Do I Know You?: When Your Parents Transform into Grandparents

Some people came to stay with us for a few days last month. They said they were my parents. Well, they looked like my parents and their voices sounded like my parents, but NO, they were not my parents coming to visit. They were my childrenís grandparents and that makes them people I simply do not know. Whatever metamorphosis takes place when the word grand is added to their title, I am at a loss to explain. I just know that these are not the people who raised me.

They come bearing gifts. Lots of gifts. Too many gifts. Youíve heard of Christmas in July? Try February, August, those other nine months. When they visit, goodies are hidden everywhere. Whole suitcases are dedicated to kiddie contraband! And should we venture to the store while they are here? Letís just say, Barbie is sure to acquire a new friend, Jeep, townhouse. These are the same people who would not spring for a packet of Chiclets when I was a child. They are also the ones who constantly discouraged my grandmother from her gift-giving. I would no more than breathe on something and she would try to buy it for me. Believe me, my kids do an awful lot of "breathing" when Unclepap comes to town. (Unclepap being my father, who upon the birth of the first granddaughter insisted he was too young to be called Grandpap. The moniker Unclepap was created and the kids know him by no other name. Strangers, however, just assume he is my motherís boyfriend. Serves him right!)

Then there is the money issue. My father is straight out of the Bill Cosby monologue. "Letís see if I have money for the grandchildren . . . ," and the dollar bills fly. Remember a couple years back when the kids just had to have a virtual pet? As with most fads, I simply said no, I was not spending that much money on something I knew would end up living at the bottom of the toy box. A well-whined plea during a phone call to the National Bank of Unclepap, and twenty dollars soon arrived in an envelope. I almost choked. Had I asked for twenty dollars when I was five, I would still be standing there listening to the tales of his impoverished childhood. As for those virtual pets? They quickly became battery-dead keychains and reside not in the toy box, but at the back of the kitchen junk drawer.

And what about all the rules I grew up with as their child? No jumping on the beds, no talking back, strict bedtime, clean your plate, etc. I firmly believe they would allow my children to swing from the chandeliers and eat five-pound bags of sugar for dinner, if I were not around to step in. I saw my five-year-old talk back to my father, cross her arms, and stomp off in a huff. He just rolled his eyes and laughed. Excuse me?!?! Had that been me in childhood, well, letís just say I would still be wearing the imprint of his shoe on my backside.

And what about food? McDonaldís becomes one of the food groups when my parents are around. The people who make the Happy Meals are very happy indeed. And there is always the secret trip to the grocery store that I am not invited to join. They return with bags of every confection known to man. If a fruit or vegetable were to accidentally fall into the shopping bag, Iím quite certain you would be able to hear it scream in fear as it was slowly bludgeoned to death by preservatives and sugar.

I try to cut them some slack. Living so far away, we see each set of grandparents only a couple times a year. I have learned that it is just easier to step back and let the "circus" roll into town, knowing that I shall have to clean up the behavior confetti when they leave. Thatís okay. After all, they do what grandparents are supposed to do best. They love my children unconditionally. They make them feel incredibly special. And most of all, they allow my husband and I the chance to sneak out of town . . . Viva Las Vegas!