August 21, 1997
A Modern Grandfather
Cover Story: Grandparenting Today
A Modern Grandfather
By Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
They don't make grandparents like they usedto.
Time was when the doddering old dears couldn't imagine a greaterthrill than having the grandkids over and spoiling them rotten.
Nowadays, a phone conversation is more likely to go like this:
Daughter: "Mom, Consuela quit on me. Bill has to go to the office,and I have an important staff conference tomorrow. Could you or Dadtake care of Benny and Becky for a couple of hours?"
Mom: "You know we'd love to, but I have my hang-gliding class andDad has a meeting of his rappelling club."
Daughter: "OK, I'll figure out something. Don't forget, though,that Benny has his birthday party next week."
Mom: "Oh, dear, we'll have to miss that. We're flying over toOxford for a three-day course on British history, from the Normaninvasion to Tony Blair, plus the complete works of WilliamShakespeare."
Well, maybe I'm exaggerating a tiny bit, but it is curious how theold caricature of the "now that you're 65, here's your gold watch, gofishing or rock on your front porch" has changed.
Example: We have a regular tennis double, with four guys rangingfrom the early to the late 70s. The oldest is 79, and he is thesharpest of the lot. I'm not saying that we're ready for Wimbledon,but we'll give most intermediate players half our age a good match.
Another thing is money. With the last of our three children out ofgraduate school and finally, finally, on her own, and with themortgage paid off, we find that we actually have some loose change inour pockets.
I appreciate all the senior discounts on plane fares and at shows.But when I really needed them was in my 30s and 40s, when we had agrowing family, constant dental bills and a house to pay off.
Another fading stereotype is of the grandparents who are so dotingand mushy that the grandkids can twist them around their tinyfingers. Not so. We enjoy our grandchildren, but we demand certainstandards, and since we don't have to wrestle with them 16 hours aday, day in and day out, we have sufficient energy and patience tomake our rulings stick.
We are abetted in our resolve by growing up in the dark ages --before we were all enlightened that telling a kid to stop talking orto turn off the radio (TV) would impose lifelong psychological scars.
One thing hasn't changed from generation to generation. Just asour parents knew better how to raise our children than we did, so weknow better than our children how to raise their kids.
Don't get me wrong -- we really do love our four grandchildren --Talia, Yaniv, Maya and Benny. And after taking them to the park orhaving them overnight, and they get a wee bit cranky, we love toreturn them to their parents.