Mike’s Columns

The following articles appeared on Grandparents.com.

 

THE NAME GAME

THE NAME GAME

By Mike Slosberg

Grown men and women are brought to their emotional knees slobbering over the thought of being a grandparent. They spend months imagining the joys of bonding with a few pounds of joy that’s wrapped like a taco in a yard of swaddling which will, in all likelihood, evolve into the threadbare, filthy rag the little Prince or Princess will drag around for the next few years in a tiny-fisted death grip.

Yet somewhere inside that broad fantasy of Grand Parenting lurks an all-important issue.  (No, not funding the college savings plan!) But, rather, by what name will the grandchild address you?

Let me state right up front, this is a question over which you’ll have absolutely no control, since little ones have minds and mouths of their own. So, about the time junior begins to vocalize, and you’ve asked her for the umpteenth time, “Can you say grandpop?  Yes you can, little sweetness… yes you can, my little princess.” And finally, miracle of miracles, the kid burps out something like “Glabooc.” Or “Vlack-Vlac, BaBa,” or some other nonsensical handle, and, it’s as if a white-hot iron has branded that name on your forehead, and nothing you say or do can ever change it. Until you keel over at 103 years, after a round of singles, or a hand of hearts, you will be forever known by that ridiculous sobriquet. And, like a really bad meal at a very expensive restaurant, you will claim to love it.

How do I know? I’ve been there, done that!

Yes, one day I leaned over the bassinette, looked the kid straight in her huge, innocent eyes and whispered, “Poppy, Gramps, GeePop, Pop-Pop!  Pick one, or I won’t change your stinky diaper.”

The only response I got from reciting this string of reasonable grandparent’s names was a sour burp and a cute little smile. Hell, she was only six-months out of the womb and her most favorite word was Waaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Thus began my quest for a name by which my granddaughter would address me. You may believe this to be a trivial pursuit. But from what I found, there’s a deep wellspring of interest and concern involving this rather arcane pursuit. If you don’t believe me, check out Google and search: Names For Grandparents. In a matter of seconds, up pops more than two million listings!! Honest, two million!!

Back in my day, probably your day, as well, most kids, if they were lucky, had two sets of grandparents: mom’s and dad’s parents. In those less complex times, what we called those old folks was relatively simple and straightforward: Names like Grandma and Grandpa or Gramps and Grams, fitted heartland grandparents quite nicely.

If there happened to be strains of ethnicity in one’s family, one might resort to less ordinary handles. Names like Grand-mere and Grand-pere for the French. Anyoka and Apoka if you had a hint of Hungarian in your genes. Mammo and Daddo for a touch of Gaelic Irish. Bubbe and Zeydeh for those of the Hebrew persuasion. Maybe Oma and Opa if your GPs were German and possibly Ugogo and Ubabamkhulu if you had a bit of South Africa in your bloodline. In America’s deep south, for some reason, names for grandparents tend to be rather down-to-earth and undemanding. Names like Hank, Big Mamma, Rooster, Big Daddy and J-Bird are not only prevalent and easy to remember but are equally useful as names for a hunting dog or a Sheriff’s deputy.

As in the past, today’s generation tends to adopt names for grandparents, using those our parents had, for their grandparents.

But like so much in life, even naming grandparents has gotten a lot more complicated. For one thing, people are living longer. Ninety is said to be the new sixty, or is it eighty?  Anyway, the chance of a child having a Great Grandparent, or several GGPs, for that matter, is no longer out of the question. Add to that, the astonishing and escalating rate of divorce, even multiple divorces, and re-marriages, and suddenly the number and variety of participants a child might need to include in this bio name game madness, increases exponentially.

It is therefore possible for a little rug rat today to have a personal posse loaded down with 8 or ten names, many of them nonsensical, albeit necessary. After all, when there are 4 or 5 Grand moms and Grand dads…even a few Great GDs and Great GMs thrown in…what’s the kid going to call them?

Fortunately, my granddaughter only had to remember four. There was Poppy and Mims on one side, and my wife is GramToo.

As for me? I’m teaching the kid to call me…Mister Slosberg.

THUMBS UP FOR YOUR GRAND KIDS!

Thumbs Up For Your Grand Kids!

By Mike Slosberg

Back in the seventies, Tom Robbins’s novel, Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, introduced his readers to Sissy Hankshaw, a young lady born with enormous thumbs.

I was reminded of Sissy the other morning, while at my local coffee shop. I was impatiently waiting in line behind a bunch of teenagers inching toward their pre-school caffeine-fix.  They were yakking away, laughing, goofing and, clutching cell phones in both hands.  But it was their thumbs that caught my eye!  Blurred digits, dancing across cell phone keys, at speeds, which brought to mind hummingbird wings.

Obviously, I was witness to an advanced form of Text messaging. Darwin was correct. These children had taken the opposing thumb to a higher order.

Just then, my old friend Rocco cut in behind me, held out his cell phone, and blurted, “Take a look-see at this mess and please tell me what it says?”

“It’s a Text message.”

“That’s just brilliant, Sherlock,” Rocco countered. “I know what it is, for crying out loud. I just can’t read the darn thing!”

I looked again and realized I couldn’t read the darn thing, either. Because right there, in front of my eyes, was a puzzling array of black uppercase letters, which said:

THX BDAY 2G2BT.  AAMOF UR CARD MADE ME LSHMBH. SWMBO WAS FUBAR WEN I WNTD A SLEEP O.  BUT @TEOTD SHE CHILLED.  TY, TY. GP  UCMU. XOXOXO TOY.

