My wife Susan and I picked up our two grandsons and their little sister, a 4-year-old, at their home in Illinois and brought them back to our place in Jefferson City, Mo., for four nights last week. The boys are almost 9 and nearly 12, by the way.
We like it that they become excited anticipating their visits with us. We’re not the only Missouri attractions for them. They get to spend time with their uncle, our 11-year-old Sheltie and our year-old Golden Retriever. Our Golden is still mastering commands like “sit,” “drop” (when she finds a sock or toy she’s been caught carrying around), “stay,” “place” and others. At times, two or three of the kids were shouting out different instructions at the same time.
Smart grandparents know to schedule activities during lengthy visits like these. It is not enough to start each day with a robust breakfast prepared by Grandma (bacon, eggs, fruits, whatever), though all three demonstrated their approval with good appetites (for breakfast and other meals).
On one day, we drove down to Osage Beach and took in Miner Mike’s, with its (somewhat) complicated maze for climbing, crawling and sliding; its youngster-sized bumper cars; its Gold Rush-era styled kids’ rides; and its arcade games. On that day, we also enjoyed go-kart rides, and Grandma picked up some shoes and clothing for the kids as they prepare to return to school and preschool in a few weeks.
Another day, the boys, their uncle and I played a couple of rounds of laser tag. The boys had done this before so they “schooled” their grandfather in the fine art of high-tech, futuristic shooting. We all looked pretty cool in our lighted vests as we scurried around trying to avoid being “tagged,” even as we tried to “shoot” each other.
Two or three evenings we followed a custom the children enjoy from time to time at home — Family Fun Night — and watched movies approved by all three (no small task). On one such evening, Grandma popped popcorn.
Our granddaughter really takes to helping Grandma with stuff like cooking as well as traditional “girl stuff” like applying makeup. She and the boys jumped into helping make homemade caramels. Yes, the sticky stuff. It was really good. When we drove them back to Illinois on Sunday, Grandma sent some of the caramels with them.
One of my granddaughter’s favorite things is getting her nails polished – on her fingers AND toes – especially topped off with polka dots or glitter. Grandma is expected to sit still as her 4-year-old manicurist hones her skills at adding polish to her fingernails. The bright-eyed and proudly smiling little gal did a good job, and I complimented her.
Seeing that I enjoyed what she had done for Grandma produced the obvious response, “Now it’s your turn, Grandpa!”
What could I do but pull up a seat at the kitchen counter, place my hands where she said they needed to be and enjoy the experience. The base color was a deep maroon-ish color that stood out on my nails. “Grandpa, after these dry, I’ll put on the glitter,” she exclaimed with more than a little glee.
My insistence that the drying was taking longer than she anticipated as well as a meal interruption and a drive-to activity forced the glitter treatment to the back of her mind – but she did not forget!
The next morning was glitter day for me. She added a clear coat to my nails and followed that with her multi-colored glitter application. She beamed as she admired the sparking results at the ends of my fingers and thumbs. I praised her work, noting how much better I appeared because of what she had so carefully done.
What I discovered over the next five days is that I instinctively showed off my granddaughter’s handiwork and quickly explained I was the grandfather of a very young manicurist-in-training. Some clerks and waiters/waitresses smiled. When I picked up some carryout barbeque, the guy manning the cash register listened to my brief explanation and gave me an approving fist-bump.
At a drive-through on our way to take them home, I forgot to explain my glittery fingertips but the teenage girl who took my money remarked something like, “Sir, I really like your nails!”
I smiled and pointed over my shoulder to the cherub strapped into the child seat just behind me. “My 4-year-old granddaughter did this for me,” I chirped. The young lady smiled and waved to my granddaughter.
The most consistent reaction to my brief explanation about my stylish nails was, “Why, you must be a good grandfather!” My motivation had been to explain my nails so people would not give me a quizzical or disapproving look. What I realized by the time we reached Day 2 of my makeover was that I was complimenting my granddaughter, and that was unexpectedly earning me good-grandfather points.
Far from an embarrassment, my granddaughter’s handiwork turned out to be a win-win situation. She was enthusiastic about polishing my nails, and I was reaping unplanned praise for her and for me.
Confession: While I wore my colored nails to gym workouts on two days and my first day back to work and with my granddaughter now a state away, I accepted my wife’s invitation last night to apply the nail polish remover. It was either that or submit to a refresher treatment.
Aren’t grandkids great!
Bill Webb is editor of Word & Way.