The beginning is the most important part of the work.
- Plato, The Republic
Never turn your back on a grandparent.
You can't trust them.
Yes, the people who raised you and me years ago by saying no in a variety of ways have decided to punish us through adulthood by spoiling our children.
Remember how Santa used to be a big deterrent?
Do good, behave or you won't get some tiny toy?
Who needs to wait every year for the end of December, when the end of the week will bring anything their little hearts desire?
In my observation, becoming a grandparent changes a person, forever altering the relationship between a child and parent.
Something comes between both parties. (HINT: It's sometimes referred to as a "bundle of joy.")
Take my folks.
When their grandchild arrived, things changed.
Now, for instance, they telephone me all the time.
The conversation usually starts out under some false pretense before quickly getting around to the grandchild that really interests them.
My own professional successes receive lukewarm interest.
However, detailed descriptions are demanded for their grandchild's daily doings.
They want to know what he had for lunch at school. (I don't know, but I relate some imaginary menu and it makes them happy.)
Their grandchild can do no wrong.
I could report the tragic breaking of some expensive item, and get: "You never used it, anyway."
I can recount a household repair necessitated by a failed experiment involving tiny hands, Froot Loops, peanut butter and a VCR, and they guffaw with the sustained consistency of a Bob Hope laugh-track.
To them, the child of their child seems to be locked into some cherublike state of development, forever to be cute, innocent and happy.
Maybe that's because we keep sending them photos that perpetuate the belief.
I point this out as often as I dare, but they simply ignore me.
They are too busy thinking up ways to further spoil him with attention and gifts and a candy store cornucopia.
Why, I wonder?
At his age, the only between-meal snack I was allowed was a celery stick, or during lean times - a toothpick.
When I answer his snack demands with, say, the suggestion of a carrot, he wrinkles his nose and shuffles back to the TV set to watch one of the dozens of expensive videos provided by the folks who used to think TV was something adults watched while kids did their homework in another room.
I'm not sure when either he'll grow up or they will grow out of it, but one day, if I'm lucky, I'll have my turn at spoiling grandchildren.
And it should be easy.
I learned from the best. Grandparents R Us.
Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 823-3344 or firstname.lastname@example.org.