Here were familiar English letters, arranged in groups, which looked a lot like word clusters and yet, I hadn’t the foggiest idea what they said.

“Pardon,” I said, leaning over the shoulder of the nearest teenager, and proceeded to ask what I knew was a rhetorical question. “Do you, by any chance speak Text?”  Pushing the phone toward her, I added, “Could you still your thumbs for a moment and kindly translate this for my friend?”

“It’s from my Grand Daughter,” Rocco added.

The girl smiled. A pleasant aroma of shampoo and Clearasil wafted toward me as she took the instrument.

“Oh, sure.  Like, no problem.” She read it with ease.

“Thanks.  Birthday was too good to be true.  As a matter of fact your card made me laugh so hard my belly hurt.  She, who must be obeyed was fouled up beyond recognition when I wanted a sleep over but at the end of the day she chilled.  Thank you, thank you, pop- pop.  You crack me up. Hugs and kisses, hugs and kisses, hugs and kisses.  Thinking of you.”

And I thought: Good Lord! Two revelations in one day: First, that thumbs had risen out of the muck, and taken wing as a major tool for communicating, and that Gibberish had become a second language.

But, as in all evolution, there was a piper to be paid.  Thumbs and gibberish could possibly become a technological membrane, standing between Rocco and his Grand Daughter.

Wait, I thought. Didn’t every generation have its own version of Texting –– those little quirks of communication, embraced by the young, which mystified and irritated their elders.  Whether ancient glyphs etched on tomb walls, Beatnik and hipster vocabulary, the Pig Latin of my youth, or rap lyrics, the objective was clear: Fool the big people!

Texting is simply latest obfuscation, filtered through two intersecting realities: technology and universal laziness.  First, it uses a technology our elders don’t quite understand –– at least to the extent “we” do.  And while we’re at it, let’s make it easier to use by creating a “brevity code” where thoughts can be squeezed into short monograms.

But the truth is, Texting isn’t mysterious. And even though thumbs attached to older bodies can’t move as fast, it’s a cinch to master.

The important point is this: Texting puts you at the side of your Grand child, 24/7. Once you get over the initial fear of mastering this new lingua franca, TXT MSGING turns out to be as simple to pick-up as Pig Latin.

Just think of acronyms and abbreviations. We all know what ASAP means, right?  And FYI? And ETC and CONT’D? Text uses lots of them.  Like, LOLO, for Lots of love.  And B4N, for Bye for now.

And letters and numbers have sounds that can replace words. Remember that little word ditty from grade school that went: “A B C D PUPPY?  M N O PUPPY.  O S A R!  C M P N?”

(Check out GOOGLE for “Text Messaging” and you’ll find all the abbreviations, acronyms, letters and numbers combinations you’ll ever need to Text your Grand kids.  Or anyone else, for that matter.)

Like I told Rocco: Jump in and try it. Start with something simple like; DRLG, Y DNT U CALL ME?  It will blow your little darling’s mind to hear from Grandpop in Text, and I’ll bet you get a quick reply!

And, importantly, to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, “It could be the beginning of a beautiful Texting friendship.”

 

GRAND PARENTING FOR THE DEPRIVED

GRAND PARENTING FOR THE DEPRIVED

 Let’s Show a Little Compassion for Anyone Whose Kids Haven’t Cooperated

By Mike Slosberg

The other night, while devouring a Sushi grade tuna burger at my favorite tavern, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between two couples at a nearby booth.

“You can’t be serious,  You  don’t have any grandchildren?.  I really feel for you guys. How long has Bambi (All names are changed) been married?  Really?  Ten years?  Wow, how sad. You’re missing out on the greatest part of life. My Malcolm and his Doreen gave me three so far!  All absolute geniuses.  Truly!  Look at these pictures…you’ll faint from the sheer joy.”

As I listened to this harassment go on, I was struck by the patent injustice that was being perpetrated on these poor souls….and on the hundreds of souls around the world who are caught in this morass of exclusion. My heart went out to them.

However, since you’re on this website, chances are fairly high you’ve laid some version of this passive aggressive rap on someone yourself. I think it’s about time we began to show a bit of compassion for anyone suffering from non-grandparent-itis.

Let’s think about why this happens: is it conceivable that all grandparents seem to desperately want everyone else on earth to have grand kids?  Is it possible there is a touch of schadenfreude here  –– that they’re getting some strange pleasure from a misguided perception that one’s life isn’t complete without grand kids?

Doubtless, many of us know people who fall into that Grand Kid Deprived category.  Regretfully, this is a condition, over which those folks have no control, any more than those of us with grand kids, have.  Truth is, nothing more than a little biological two-step resulted in the dubious honor of being gray-haired baby sitters, continually bearing gifts, and eventually shelling out for vacations and college tuition.

Consider for a moment the dilemma the Have-Nots find themselves in.  My buddy Jack and his wife Rochelle, for example, suffer mightily from ruthless grilling by the “I have one and you don’t” crowd.

“It’s downright frustrating,” Jack told me, one evening as the three of us shared a pitcher of beer and a pizza. “We have friends we’ve stopped seeing altogether,” Rochelle added. “It’s as if they’ve  joined some sort of cult.”

I heard their cry and my soul responded.  “What if…we could create a Grand Child for people like you who don’t have one?” I postulated. I ignored their incredulous looks.

