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It occurred to me not too long ago that I haven’t been anybody’s grandchild since 1991 and I miss it sorely. As a kid with grandparents, you always know there’s somebody out there who thinks you’re wonderful, no matter how often or badly you screw up.
Someone once said that the reason grandparents and grandchildren get along so well is that they have a common enemy: the parents. That was certainly the case in my experience as a grandchild and as a parent.
When I was very young, my mother arranged for a woman to come to our home and watch me so she could go back to work teaching school. I was too young to remember, but Mother Mac, my father’s mother, checked in on me one day and didn’t like what she saw. She more or less fired the babysitter on the spot, and her house became my “daycare” until I started school.
Years later, when someone would ask Mother Mac if I was Gene and Betty’s son, her standard response was, “Yes, but I raised him.” That irritated my mother and father to no end, but when their turn came, they were almost as annoying.
As a grandmother, Mama would encourage me not to get angry and yell at my kids, and instead focus on correcting their behavior. All I could think about was her reaction when I got bad grades in school. If she wasn’t angry back then, she was at least ‘aggressively disappointed’ at high volume.
Daddy also had some serious double standards for kids and grandkids.
One day when my children were 10, 8 and 6, I took them fishing down at the camp. We were all standing on the bank, poles in hand, not 10 feet from each other when Daddy came rolling up. I turned around to greet him, but before I could get the words out, he said, “Don’t let those young’uns get that far away from you! A gator might jump up there and grab one before you can do anything about it.”
I gathered the kids closer, but as he drove away I remembered being down there at eight or nine years old and having this same man give me a pole, a can of worms and instructions to “meet back here in a little bit.”
Either gators only recently became dangerous or his level of concern was considerably lower when I was a kid.
Another time, when my oldest was about four, my parents came to our new house for a visit. I was in the living room talking with Mama while Daddy and Mary Grace were outside. After hearing a strange noise above us, I looked out the window to see my father tossing a baseball on the roof of the house. He would let it roll off and then catch it, which for some reason was great fun for my daughter.
I went outside and reminded him that he used to get mad at me for doing the same thing.
“Didn’t you say that throwing a ball on the roof could break the shingles?” I asked.
“Then why is it okay now?”
He just smiled and said, “Not my roof.”
I won’t get to be a grandchild again in this life, but I may get to be a grandparent. From what I can gather, that’s the next best thing.