re ex-military, patriotic, and honest to a fault. You ‘tell it like it is’ even if the truth hurts. Until grandchild number 1, Lola, asks, “Gramps? Who do you love more? Me or Sean or Lindsey or Ethan?” Honesty is so fucking overrated, you rage internally. Meanwhile, your firstborn’s kid smirks as she watches you turn all shades of orange as she lolls around with a toothy smile waiting for your answer. Time to bring out the cannons. Rummage through your wallet and give her a $20 bill, pat her on her head, and ask her to go get some ‘nail polish or something’ with the money.
Always sacrifice honesty at the altar of bribery.
Always Get Your Revenge
Never forget when the teen whined about ‘time wasted when she taught you technology’ when you did everything exactly as she taught you - logged on to your bank account online, used the shift key to capitalize the first letter of the password and the # symbol, and tapped gingerly with your index finger for 32 minutes to type #Myworld1234.
So, when you remember when she taught you how to send voice messages “Because, Gramps, you take FOREVER to type” – make sure she pays and be sure to send her 33 voice messages. Each message should be 43 seconds where you or may not say one single word.
Begin with - “Lola.” “Important.” “Message.” Then take your time. “This.” “Is.” “Grandpa.” “Harrison.” “Not.” “Maitland.” “Grandpa.” “Lol.” And more. Sneak in a “Mom asked you to buy milk from the store on your way home” in a single voice message at the end. Obvi she deleted you after message 6. Watch and self-applaud as daughter gets ballistic and yells, “Lola, where’s the milk? Your grandpa said he voice messaged you!”
Always remember that slow and steady wins the race.
Always Pay It Back
Each time you try to explain the value of a dollar by explaining how you walked barefoot across tobacco fields in the deep south for two hours each way to school and the granddaughter rolls her eyes and cuts you off with, “Geez Gramps! You’ve told us the story a million times!” - Bide your time. It will come. When she’s on her secret date with the local lothario that her mom doesn’t know about and is about to slide out unnoticed - strategically and knowingly dash into her spontaneously and say, “Oops! Not wearing my glasses because it keeps fogging up.” Squint your eyes, move closer, spill your coffee on her white dress, grab the kitchen towels that saved you 22 cents and dab her sparkly dress, and watch as bits of paper cling to the sequins and say, “Oh, wow! Is that the same dress that Bethanie wore to the prom last week?”
Always return favors - with money or words.
Always Divide and Conquer
Your kid grounds Lola after reading her texts to her bestie about missing school for three days. Agree wholeheartedly with your offspring when she snarls that ‘today’s kids are so spoiled, dad!’ Then, when an irate granddaughter seethes that her mother ‘is heinous for reading my private texts and then confiscating my phone, Gramps’ – nod your head furiously and agree how ‘unfair and ratchet your offspring is being.’
When granddaughter confides her crush on Rocco (AKA the local 23-year-old unshowered-for-two-weeks mooch but can hold a guitar), spout nonsense like ‘love conquers all!’ Then promptly rat her out to her mother. When granddaughter comes at you for ‘playing both sides’ – act innocent and swear that it was her grandmother who squealed on her.
Play them all. There should be no winners here except you.
Always sacrifice everyone else to be the favorite ‘grandparent.’
Always Emotionally Blackmail
You suss out that your daughter wants a weekend away from the horrors and will turn to you – an unpaid babysitter. As if. Before the daughter can apply the charm and say - “You should get to know your grandchildren!” “You are their role model” - attack preemptively. Zero in on what your offspring hates and suggest taking the grandkids to Bible Study camp this weekend. They can learn so much you exhort. Daughter blanches. “Dad. You know I don’t believe in organized religion.” Try and muster up a tear or two. Get senti and say, “I wish you trusted me. I raised you and did a bang-up job, didn’t I?” Watch as your kid battles between wanting a weekend off, getting irritated by the emotional blackmail, and her principles. You raised her well. “Dad?” she says softly. “I would love for the kids to spend a weekend with you. Just not at Bible Camp, OK? We’ll plan something later, yeah?”
She is chuffed that she ‘played’ you. You disguise your quick burst of laughter as a sob.
Always make sure they think it’s their idea.
Roopa Swaminathan writes essays, opinions, humor, and fiction. Her fiction, satire, and creative non-fiction essays are published on Outlook, The Lark, Kitaab, The Digital Journals, Writer’s Blokke, Eksentrika, Women's Web, and more. She now has a weekly opinion column on Elephant Journal. Her humor is published on Slackjaw, Frazzled, Greener Pastures Magazine, The Haven, and more. She refers to herself in the 3rd person, is fiercely competitive, and f*cking loves and hates amazing writers.