Warning: If you decide to have children, there's a good chance that somewhere down the road, they're going to do the same. Which will make you a grandparent.
Congratulations. And by the way, this happens so fast you'd swear all you did was blink. So don't settle back thinking this is all still eons away.
Now if you think the grandparent role is a cuddly, cozy place where little ones clamor to snuggle up to you while you eat homemade cookies and read books, you are in for such a shocker. Grandparenting is complicated. The world expects certain things from grandparents.
For starters, you're supposed to be all wise and knowing. Your child-turned-parent believes she can call you, night or day, with random questions about parenting. And you will have the perfect answer, all the time.
For anything from how to get a fussy infant to settle down and go to sleep, to how to teach a headstrong 4-year-old to take her dishes to the sink, to how to motivate a stubborn 10-year-old to practice his cello, to how to walk a broken-hearted 17-year-old through the loss of her first love, you are the font of all wisdom, the source of all answers.
The real test of your wisdom will be reflected in your ability to resist -- and I do mean resist -- the screaming temptation to pause and ask, "So, why do you want to know my opinion on this now, when you had no desire to listen to me when you were that age?"
Your kid is already aware of that irony. And yet he's asking you anyway.
If you couldn't get the answer across to him the first time around, your second chance to teach it to him is now coming via his own request. Don't mess this up.
Besides, you want to have a hand in the formation of this next generation. Your children's children will be of great interest to you.
First, there's that startling moment when you look into that little face and see something of yourself looking back. It's a freaky revelation to realize you've been personally perpetuated, cloned, flung into the next generation through something passed from you through your children to their children. And, because this infant or child or teen is on your family tree chart, you'd much prefer to have that name be known for good.
So you have some accountability that extends far beyond showing up for his birthday party. In other words, you're officially saddled with the responsibility of setting a good example now.
Good luck with that.
Gone are the days of eating chocolate cake for breakfast when you want to, or sitting up until 4 a.m. watching three movies in a row because you feel like it. That all changes when the next generation comes stampeding into your scene.
You're a parent again, with the word "grand" in front of it. This is serious business, and things change. Drastically.
You pay attention to what's playing on the TV. You get all preachy about good nutrition, and you don't eat the good stuff -- like Ding Dongs dipped in hot chocolate -- until you're alone. You stifle a cuss word when you pinch your finger in the cupboard door. You stow away everything but the Disney movies. You find time to sit down and read kid books out loud. Your table manners improve. You revive the practice of saying please and thank you, and insist they do the same. You make a greater effort to use correct grammar. You rummage around for your worn out patience and breathe life back into it because you really need it. And you dust off your ability to make wise decisions in a split second because that's what they need.
If you do this right, your grandkids end up thinking you're OK. And your kids look at you with renewed awe. They may even try to emulate you a little.
Which is good since there will likely come a day when those kids of theirs will decide to have kids too.
You may contact Louise Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.