Pop! Yeah; that’s what they call me. Pop. I’m talkin’ grandkids of course. Well, the kids too. Now. I used to be Dad (or Daddy when they needed money.) But with the debut of their first reproduction I got tagged as Pop. It was a process. I could have been Grandpa but that was already taken by another grandpa who inexplicably had dibs on it. Kind of like calling “Shotgun”. They gave me other options but they all pretty much sucked.
“Grandfather”: too formal. “Papa”: too Fiddler on the Roofish. “Pappy”: too Dogpatchy (besides I wouldn’t even know where to go for a corn-cob pipe). “Pop-Pop”: too stuttery. So Pop it is.
Anyway I kind of like it. It’s short. It’s easy; easy for a baby to blurt out even if she meant to say Poop. Even if it meant nothing. As long as it’s close to “Pop”, Baby obviously likes me best. And, let’s be real: being the “fav” is the Holy Grail of Grandparenting. It’s an exhiliarating ego-pump to walk through the door and get greeted by Eleanor, my one-year old grandaughter.
“Pop”! (Or Op or Ap or Ab or Ba), she sings out as she rushes into my arms. I pick her up and then get to spend the next two hours not allowed to put her down until my arms swell with pain. The arthritic meter enters the red zone while her mother, my daughter, blathers something like “Aw, she loves you” from the comfort of her martini.
At some point, I take her outside where she can run free in the yard and I can shake out the now useless appendages dangling from my shoulders. This falls short of the relief I was expecting. I forgot she doesn’t walk. She toddles; as is the preferred mode of transportation among the daycare crowd. Miraculously Eleanor toddles at forty miles an hour. I manage to run at two. How nice it would have been to get to her before she got to that lump of dog-droppage; the half cup of discarded coffee; or the forgotten graveyard of cigar butts. How heroic if I interceded before she took a header into a mud puddle and I was verbally reprimanded for it. All I can say is it was totally not my fault. I am still allowed to watch her unsupervised but for no more than thirty seconds.
Bailey, another grandaughter, is a different story. At the advanced age of four, she’s distributed to me for longer periods of time. Sometimes for entire weekends. She can run; but prefers not to. She can ride the little bike I bought her but feigns no interest. I got her a scooter. I once saw her actually glance at it. The meat and potatoes of her life; the all-encompassing focus of her thought process; the Zen-like commitment of her existance is …BARBIE!
I never took the time to count all Bailey’s Barbie dolls but if they were lined up head-to-toe, they’d rival the Walmart crowd on Black Friday. They talk to each other in different octaves. They live in Barbie mansions. vacation in Barbie yachts, and traverse the entire length of our sunroom in Barbie sports cars. And they do all this while completely naked! It’s like a Barbie nudist colony in there. I understand that they lack the necessary details of sexuality, but yet there’s something eerily disturbing about all this. Dolls are supposed to emulate little babies, not amorphromatically engineered hotties. Poor Ken! How confusing it must be to find true love on B-Date!
Netflix offers dozens of Barbies shows each with a decades worth of episodes. Bailey wants to watch all of them. This is where I draw the line. It’s my house, my TV, and I want to watch my shows. Man stuff like golf and Shark Tank and the weather girls on the morning news. We fight over this constantly but I am the adult and I hold my ground. Children need discipline and consistency. Giving in would only be an example of poor parenting and I have no intention of spoiling her by caving. End of story! (By the way, did you know that Barbie’s sister is Skipper?)
I’m not done. there’s more. Annabel is thirteen. I think she’s thirteen. I’m not sure. I’m not even sure I’m spelling her name right. But I do know she’s my grandaughter and I do know that if you sewed all her clothes together, you’d have enough material to make a doilee. If you threw in all her friends’ clothes, maybe an afghan.They spend hundreds of dollars on holey, shredded jeans that normal people toss in the garbage. Their bathing suits are mere threads away from the naked Barbies. It’s a great look for the cover of Playboy’s annual Grandaughter issue.
She spent her formative years honing her skills as a competitive cheerleader. If you’ve never been to a cheerleading competition, you’ve sailed through life relatively unscathed. I went to one last year. Kilos of Advil and group therapy have helped me move on.
Dozens (or hundreds. or thousands) of preteens paraded by in goosestep precision. I can only take a wild guess at the number since I went catatonic by the fourth one and by the eighth I was reprimanded for snoring. This dress rehearsal for the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics segued into a marathon of jumping and rolling and tumbling across a bunch of rubber mats. Each team was indistinguishable from the next: their hair braided into knots that could land a tarpon. Faces so caked with eye-liner, lip gloss and Max Factor #9 pancake base that they could have passed for puppets. Even mothers couldn’t recognize their own daughters. I squirmed for eight hours in a stinky crowded gym to support her and then wasn’t even sure it was her. I think I might have rooted for the team from Missouri.
Field hockey is her current flavor of the year. No one has ever gone to see a field hockey game because they like field hockey. They go to support their daughter in the hopes that this activity will divert her attention long enough from the “really really cute” budding tatoo artist she stares at in third period study hall.
“Pop, you wanna’ come to my game?” she asks more rhetorically than expecting an answer. Of course, “Pops” never say no; so off I go to a sport that has more rules than parliamentary procedure. The field hockey stick has two sides but you’re only allowed to bat the ball (which incidentally appears to be culled from petrified wood) with one. Strike with the other side – it’s a penalty. There’s no full court press like in basketball. Only one defender at a time on the “dribbler”. More than one; it’s a penalty. The ball (possibly gleaned from a stockpile of Civil War cannon shots) is not allowed to touch a player’s foot. If it does, Guess what? It’s a penalty. The refs go through two or three whistles a game. My thoughts wander to more physically faster sports – like chess. But I enjoy it anyway – at least they’re fully clothed.
Grandsons are way less challenging than the girls. Sure, they have their issues like everybody else but they can usually be managed with some age-old chestnuts like: “It’s really not bleeding that much.” or…”When I was a kid…” or “Suck it up” or… in the case of bear attack, “You’ll be fine”!