Later that night, under a steaming shower, a venue where I happen to do my best thinking, the idea took shape.  I would create The Grand-Kid-of-The-Month Club! It was pure brilliance.

No grand kid?  No problem.  Finally, here was a way to blunt all those condescending friends who want to know why you don’t have any, when are you going to get some, and how can you call your life complete without a tottering rug rat finger staining your damask settee?

The Grandkid of the Month Club would start with a Pre-Birth Package.  We’d provide all the fancy buzzwords to lay on your friends about things like Fernand Lamaze’s natural birth and exotic breathing techniques.  We would include stills shots from Ultra-Sound exams (They all look the same: like an X-rayed bottle of pickled beets, right?) and weekly emails from your own “kids” designed for forwarding to friends, chronicling the progress of the faux pregnancy.

And on the big day, a picture of the gunk-covered, new tax-deduction, held high in the mitts of the proud gowned-and-masked Obstetrician would arrive.  In due course more photos would debut: in bassinette, in hospital, in car seat.  In a generic mother’s arms, her head, of course, cropped out.  A picture every week, a visual progress of the kid’s development.

Naturally, the first birthday would be celebrated with snapshots of the cake, the candle, the kids and the pile of presents.  The kid on a pony or, if it’s a city kid, hailing a taxi. So cute!

As the virtual child gets older, drawings and paintings, suitable for refrigerator hanging would arrive each month.  (Fridge magnets not included.)

Holiday and special event cards would begin arriving from the child at appropriate ages, including their charmingly cute and precocious emails, suitable for forwarding to the by now, appeased friends.  Trivets made from Popsicle sticks and plastic lanyards would be sent from authentic sounding summer camps.

Eventually there could be a Shared Vacation Package. Thanks to the miracle of digital photography, we could “doctor” your actual vacation photos to include shots of your virtual Grand Kid.

I settled into my bed, content that I had created something of great benefit to mankind (person kind?) and something that could possibly turn a profit?  As my mind drifted on Theta waves, I wondered how one might end a membership in The Grand-Kid-Of-The-Month Club?  Could we string a membership out into the college years?  To graduate school?  Or was the club simply a stopgap?  A way to silence the irritating goading of well meaning friends?

As sleep overtook me, a basic and brutal truth emerged: The reality that once friends and relatives are comfortably assured that, like them, you’ve got grandkids, they will surely become as bored stiff with yours, as you are with theirs.

It’s just human nature. ZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzz.

PS If you have thoughts about any of my columns, or ideas for possible future columns, please let me know.

GRAND-GEAR & THE CARGO CULT

GRAND-GEAR & THE CARGO CULT

By Mike Slosberg

I don’t know about you, but the only grandchild memorabilia I keep around is a single picture of the kid, which I update whenever I’m sent a new picture… like once a year… maybe.

But I just returned from a very eye-opening trip to Florida, visiting my buddy, Larry, and his wife, who, by comparison, have transformed their condo into a veritable shrine to their grandchild, Max. I never realized there was such a massive amount of stuff available for one to demonstrate adoration of a grandchild on a 24/7 basis.  It only served to show how light I am on my Grand-Gear. I only hope my thoughtless neglect hadn’t perpetrated too much damage on my poor grandchild.

So, using the list I’d compiled of my friends’ Grand-Gear, I fired up my computer, determined to track down their goodies, and find out how much it would cost to catch up.

It was an eye-opening journey.

I could relate somewhat to the photo mouse pad, the photo refrigerator magnets, the photo tee-shirts, and the photo coffee mugs (at $9.99, $5.99, $14.99, $13.99, respectively, from <shutterfly.com>). But a tooth-fairy pillow?  And a combination baby-tooth storage and tooth- fairy bank? (All at <dentist.net/toothfairy>.) This is a bit much.

Bronzed baby shoes have been around almost as long as bronze has been around.  But the newest iteration of this is the photo realistic oil painting of your kid’s shoes.  Any of their shoes.  Her first little pair of ballet slippers or his little-league baseball cleats.  Whatever.  Each pair rendered, for all time, in thickly applied oil paints. (A 12” X 12” PediPortrait, a laughingly low $250 at <alishaard.com>.)

Then there is the First Haircut Keepsake Certificate.  Suitable for framing, of course (a bargain at $15 from <plannersGuide.com>).  And the lock of hair shadow box  (free directions for making one of your own at <wondertime.go.com>).

But the one that really knocked me out was the Baby Time Capsule (available at <beyondGifts.com> for $22.95). Imagine the fun you’ll have filling it with all manner of grandkid memorabilia.  (But, please, try not to imagine where you’ll be 20 or 30 years from now, when the damned thing gets opened up.)

Seeing all this stuff, and having witnessed how my friends relate to their collection, I was reminded of a strange sociological phenomenon known as, The Cargo Cult. The most widely known period of Cargo Cultitude activity was in the Southwest Pacific, in the years during and after World War II, when tons of goodwill were poured onto the islands by the American military.

The chosen area, it’s said, had never before been exposed to Western civilization.  So when vast amounts of cargo suddenly came tumbling from the sky, seemingly by magic, you can understand how stunned the native inhabitants must have been.  It’s hard to even postulate the impact of seeing, for the very first time, canned goods, manufactured clothing, medicine, tents, and all manner of other goodies –– floating down, suspended from fluffy, cloud-like silk parachutes.

