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Kamloops News

THOMPSON: Inheriting grandchildren like winning the lottery

July 15, 2019 - 12:00 PM



I have four grandchildren…which is pretty amazing when you consider I have no children. I inherited my grandchildren - three girls and a boy - and I highly recommend that method. I am convinced - through decades of personal observation - that if you can have grandchildren without children…you have won what amounts to a lottery. Maybe not Lotto Max…but a decent Lotto 6/49.

I like Summer…the grandkids are around more. We’re in Florida during Winter…and while FaceTime is a technological marvel…nothing beats actually being there. I spend more time with two of the grandchildren…a five-and-a-half-year-old boy and a nearly two-and-a-half-year-old girl…my wife’s daughter and son-in-law live just across town.

My wife’s son’s kids…a 13-going-on-20 young lady and a nine-year-old chatterbox girl…live in the Vancouver area. Sadly, I don’t get to spend as much time with them as I would like.
So, we make treks to Vancouver a couple times a year…and they do the same to Vernon…and we enjoy the times we do have.

As you’re reading this I’m probably poolside with one or more of them. The five-and-a-half-year old (We count half-year birthdays when we’re really young…or really old. I remember my mom advising everyone that she was “Ninety-three-and-a-half years old!”) grandson is part human and part fish apparently. Summer days are filled with the usual cacophony of a pool filled with kids…an endless string of songs - both real and made up - and cries of “Papa, watch me!” too numerous to count.

I don’t mind the near-constant demand for attention…the novelty still hasn’t worn off and I hope it never does. I’m sure the grandkids wonder how boring Papa must be that he notes our every move…not even parents do that.

Parents probably suffer from question-fatigue….something grandparents have been vaccinated  for and can resist better than flu. A three-year-old boy or girl can ask why about something…anything…as many as 46 times. I know this to be true.

Grandparents have another huge advantage over parents. They know - inherently - that to survive children (or grandchildren) you must be a benevolent dictator. Children - if you let them - will argue with a fence post, as my dad used to say. I have developed a one-raised-eyebrow stare that can stop a child’s incessant rattling about why he or she can’t do this or that faster than Felonius Gru’s freeze gun.

We may live in one of the world’s greatest democracies…but giving a two-and-a-half-year-old more than one choice is largely one of the seven dangerous signs that you might be losing your mind. Providing Chinese-menu options for almost anything…is trouble…which starts with T and rhymes with P…which is the first letter of puke. Okay, so maybe I have spent too much time with the five-and-a-half-year-old…but you get the picture. Fewer options…less to argue about…or God-help-us-all…negotiate.

I’m not sure what the grandkids might think about my insistence that good behaviour is by definition…a good thing. I do know that they know…”Papa doesn’t play games” as the five-and-a-half-year-old recently warned the two-and-a-half-year old baby girl. I could tell from the look on her face…she understood exactly what he meant.

Having the reputation of a stern but loving enforcer is something I relish. For one thing, I know that it works…the grandkids are mostly well-behaved when they are in my presence. They are learning respect…which like table manners…isn’t something you really want to broach when they’re teenagers. Also, the possibility that they were raised by wolves never comes up when you’re introducing them to others.

For another thing - and this is just as important - my grandkids love me. No, not just because they say it. I see it the way their eyes light up when they come bursting through the doors…and when they jump in my arms. They know exactly what to expect from Papa…every time.

As for me…when I’m with them…the world is smaller. I don’t care what Trump or Trudeau might be doing…or worry about many of the other things that might ordinarily cloud my mind. My focus is on them. I had a safe, happy…wonderful childhood. And inherited or not…that’s exactly what I want for my grandchildren.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines. His essays are a blend of news reporting and opinion.

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