December 12
by Anita Rosen

Never Trust a Grandchild

After having the pleasure of being a grandparent for a decade, it’s time to share some pertinent observations, which, I hope, may be of assistance to others who find themselves in this familial category.

While my childhood provided ample instruction in developing a parenting plan for my own children, who were, by and large, good children, little in life prepared me to be a grandparent.

Setting a dubious standard for behavior, my brother and I were known for the usual sibling rough-and-tumble fights augmented by special acts of mischief, like the time we took the goldfish out of the tank to see how they felt under our feet. Of this last, I admit, we did not confess until our father had died and our mother was too old to hit us.

The next generation was either basically good or, drawing on my youth, I recognized trouble in time to head it off. Of course, as the teenage years came, there were instances of finding joint wrappers (being held for a friend), a hunting knife (same friend?) and late-night giggling in the hall … a sure sign underage drinking had breached another generation.

By the time grandparenthood arrived, it was reasonable to expect some expertise in discerning falsehoods and tomfoolery. So, with a sense of deep befuddlement, I noticed the elevation to “grand” status was steadied by an equal degradation of common sense.

Grandbaby-sitting is a risky business. Your children trust you enough to leave their little treasures with you; the little treasures are going to treat you like a substitute teacher; and, then, there is that alarming lack of discernment by you, the grandparent.

This is not a good combination.

Arriving to take over the parental role one fall day, my two granddaughters enthusiastically greeted me. The sun beamed after a shower and the girls were intent of rescuing all the earthworms trapped in the now-drying street. This mission was followed by a request for rollerblading and bike riding.

I assembled the necessary equipment and, knowing the responsibility grandparents carry so heavily in protecting their wards, I asked where the helmets were.

“We don’t need to wear them anymore,” said Sarah, looking ever so much like a blonde angel. “Trust me.”

OK, I admit alarms should have been ringing in my head when “Trust me” was uttered, but, sadly, I believed her and made a mental note to discuss this breach of safety etiquette with my son. I warned Ellie, the younger and on a bike, not to get too far ahead of Sarah, on rollerblades, and me, on foot.

You undoubtedly have the sequel to this arrangement pictured perfectly. Ellie, setting new speed records, got ahead of us; the repeated loud calls from both Sarah and me had the odd effect of impelling her to an even greater velocity. When we finally caught up, this cherub was parked at the end of the driveway, hurling pine mulch into the street while waiting for us “slowpokes.”

Remembering my role as guardian, I grounded the miscreant, in spite of protestations of inability to hear the calling. I cleverly noted that must mean she was, indeed, too far ahead. When questioned about the mulch in the street, Ellie claimed no knowledge.

Nonetheless, I assigned her the task of sweeping it back, which is just what she was doing when her father pulled up, rolled down the car window and, noting the equipment in the street, asked, “Where are your helmets?”