And then, not too long after, have the war end… just as abruptly. The military bases were quickly abandoned, and all the wonderful cargo simply disappeared.

The natives, however, wanting it all back, continued to look longingly to the empty skies, believing these gods would return, since, in their logic, only gods were powerful enough to produce such riches.

But the gods were gone.  In desperation, they attempted to bring them back, by mimicking what they had seen.  They carved headphones from wood and wore them while sitting in fabricated control towers, scanning the heavens for the big silver birds.  They fashioned replicas of radios from coconuts and painted Army insignias on their bodies.  They fashioned and worshiped huge, straw airplanes.

And then I thought back to my friends Larry and his wife and how their grandson had appeared, at least metaphorically speaking, suddenly and magically. And how they were using all the Grand-Gear to try and preserve the magic, to try and hold that early memory, for as long as possible. Because, in truth, their grandchild, Max, was now 16 years old. Deep into his adolescence, acne, and rebellion phase.  So, if and when he ever came to Florida to visit, he’d probably be at the beach with his friends. Larry and the missus would be lucky to see him at all.

At least they’d have their coffee mug.

THE GRANDPARENT ITCH

THE GRANDPARENT ITCH

By Mike Slosberg

The following extract from The New England Journal of Really Weird Psychological Stuff is from a groundbreaking paper authored by one of the society’s most distinguished members, Dr. Frank Lee Earnest.

Dr. Earnest:  To begin, let me note, I have focused on one troubled couple –– the first I had encountered with this phenomenon which I’ve named Grand-Kidus Expectus. The pathology manifests through an itch to be a grandparent. Subsequently, I have seen and treated dozens more. No cure has yet been discovered.  Although, large doses of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream seem to offer temporary relief.

Session Notes, First Visit

A middle-age couple, referred to me by an alert chiropodist, entered my office. Within minutes I concluded they were experiencing this yearning for a grandchild.

At first, they were in denial. Mr. Z was particularly adamant, shouting, “Look, it’s up to those selfish kids.  If they want a baby, we’d be delighted, but if not, well, that’s their destruction…er, I mean decision.”

His words, although rational, clashed with his subtle body language, giving me pause. Mr. Z leapt up on the couch as he spoke. His belt, removed from his trousers, was wound around his neck, and he had thrown the loose end over a steam pipe near the ceiling.

In good conscience, I had no choice but to urge the couple to return for a follow-up visit.

Session Notes, Second Visit 

I am alarmed to learn that the couple is engaged in an unconscious subterfuge.  It seems they replaced their daughter-in-law’s birth control pills with Pez candies. Even worse was their admission, after a stinging cross-examination, that, during a recent visit, pinholes had been introduced into a gross of condoms, found while rummaging through their son’s belongings.  The remorse they expressed seems superficial.  Progress, I fear, seems elusive, at best.

Session Notes, Third Visit 

Gingerly, I began to probe for the reasons underlying their children’s choice not to procreate.  I tried to get beyond Mr. Z’s ranting about his son’s self-centered, ungrateful, lifestyle, but slowly, a more specific reason emerged; The young couple feels it would be cruel to bring a child into a world which allows sub-prime mortgages.  I find it difficult to take sides.

Session Notes, Unscheduled Emergency Session

The wife was especially disturbed.  So intense is her determination to become a grandmother that she claims to have actually experienced sympathetic lactation.

I must say I was taken aback but was reassured when her husband said: “She’s crazy! Her bra comes out from the dryer a little damp. All of a sudden she’s what? Nursing? Phooey! Is what I say!”

Session Notes, Fifth Visit

I sensed from the wildly feral look in Mrs. Z’s eyes that the problem had escalated.  Mr. Z wasn’t looking too well, either. They reluctantly admitted to making midnight calls to their kids, pretending to be various celebrities, ranting that only having children brings happiness.  Unfortunately, all their impersonations came out sounding a lot like Charo or Sammy Davis Jr.  The kids have threatened to take out a restraining order.

Session Notes, Sixth Visit 

Mrs. Z’s 55th birthday today and she is convinced her emotional clock is running out.  “If I don’t have a grandchild soon, I won’t have the strength to teach her to feel guilty, let alone get down on the floor to play with the little darling.”  Even when Mr. Z assured her that he would help, she was inconsolable.

Session Notes, Seventh Visit 

The Z’s son is in town on business. Upon entering his old room, the son was stunned to find a completely kitted out nursery. Crib, audio monitor, stuffed animals, etc., all ready and waiting for a grandchild. Any grandchild. The bed gone, he slept in the crib. I feel we’ve taken one step backward.

Session Notes, Eighth Visit

The Zs have decided to bring out the big guns: Cash for the pregnancy.  They reckon that by mortgaging the house, pulling out their IRA money, and taking part-time jobs, they can give the kids quite a bundle to conceive.  I ask them to reconsider.  They laughed off my suggestion as if coming from a spoiled child.

Session Notes, Final Interaction

I have spent the weekend deliberating about this case and have decided to refer the Zs back to the chiropodist who sent them to me.  But before I have a chance to tell them, they call me.  “Guess what!” they yell into the phone, “The kids called…we’re preggers! We didn’t even have to bribe them.  How about that?”

I, too, was delighted and realized that the only true cure for Grand-Kidus Expectus was to have an actual grandchild.  Without that, it’s a hopeless malady.

I had no sooner hung up from Z when the phone rang again.

It was my wife who had just returned from visiting our daughter and son-in-law.

“You did both, right?” I said.

