I have six grandkids. Three live in California and call me Grandpa Dan. Three live in Wisconsin, and they call me Buppa.
All three of our kids are married now and have kids of their own. Our daughter wanted girls; she has two boys. Both our sons wanted boys; one has three girls and the other has one. Turns out our daughter is a great boy mom and our sons are both amazing girl dads.
My wife and I love being grandparents. We plan most of our trips these days around seeing them. If I could suggest five things that will make your grandkids love you, here they are:
1. Play with them. That comes easy for me because I still love to play. I love playing catch; I love playing games; I love playing with puzzles and toys! It’s not as easy as it used to be to get up and down during Duck Duck Goose (thanks, knees), but I still try. Periodically, we’ll take a break to watch Moana or Sing or Trolls for the 1,384th time, but I try to limit that.
2. Listen to them. “Buppa, guess what?” I must have heard that question a hundred times a day from the boys last week. “What?” I’d respond, and then I’d listen. One of them would tell me about the next chapter in the book he’s writing. One would tell me about the big bad monster hiding in the closet of the guest bedroom. If the stories got too long, I would distract them with food. Never fails. “Hey, boys, who wants an ice cream cone?”
“YAY! Ice cream cones!” they’d both yell, forgetting what they were telling me.
3. Make things with them. My mom and my mother-in-law were master kid wranglers, Pied Pipers each. When our kids stayed with Grandma Madson, she taught them how to make fresh bread, lefse and rhubarb crisp; they built gingerbread houses, tied quilts and painted Advent wreaths together. When Grandma Mack stayed with them they helped her in the kitchen. She read to them and listened to them and fed them the best meals ever – better than the ring bologna, Tombstone pizza or Kraft macaroni and cheese that were staples on my menu.
4. Read to them. Growing up, I loved being read to; I loved when my dad told me stories that his dad had told him. I did the same for my kids and still enjoy reading to our grandkids and telling them stories about when I was a little boy. In fact, I’ve collaborated with my grandson Mack on a series of books for kids that are based on two characters that he dreamed up and feature stories from my childhood. What better way to connect than that?
5. Follow their parents’ rules. I don’t mind rules. I just don’t like stupid rules. When I’m watching the grandkids, I tend to make my own rules. This doesn’t always sit well with their parents. I try to follow my kids’ and their spouses’ rules, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes we go with Buppa’s Rules.
Play, Listen, Make, Read, Follow…Five simple ways to be the best grandparents ever!
Meanwhile that song from Trolls by Gorillaz has been stuck in my head for days: "I ain’t happy, I’m feeling glad; I got sunshine in a bag; I’m useless but not for long, my future is coming on, it’s coming on, it’s coming on, it’s coming on…"