Now that I am a grandfather, many people whose children have recently had children have asked for my brilliant advice on how to be a good grandparent. As a world-renowned expert whose granddaughter is not even 2 months old but is already more mature than I am, I’d be happy to comply.
For new grandparents, changing diapers is the No. 1 concern. It’s also, of course, the No. 2 concern. But more on that later.
First, you should know that my precious little pumpkin is the most beautiful grandbaby ever born. It is important to acknowledge this and to stop thinking that your grandchild is more adorable than mine. He or she may have been the most beautiful before my granddaughter made her grand entrance into the world, but not anymore. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is.
With that settled, here is a vital grandparenting tip: Don’t brag. Nobody wants to listen to you babble on about how alert, wonderful and beautiful your grandchild is while looking at 100 photos you have just taken of the little cutie. Fifty photos are more than enough.
Yes, you are proud to be a grandparent, but a little humility goes a long way. You might say something like, “My grandbaby isn’t as alert, wonderful and beautiful as Jerry Zezima’s, but then, whose grandchild is?”
This brings me to your interaction with the baby. As a grandparent, you will have a profound influence on your grandchild, for better (as in the case of my wife, Sue, also known as Nini) or for worse (as in the case of yours truly, also known as Poppie).
As evidence of this, I have already baby-sat for my granddaughter a few times. I fed her, changed her and played with her. I also watched baseball and hockey games with her. I even told her jokes while I held her. She looked up at me and smiled. When her mommy heard this, she said, “That was just gas.”
Now we come to the crucial part: Caring for the baby. It may have been 30 years since you were last entrusted with an infant, but it will all come back to you in pungent waves of nostalgia.
As you will recall, babies do three things: sleep, eat and poop. Nice work if you can get it.
The main difference between babies and adults is that babies not only can get away with it but are actually praised for their efforts.
“Yay!” is the typical reaction when the baby polishes off a bottle faster than you have ever chugged a beer.
“Good job!” everyone says when the baby burps.
“Way to go!” they all exclaim, coughing slightly, when the baby does his or her business.
Speaking of which, being on diaper duty is not nearly as bad as it seemed when your kids were babies. In fact, it’s a refreshing change. Well, maybe not refreshing, but it’s breathtakingly simple, even if it’s not a good idea to breathe while cleaning up.
This helps you bond with your grandchild and is the ultimate proof of your love and devotion to the little darling.
There you have it, new grandparents. This is just a primer, and I will impart more wisdom to you as your grandchild gets older, but at least now you have the basics.
So go ahead and enjoy being a Nini or a Poppie. There’s nothing like it. You can even brag a little. You can also feel free to show unsuspecting people all those pictures you just took because I know that the new addition to your family really is beautiful.
And don’t forget the most important thing: Despite what anyone says, when your adorable little grandbaby smiles at you, it’s not necessarily gas.
— Jerry Zezima
Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the McClatchy-Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. The author of Leave it to Boomer, he has just finished his second book, The Empty Nest Chronicles, slated to be published later this year. He has won four humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month in March 2012.