“Thanks for your trust in me,” she said, clearly irritated by my questioning.

Still, I pressed her: “You used both the Pez Candies and the pin-holes, right?”

ASK GRUMP-POP

ASK GRUMP-POP

By Mike Slosberg

Q.        Dear Grump-Pop.  My son informed me his wife is pregnant.  I am like way too young and pretty to be a granny.  What’s a girl to do?

Like Way Too Young

A.        Dear Like Way Too Young.  You’re not alone.  Most of us are too young to be grand-any things. Short of recommending your son get a divorce, which would take you out of harm’s way, I’d say your options are few. But you may want to try this: After the baby is born, put your hair up in braids, wear short skirts, speak with a slight accent, and tell everyone you’re the kid’s Scandinavian nanny.

Q.        Dear Grump-Pop.  My daughter lives far away and we don’t get to see our grandchildren, except to celebrate a few holidays.  How can we see the kids more often?

Starved For Them

A.    Dear Starved For Them.  Obviously, the solution is to find MORE holidays to celebrate. There are literally hundreds you can choose from for your planning purposes.  Here are a few to start you off: November 28th is Albania Independence Day.  July 9th is Nunavut Day in Canada. July 20th is the oxymoronically named, Moon Day.  On February 17th you can celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Day.  April 15th is, one of my personal favorites: Rubber Eraser Day.

Imagine the fun you can have with your grand kids, planning and celebrating such exciting historical moments. You could make a giant papier-mâché eraser with the kids?  Or, how about a marathon game of Trivia on January 24th, Trivia Day?

The possibilities for seeing your Grandkids are limited only by your imagination.

Q.        Dear Grump-Pop.  The only time we see the grandkids is when we take them, my daughter and our good-for-nothing son-in-law on trips, which we have to pay for because he pleads poverty.  They are far from poor, with a big house, two cars and a country club membership.  And he always demands they go first class.

Sick of Shelling-Out

A.        Dear Sick Of Shelling-Out.  This is a tough one to solve.  If you refuse to pay, you won’t see the kids, right?  So I think a subtle, more nuanced approach is called for.  On future trips, make sure you and the kids always have first class accommodations.  Everything!  First class airfare.  Hotel suites.  Top-of-the-line cabins on cruise ships.  Everything.  And make sure you book your daughter and good-for-nothing son-in-law with the lowest possible level of accommodations.  Coach, preferably with center seats.  Small rooms.  Lowest deck cabins, etc.

If they complain and want to go first class, tell them to pay the difference.  Eventually, they will get the point.  If not, at least you’ve saved a few bucks and had some very comfortable trips with your grandkids.

Q.        Dear Grump-Pop.  My young grandchild uses very foul language with her parents.  Lots of curse words.  I am reluctant to say anything since I don’t want to meddle.  What can I do?

Lost For Words

A.        Dear Lost For Words.  I guess washing out the mouth with soap went bye-bye when all those child-abuse laws kicked in.  I would take the child aside and, in a very non-threatening, calm tone of voice, tell her that every time she uses a bad word in front of you, $100 will be deducted from her college fund.  Then carry a little notebook and actually keep score, making sure she sees how her college fund is shrinking.  If that doesn’t do the trick within a few weeks, take your chances with jail time and wash the kids filthy mouth out with soap.

Q.        Dear Grump-Pop.  My teenage grandson wants to be an investment banker.  He dresses in baggy jeans, dirty T-shirts and has his hair gelled in multi-colored spikes.  How can I make him understand he will never get a banking job dressing that way?  Oh, yes, and he’s talking about getting a nose ring and a few tattoos.  What can I do?

Sartorially confused

A.        Dear Sartorially confused.  Don’t eat your heart out. If he really wants to be an investment banker he will eventually discover Brooks Brothers or J. Press.  But, meanwhile, check out the Internet and look up the high school graduation pictures of the very rich and very successful.  People like, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey, etc. and you’ll see how dorky they looked when they were your grandson’s age.  It will comfort you.  Just make sure his tattoo is on a discreet body part.

Q.        Dear Grump-Pop.  My 16-year-old grandson is driving my daughter crazy.  He talks back; he stays out late, refuses to study and is, in general, a total pain in the neck. It reminds me a lot of what I went through with his mother when she was a teen.  What can I do?

End of my rope.

A.        Dear End of my rope. Do nothing!  I repeat: Nothing!  This is what’s I call “pay-back” time. When your daughter was giving you fits back in her teen days, what did you say to her?  Wasn’t it something like: “Just you wait, young lady!  Some day you’re going to have children and I hope they give you the same grief you’re giving me!!”  You did say that, right? Everyone does. So now its happening! “Pay back” time.  Rejoice.  Enjoy it.  Savor it. Remember, what comes around goes around.

 

 

SOME OF THE WORST THINGS YOU CAN SAY TO YOUR GRANDCHILD

Some Of The Worst Things You Can Say To Your Grandchild

By Mike Slosberg

  1. “What a lovely idea, darling.  I agree a snake would be a wonderful pet. Don’t worry I’ll talk to your mother and father. That will take care of it.”

Regardless of the animal or reptile involved, you’re on a slippery slope. Obviously you are being used as a flying wedge. Stay out of it.

  1. “When you’re in my house, darling, you can eat all the junk food you want.”

This is a no-no, so unless you own a fast food franchise, forget it.

  1. “For a boy, you have the most beautiful eyelashes.”

