“Mee-mah” and “Boom-pah.” That’s what my grandsons, Easton, 4, and Barrett, 2½, call their grandmother and grandfather. My wife, Julie, and I think they are just the most adorable nicknames. There’s just one problem—Mee-mah and Boom-pah are the grandkids’ other set of grandparents.
As for us? Different story. When a boo-boo needs kissing or the occasional WWE slugfest breaks out among the boys, we’re summoned with the decidedly un-adorable monikers of plain old “Grandma” and “Grandpa.”
Quibbling over the unequal distribution of nicknames may seem petty, and some in the family take this injustice perhaps way too seriously (My wife won’t be reading this story, will she?). But it does speak to a larger issue, one of territoriality regarding those scarcest of resources—grandkids. And the problem can be vexing when the holiday season approaches.
Okay, maybe “vexing” is too strong a word here. Its use in this context could hint at something other than the great relationship we have with the kids’ other grandparents. You know, the ones that happen to live right across the street from Easton and Barrett. The ones whose other daughter, in turn, lives just two doors down from them, and how that happens to also supply a pair of built-in, age-mirroring, time-stealing cousins to cavort with our grandkids. The ones whose two sons could easily snap up additional properties of their own on that quiet cul-de-sac, virtually turning the place into a private family compound. The ones who regularly…oh, you get the point.
Now where was I? Oh, yes. The subject was grandparent territoriality.
Is it any wonder, then, that Thanksgiving is a two-day “one here and one there” affair distinguished as “Turkey Day” followed by “Football Day?” Or that Christmas Eve must be celebrated at our home on December 23rd? Or that the grandkids will grow up believing that Santa is guilty of countless FAA violations by flying on not one but three successive evenings to each grandparents’ home, bookended by a sooty descent down their own chimney? What kid is going to turn down three days of present unwrapping? Besides, they’re too young to grasp the improbability of St. Nick’s madcap itinerary being more hectic than that of Secretary of State John Kerry’s in his September round of Middle East hop, skip, and jump shuttle diplomacy.
And on that subject of diplomacy, readers should know that Julie and I could not hope for more loving and nurturing co-grandparents, even if the situation does occasionally give me an exasperated, eye-rolling opportunity to explain to my wife, for the umpteenth time, that yes, kidnapping is still a federal crime.
There I go again.
Julie and I don’t pretend to have it rougher than any other grandparents in that age-old balancing act of vying for time with the grandkids. One strategy we employ year-round is to look for the easy stuff—the no-brainers that almost always guarantee time with the little ones, and on our terms at that. We offer to babysit often. Overnighters are even better. What young, career-minded, perpetually harried pair of parents is going to say no to even the briefest reprieve from runny noses, skinned knees, and a certain insufferable cartoon character yammering “I’m the map” ad infinitum? Just sleeping in on a Saturday morning is priceless to them when the kids are with Grandma and Grandpa (Ugh! We simply must do something about those plain-Jane names!).
What I’m saying is…choose your grandparent battles wisely. And better yet, don’t approach them as battles at all. It’s said that the holidays are magic, so what could be more magical than three visits from Santa? Traditions are what we make them. Invent your own.
Now, does anyone know if there is such a thing as a nickname-generating program somewhere out on the interwebs?