Look, I don’t like to nag you people, but today is National Grandparents Day. And as it turns out, I just happen to be one.
So then, can I assume that your cards and gifts are in the mail?
National Grandparents Day was the brainchild of Marian McQuade, a West Virginia housewife who, back in 1970, envisioned a day set aside to encourage families to visit their elderly relatives. (Whew! Thank heavens THAT only comes around once a year, huh?)
It took a while to catch on, but by 1978 the idea for a day honoring our grandmothers and grandfathers had reached the White House. That year, President Jimmy Carter signed into law a resolution declaring the first Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day.
And here we are.
They even have an Official Grandparents Day Song, cleverly titled “A Song for Grandma and Grandpa.” It’s a tad sappy for my tastes, but what do you expect from a song about the elderly?
Of course, my personal choice for the Official Grandparents Day Song would have been something more along the lines of, “Why, Certainly You May Have Cotton Candy for Breakfast.” Or, “You Know, If Necessary, We Could Still Spank Your Parents.” Or the ever-popular oldie but goodie, “Pull My Finger.”
And so, today, while it doesn’t quite carry the weight of, say, a Mother’s Day or a Father’s Day, Grandparents Day 2012 is nevertheless a chance to honor and recognize those individuals who manage to make all of you mothers and fathers out there look woefully inadequate by comparison.
What’s our secret? Just two things: Pacing, and accountability.
1. Pacing. Even those of us who were pretty much complete failures as parents can appear to have the wisdom and patience of Gandhi in short bursts. Spending time with a child when you know that relief is coming in a matter of hours or even minutes — and not, like, in 18 or 21 years — makes enduring to the end a bit easier.
2. Accountability. Or, more accurately, a lack thereof. See, being a grandparent — unless you’ve been placed in the role of primary caregiver, in which case you have my deepest sympathies — means never having to say “No.” Or “Bedtime.” Or “I wouldn’t put that hornet’s nest in a shopping cart and shove it off that steep hill into that crowd of people if I were you.”
Instead, we get to say “Yes.” A lot. Indeed, we grandparents can pretty much green-light just about any activity our grandchildren can think up, as long as they’re not in any imminent physical danger. And even then, provided the resulting scar is below the neck and less than two inches long? Hey, life is for living.
When my own children were young, if they asked me for a quarter for the ice cream truck, I’d basically give them a college-level lecture about the inherent dangers of fiscal irresponsibility. But now that my children are having children, lectures have given way to impromptu parties. Today, if my 4-year-old grandson were to ask, “Grandpa, what’s the ocean like?” I’d say, “Well, let’s just go find out ...”
That’s right, grandparenthood is this heady cross between Santa Claus and a wish-granting genie that simply can’t be matched by any other position in the extended family. Although I suppose a close second would be childless aunts.
Face it: Aside from the senior discount at the local all-you-can-eat buffet, there is almost nothing good about growing old. Failing health. Fixed incomes. Wrinkles. Old age ain’t no daisy farm.
But there is one perk, one blessed side effect of aging, that makes it all worthwhile.
Happiness, thy name is grandchildren.
No matter how trying your own kids were, no matter how difficult a time you had raising them, there is just something so incredibly satisfying about watching them go through the exact same thing with your grandchildren.
In other words, payback’s a witch, you young whippersnappers.
There isn’t a parent among us who, at some point, hasn’t looked at one of our children and hissed, “I hope someday you have a child exactly like you.”
And yet, we can say the very same thing to our grandchildren, and it has an entirely different meaning. Hugging them tightly, we whisper lovingly in their ear, “I hope someday you have a child exactly like you.”
And THAT’S what it means to be a grandparent.
So today, I salute all of my fellow grandfolk out there. Here’s to you, the people who spoil with utter abandon, who dispense hugs and kisses at the drop of a hat,
who put the “grand” in “grandparent.”
And in honor of this auspicious occasion, I encourage all of you grandchildren out there to go ahead and have a chocolate-chip cookie, right now, on me.
Oh, come now. One little cookie won’t spoil your appetite.
Contact Mark Saal, who’s back to voting for Barack Obama again, at 801-625-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.