(Or, if addressing your granddaughter, saying, “For a girl, you’re really big-boned.”) Vanity bubbles up in kids like hysterically happy hormones.  Proceed with caution when discussing a young grandchild’s looks, weight or “romantic” relationships.

  1. “Mommy tells me she wants you to go on a diet. Really! you’re not that fat.”

This is called: Damning-with-faint-praise. At most, it can cause a lifetime of self-consciousness.  At the least, it’s the trigger for a screaming meltdown with mom when the kid gets home.

  1. “You know, your mommy and daddy used to drink a great deal when they were younger. Oh, really! They still do? That much?”

If this were a football game the comment would draw a flag on the play. Not appropriate, and calls for the offending grandparent to receive a fifteen-yard penalty, and a possible suspension.

  1. “But darling, your essay sounds brilliant to me. Obviously your teacher is a blithering idiot.” 

One of the sadder phenomena of recent years is the assumption that when a teacher says anything critical of a student, it is assumed the teacher is wrong. This, along with really lousy pay, makes me marvel at why anyone wants to be a teacher. Don’t try to make points with your little genius by undermining the lesson his teacher is trying to impart.

  1. “If I ever find out you have a tattoo I’ll kill myself.”

Talk about guilt!  This is right up there with, “Finish your broccoli, don’t you know the children in Europe are starving!”  But wait! Why not try a temporary tattoo? This may be the perfect opportunity for a grandchild to test the strength of a grandparent’s conviction.

  1. “That lovely little girl, the one I met at your house last week, is she your girlfriend?”

Without question, you are on very thin ice here. Absolutely nothing is more embarrassing to a 7-to-14 year old, boy or girl, than the “outing” of his or her social life.

  1. “You hardly ever call me, and you know, granny’s not getting any younger. As a matter of fact, if you ever come over to see me, I’d like you to choose a few things you’d particularly like to have, so when I’m gone, you can take them.”

Oh, boy! This is not unlike catching fish using sticks of dynamite. Passive/Aggressive in the extreme.  It is the stuff of nightmares, not to mention years of intense psychoanalysis.  Are you happy now?

  1. Of course you should have a curfew for your prom night, dear. I remember your mother stayed out very late at her senior prom. She drank much too much, and two months later I ended up having to take her to visit a weird so-called doctor on Railroad Street.

Agreeing with the parents that the child needs a curfew is a smart move for a grandparent. But don’t let your support turn into the launching pad for a story best forgotten. Any anecdotes about a parent’s early years should be uplifting, or at least, example setting.

WHAT A GRANDFATHER TAUGHT ME

What A Grandfather Taught Me

By Mike Slosberg

When I was around 9 years old, my best friend’s grandfather lived with my friend’s family, a common arrangement back in those days.

The old man had his own room––a small, cluttered area created out of space in the cramped attic. There was a bed, a beat-up dresser, with a dull mirror attached, and a large, over stuffed and lopsided armchair.

Some days, after school, my friend and I would go up to the attic and spend time with the old man. We’d scramble up the steep, creaking steps of the ladder-type stairway that unfolded from the ceiling, and led to his room.  Even before we cleared the opening, the heavy smell of Prince Albert pipe tobacco would surround us.

I‘ve no idea how old he was but, at least to me, he seemed ancient.  People aged differently in those days, so he might have been sixty, or he might have been ninety.

I rarely saw him out of his big, old chair, and we’d sit by his feet and smell the tobacco, and tell him about our day.  About the endless ball games we played or how we’d been sledding.

Sometimes we’d play checkers with him and every once in a while he would give us money to run to the corner store and get him tobacco.  On those occasions, he’d always add a little extra change for us to buy ice cream cones or bubble gum cards.

There was something very magical about that attic room.  The smell of stale smoke, sweat and old age mingled with attic smells of decaying books and old clothing, which overflowed from a dozen crumbling cardboard boxes––all-in-all, an intoxicating miasma that, to this day, I wish I could conjure at will.

Besides really listening––a precious gift too few adults bothered to bestow upon two nine-year olds––grandpa would talk to us, teach us and instruct us on all manner of things.  And, unlike my own grandchildren, we listened to him, not cynically but with a level of awe.

World War II was on and so was grandpa’s radio, constantly. It was on old Philco––a deep, rich blackish-brown wooden console the color of his Prince Albert tobacco. There weren’t lots of newscasts like there are today. But sometimes we would go to the attic after dinner and listen to Gabriel Heater, whose program always started off with Mr. Heater intoning, “Ah, my friends, there’s good news tonight.”  The three of us would always intone the line right along with him and laugh every time.  Most of what Gabriel Heater reported wasn’t really good news but we weren’t old enough to understand that.

Grandpa also listened to the soap operas and to classical music. Both our fathers were off in the military and my mother was working at a job in the Philadelphia Navy Yard.  We were what we call today, Latch Key kids, but in those days no one locked their doors, so we carried no keys.

Even though this all took place a long time ago, I think about it a lot.

One day last month I was flying to London for a meeting and, on a whim, started trolling my memory, trying to list some of the things grandpa had taught me: the trivial, the humorous and the obscure––but collectively, on reflection, quite important.  A tutorial for those little life-skills few modern day 9 year olds have needed to master, simply because they are mostly pretty much useless.

Here, for what it’s worth, is that list;

How to properly close a penknife without nipping off the tip of one’s finger.

How to hammer a nail without bending it.

How to get a stamp off an envelope without ripping it.

