BERRY: Easier to be grandpa than dad

Nov 1, 2012


It's like a high-paying, low-stress job with great benefits. I get to spend time with my 2-year-old granddaughter, Vivi, while somebody else has all the stress and worry. 

And since my daughters, Evien and Maggie, are only 6 and 8, I know how taxing parenting can be. Here's an example:   Last week, Maggie came down with the flu. She had a couple of different kinds of unflattering bodily excretions and a fever. As a parent, I quickly went into panic mode: Should we take her to the doctor? Where's that thermometer? Who's going to take the day off work to stay home with her? Who's going to clean up the mess all over the bedding?   For several minutes, I was worried and upset until my wife, Amy, told me to go back to bed and she'd take care of everything. I was so stressed out about the ordeal that it took nearly five minutes for me to fall back to sleep.   A few days later, I spoke with my daughter Natalie. She told me that she was tired because Vivi had kept her up all night with a fever and chills. Natalie's exact words were, "I was up all night with the baby. Bla, bla, bla, sick. Something, something, something, fever. Yada, yada, yada, she's getting better. Bla bla bla some more."   "That's nice," I said.    Actually, I was concerned for Natalie and Vivi, but there's a whole different feel to an episode with a sick child when it's a grandbaby and not your own baby. With a grandchild, it's someone else's job to stay up all night comforting, consoling and cleaning up after the sick child. As a grandparent, it's my job to hear about the ordeal after the fact, when it's too late to worry or offer a hand.    Like I said, this grandpa thing is great.   Being a grandpa is like borrowing someone else's car. You can have fun with it and enjoy it, but you don't have to insure it, put oil in it or wash it. If you keep it too long and put some high-octane fuel into it that makes it act up, you can just take it back and tell the owner, "It ran just fine for me."   Since I'm a grandparent with small children of my own, I don't get to spoil Vivi how a normal grandparent should. If I spoil Vivi by giving her a bunch of candy, I have to give my own children a bunch of candy, too — and live with the consequences.    However, I do get to spoil her a little bit. Natalie dilutes Vivi's apple juice with water, but I give it to her straight up. Vivi slurps on that sippy cup like a junky hooked on dope. It's good to be the grandpa.   Being a grandpa with young children of my own also has its advantages. For instance, I probably have more toys around than most grandparents. Unfortunately, Evien and Maggie are always yelling, "Vivi, don't touch that doll!" and "Vivi, stay away from my play set!"   On second thought, having a lot of toys is a wash because Vivi's only allowed to play with a few old toys that Evien and Maggie have abandoned.   Another great thing about being a grandparent is, since I'm not the one who disciplines Vivi, she's always glad to see me. On the other hand, Evien and Maggie aren't always happy to see me because I'm the guy who makes them do homework, and I have the power to take away TV and computer privileges.   I guess the best part about being a grandparent is watching my adult daughter grow into a parent herself. Natalie takes Vivi to day care, works full-time and picks her up from day care. She is married to a nice young man, Matt — and together they make sure Vivi is fed, clothed and cared for. They recently bought a house, and are both working hard to give Vivi a happy, healthy life.   Sure, being a grandpa is easy work. I don't have to change many diapers, stay up with her all night when she's sick, or put up with her when she's cranky and out-of-sorts. In the future, I won't have to concern myself with vaccinations, school enrollment or school bullies.   I'm a grandparent. I've passed that torch to my daughter. It's her turn to worry, fret and handle the details. It's my job to just be. And to offer advice whether it's taken or not.   Natalie has made my job as a grandparent even easier because she's such a respectable, dependable parent herself, and she has a spouse who is equally up for the task of parenthood. Because of them, I can bask in my grandparenthood and not worry about a thing.   — By Grant Berry, Tribune community columnist




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