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COLUMN: Advice for grandparents

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By DICK HEDRICK, By the Side of the Road

Here’s the deal, grandparents. Your grandchildren are planning to spend a weekend with you.  This normally happens when their parents have been invited to do something with other grownups and having little kids around would be a liability.  

So, what do you do now?  Well, a little preparation might be in order. My advice, for what it’s worth, is to first of all cancel bingo and senior’s night Out, reschedule the trip to the health-food store and your line-dancing class and re-think the broccoli soup and prune cake that was originally on the menu for Sunday. That’s not exactly a meal your grandchildren will applaud. I suggest spaghetti and ice cream as better options.

Secondly, eight hour’s sleep the night before would be helpful. You’ll need your rest. A grandchild’s visit is similar to a sporting contest or a stage show, in which the little ones are counting on you to give a peak performance. This is your time to shine.  

Thirdly, be prepared to “go with the flow.” Grandparents, no matter how distasteful, your  leadership role may be in serious jeopardy. For some unknown reason, those pint-sized invaders seem to have an uncanny knack for dictating the day’s agenda. Deal with it.

Note: For those of you who are full-time caregivers, I am unqualified to speak. You may disregard this column in entirety. I can only offer you my best wishes.        

In the interest of helping the rest of you prepare for what may await, here are a few activities which have been time-tested in our home and found to be best practices.

Feel free to use, dismiss or alter them to suit your unique circumstances —the number, age, gender and personal interests of your grandchildren.  

Since Ava, our 6-year-old, is highly imaginative and – not surprisingly – insists on being in charge, we spend most of our time following her directives, such as playing restaurant, grocery store, school, theater, circus, hospital, etc., etc.

The neat thing here is the multiplicity of roles in which she is engaged — everything from a waitress, a cook, a diner, a shopper, a sales clerk, a teacher, principal, secretary, a singer, dancer, violinist, acrobat, announcer, doctor, nurse and patient.

She has performed delicate surgeries, given vaccines, sang numerous solos, made important P.A. announcements, used a credit card, baked award winning pies and cakes (Paula Deen, eat your heart out), and purchased groceries for her entire family.              

Card-playing is another activity that has gained much traction as a grandchild favorite. Ava loves to trick her grandmother by placing the old maid atop the other cards in her hand, while earnestly declaring, “I promise, I promise, I promise this is not the Old Maid!”

Predictably, Lovey falls for it every time. Crazy 8’s, Trash Can and Uno are also popular, and have provided many delightful moments. Other recommended activities are “Blind Taste Test” (here, you simply blindfold the taster and place three items in front of them to taste, which may include peanut butter, syrup, pickle juice, ketchup, mustard — you get the idea), “Who or What Am I,” (can be a famous person, place or thing), “Rhyming Words” and “I See Something You Don’t See.”  Also, most kids enjoy playing checkers.  

If you’re so disposed, you might want to invest in a kid-sized, battery powered vehicle. My wife purchased a purple plastic Cadillac when it went on sale at K-Mart about three years ago.

It not only has provided countless hours of recreation for Ava and her buddy, Carissa, but has helped Granddad stay in shape by hustling to keep up as they motor around our neighborhood.

A swing in the back yard is always a good piece of equipment to have and empty cardboard wrapping tubes make great swords for a dueling activity we call “Ta-dah!” Books and comic strips are always fun to read, and you might be amazed at what a young child can do with uncooked rice, mixing bowls and measuring spoons.      

Finally, making available the tools for various kinds of artwork can be a hit as well. Not long ago, our granddaughter sketched a portrait of a young girl for a school assignment.

We were so impressed with the quality of the piece that Deb had it professionally framed. It now hangs in our upstairs hallway Upon seeing it the other day, Ava said, “Hmmm, that ought to be in a museum.”   

A final word of caution:  Side effects of such conspicuous doting often include a healthy infusion of self-worth and maybe just a hint of grandchild cockiness. It has also been known to have left grandparents exhausted and confused.

Carry on at your own risk.

Hedrick lives in Spencer County. His By the Side of the Road column is a monthly feature in The Spencer County Journal-Democrat.