How to approach the tasting of unfamiliar foods as an adventure, not a  revolting chore.

How to appreciate classical music, which at the ripe age of 9, I hated until the old man pointed out that The William Tell Overture was the theme for my favorite radio show, The Lone Ranger.  After that, I was hooked.

How to break-in a baseball glove using Neat’s foot oil.

How to safely hand a knife or scissors to someone.

How to cover model airplane’s plans with wax paper so the glue doesn’t stick to the paper.  We made models from balsa wood in those days, not snap-together plastic.

How to make a rubber band gun.

How to always call elders “sir.”

How to make a bank out of a Prince Albert Tobacco can.

How to double knot our shoe laces so they didn’t come undone on some crucial run to second base, which was usually a large rock.

How to use a toothpick or wooden matchstick to re-fasten a screw when the hole has become too large.

How to make a hat out of a newspaper page.

How to fold a sheet of paper into an airplane.

How to make a slingshot out of a wire hanger, a 2” square of cloth and some rubber bands.

How to blow a smoke-ring.  (Yes, yes…I know.)

How to rewire an electrical plug.

How to play “Battleship” with nothing more than a sheet of paper and a sharp pencil.  (Today, the same game is electronic.)

How to make a soap-box scooter from an empty wooden box, a 2/4 and a roller skate.

When I was fourteen, my family moved out of the neighborhood to another city and I never saw the old man again.  But he has remained in my memory. He never took us on a trip, or opened a savings program to pay for my friend’s college tuition or, come to think of it, give us a single gift, other than a few coins for ice cream or gum.

But he did give us both something far more valuable and long.

Himself.

THE LAZY GRANDPARENTS’ GUIDE TO GRAND-PARENTING

THE LAZY GRANDPARENTS’ GUIDE TO GRAND-PARENTING

By Mike Slosberg

Confession is good for the soul, right?

And this must be open season because people seem to be falling over each other, desperate to spill their guts about sexual peccadilloes, political infractions, literary plagiarism, Military Contract hanky-panky––just to name a few.  You pick the poison and chances are good someone’s already tearfully confessed to it.

Never one to sit on the sidelines, I also have a confession:

I’m a lazy Grandparent.  There, I’ve said it!  I have very little time, and about zero amount of passion for the whole Grand-parenting ball of wax.  And, you might be surprised to learn I’m not alone in holding this seemingly heretical point of view.

No sir!

About the extent of my involvement is the yellow diamond-shape decal I slapped on the back window of my 10-year old sedan that announces, GRANDCHILD ON BOARD.

Believe it or not, there are loads of grandparents out there who believe they have better things to do, and have lives––far too full––to waste time babysitting, escorting rug rats to infantile animated movies, or to the park, to sit in a grungy sandbox and watch the squirrels, or whatever.

The idea of blowing precious time doing any of that is no more appealing to many of us than wasting it fertilizing a lawn, scrubbing bathroom grout, or cleaning out the attic.

Lazy is, as lazy does.

There is a growing group of GPs who are coming up with creative ways to get off the hook, so to speak––to be with the grandkids in ‘one’s heart’ without getting all blubbery about it.  Face it, when the day comes when one’s grandkid starts using that college fund you set up, they won’t give a hen’s feather whether or not you spent some god-awful Saturday afternoon with them building a snow fort.

But lazy takes work, imagination and planning.  So here are just a few things that “Lazy” –– I prefer to call them Busy –– grandparents might look into.  I’ve organized this “Lazy Grandparents Guide” into two categories.  You doubtless will have some ideas of your own and by all means, feel free to add them to this Guide.

The Little Lazy Things:

**As soon as your daughter or daughter-in-law is pregnant, begin to gently circulate the idea that you have a small disability, a torn rotator cuff, bursitis, or lower back pain––any type of condition that’s easy to claim and almost impossible to verify.  You could even occasionally use an inexpensive arm sling, or even a cane.  When the baby comes, this ‘injury’ will excuse you from lots of lifting, holding and diaper changing.

In the case of an older child it will rule out hours of playing catch or crawling around on the floor being the guest of honor at stuffed animal tea parties or playing horribly competitive video games.  Or, heaven-forbid, giving “horsy” rides.

**It’s never too early to begin training a grandchild to fetch.  Send them to get you a cold beer from the fridge.  A refill of chips.  More dip.  The newspapers.  Your slippers.  Those sorts of things.  It will teach them how to serve others and add a bit of much needed exercise to their little lives.

**When it comes to presents, always give things that do not require any construction or participation on your part.  No model planes, cars, or anything else that needs your help to be assembled, inflated, painted or launched into the sky.  No books that can’t be read by the child.  Reading to kids is the parents’ job.  Besides, the book’s pages are often sticky from who-knows-what.

** Forget showing up for birthdays until the child’s age is in double-digits.  Until then, a card with money will delight them.

**Try giving hand-held electronic stuff.  A properly chosen item can keep the average kid out of your hair for hours and hours. 

The Big Lazy Things

**Paying someone to “walk” your grandkid is no more far-fetched than paying someone to walk your dog.  I can envision enterprising young people in metropolitan areas earning tuition money by strolling the avenues, a snot of little ones fanned out on the ends of brightly colored leashes, each having a wonderful time, in the company of their peers.  Naturally, they would have to be heavily diapered, eliminating the possibility of any ‘scooper’ law violations.

**Same for movies.  Why would any adult in their right mind want to waste a Saturday afternoon surrounded by flying popcorn and ear piercing screams emanating from sugar-high brats, to watch Shrek 11, The Ant Bully, or Wallace & Gromit: Curse Of The Rabbit?

**Don’t even think about one of those Disney parks.  Okay, they’re wonderful, but only if you are a child––not the poor adult who has to accompany the child. But remember, that adult does not have to be you!  Hire someone.  It will be worth it.  Maybe a competent niece or nephew who needs extra cash for college, weed, or seed money to back a card-counting scheme in Los Vegas.

Grand-parenting, in theory, can be fun. Showing pictures of the little ones to your drinking and/or canasta buddies.  Comparing their academic accomplishments.  Hanging their cute little finger paintings on your fridge door.  (Be careful, some of that tape never comes off)

But don’t get involved if you don’t have to.  If you’ve nothing better to do with your time, find something.  Take up hobby, ballroom dancing or origami.  Or start a business.

Believe me, nothing is impossible.  You’ve just got to be lazy enough.

WHAT KIND OF FIRST GRANDPARENT MIGHT EACH CANDIDATE MAKE?

WHAT KIND OF FIRST GRANDPARENT MIGHT EACH CANDIDATE MAKE?

By Mike Slosberg

Clearly, all three of our by-now-exhausted, and highly caffeinated politicians, have worked their pollsters off, trying to become Leader of the Free World. As part of the process, they’ve been peered at, poked, prodded, dissected, analyzed, in just about every imaginable way.

But who, may I ask, has had the guts to posit the following burning question: What kind of First Grandparent would each candidate make?

It’s not hard to see any one of them filling that roll.  True, Obama is a tad young, and McCain has been there, done that.  But for the purposes of this exercise, let’s assume our candidates start out dead even, free to gambol on that metaphorical field playing they’re always claiming they want leveled.

So I plopped myself down on that field, and tried to imagine how each of the candidates might perform in three important areas of Grand-parenting: The Bedtime Story, Helping with Homework, and The Changing of the Diaper.

  1.   THE BEDTIME STORY.

Imagine it’s evening.  The little one’s finished dinner.  The kitchen’s been hosed down.  The bath is over and the little prince or princess has been delivered––wrapped in a halo of baby powder and soft flannel––to the arms of his/her grandparent.

Senator McCain:  “Hop up here, little sailor.  Sorry, I can’t pick you up.  Old war wounds, you know.”

GKid: “Yes, Sir, permission to come aboard, sir.”

J.Mc: “Granted.  Okay, sailor, let’s see.  Last night we finished reading Carl von Clausewitz, ON WAR.”

GK: “I enjoyed that, sir. A big Booya!

J.Mc: “Roger that Booya!.  Tonight I want to begin a very exciting story by a man named Leo Tolstoy.  It’s called, WAR AND PEACE.  Do you know what peace is?

G.K.  Uh, not exactly, sir.

J.Mc:  Okay, let me see if I can remember.”

Senator Clinton:  “Oh, sweetheart, how cute you look.  What would you like grandma Hillary to read tonight?”

GK: “Oh, please, MomaHill, please tell me that scary story about Health Care Reform again.  I so like hearing it.”

HC: “Well, okay, but this is the last time.  We’ve got to move on to other things.  Here goes.  Once upon a time, in 1993, Health Care Reform started.  PapaBill had just been made King and he told me to fix…”

            Senator Obama:  “Okay, champ, it’s story time.  What’ll it be tonight?”

GK:  Gee whiz, BaraPop, Let’s have a new story.  That one about a vote recount in Florida and Michigan gives me nightmares.

BO:  “Well, I can certainly relate to that. Luckily it’s only a fairy tale.  I know.  Let’s do the one about David, the little donkey, and his battle with Goliath, the giant elephant?  You always liked that one.”

GK:  “Yeah, that one’s so cool.  Maybe this time the little donkey will win!”

2.  HELPING WITH HOMEWORK:        

Senator McCain:  “Look, it simple.  An A-class destroyer sails from Pearl doing 20 knots.  Sonar indicates an enemy sub closing in fast.  How many Ensigns will it take to…”

Senator Clinton:  “It’s just simple math, sweetie.  See, there are a total of 793 super delegates…more or less, depending on other factors.”

            GK:  “…but MomaHill, What factors?  I’m confused.”

HC:  “Believe me, you’re not the only one.”

Senator Obama:  “Humm, so you need a topic for your essay?  How about this:  Why America needs a maximum age-limit for presidential candidates.”

GK:  “Is that important?”

BO:   “More than you know.”

3.  THE CHANGING OF THE DIAPER:

Senator McCain:  “Yo, sailor, belay the wiggling around.  How do you expect me to make these *&^%$ hospital corners on your diapers?”

GK:  “Sir?  What does *&^%$ mean?”

Senator Clinton:  “You’ll have to wait a little while longer, sweetie, MomaHill can’t change this diaper alone.  IT TAKES A VILLAGE, you know, and they should all be here any minute.

            Senator Obama:  “You’re almost one year old, kiddo, so let’s get rid of these baby diapers and get you into some big boy pants.  Maybe a nice button down shirt and a solid color tie?  And a flag pin. Okay, big guy?”

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Conclusion:  Although this is an unscientific look a mere three skill metrics, I believe whichever candidate becomes our next President, he or she should have no trouble tackling the job of First Grandparent.  After all, it’s not half as hard as being a First Parent.