Monday, May 07, 2012

Playing with Grandkids

This weekend I did something that I have done before, but not very often.

I chose to spend the weekend playing with three of my grandchildren instead of going sailing with my friends.

And now I'm going to blog about playing with my grandkids.

It makes me wonder if I'm turning into that annoying old man who is always boring people with stories about his cute grandkids, and showing people pictures of his cute grandkids. Is this how that begins? Just how do you transition from being a hard-core Ironman Laser sailor to being a fat old geezer in a cardigan boasting about your grandkids?

Is it a gradual process? Or do you just wake up one day as a granddad in a cardigan with a bunch of photos of your cute grandkids on your iPhone to bore strangers with?

This is not at all like me. Or at least it hasn't been. I didn't even have a cardigan yesterday. Actually I don't have one today either. But I do have an iPhone.

I had promised (sorta kinda) to two separate friends that I would join them at two different Laser sailing events on Saturday and Sunday. I was looking forward to it. A Man Cold, RC duty, and general wimping out had kept me away from Lasering for most of April.

But plans changed. Late in the week it was decided that my three oldest grandkids and their father would sleep over at the Tillercottage-by-the-sea this weekend. They haven't done this for several months. I did briefly consider abandoning all the Tiller Extensions and going sailing anyway, but chose the other path. (Mommy, the serious blogger in the family, was away at a serious blogging conference in some very serious location like Miami or somewhere. But that's a whole other story.)

Captain JP wrote an excellent post today, Playing at sailing, in which he argued that kids' play is serious business because, although they do it for fun, play is how they practice at being grown up. He is right.

Hanging out with the grandkids this weekend it occurred to me that, when they play with others, kids are constantly experimenting with different strategies for how to achieve that very important grown-up skill of getting others to do what they want them to do. It took me a long time in my life to realize fully how important this skill is. For many years I arrogantly worked on the assumption that if I were smart and right, everyone else would realize that I was smart and right, and would do things my way. Much too late I discovered that life doesn't work like that.

For example in the real world you need to be able to persuade people to work overtime this weekend, or elect you as President of the United States, or to do something really hard like getting out of the damn way when you want to place your order in Starbucks. Some people are much better at persuading other people to do these things than others. And these are the people who usually end up as President of the United States, or being able to place their order for a Grande mug of organic, herbal tea and a slice of banana walnut bread.

My 6-year-old granddaughter Emily has a very direct way of asking grown-ups to play with her. But she is smart enough to select her targets based on their own interests. If she wants to do some crafts or art, or to help with the gardening or cooking, she will ask Tillerwoman. But if she wants to do anything on a computer or to play a board or card game, she will ask me. Like most men, when a good-looking female tells me directly what she wants I have a hard time disappointing her.

Her 3-year-old brother Aidan is a little shy, as I was as a boy (and still am.) He has a lot of energy and loves things like playing ball or running races with me and will never admit he is tired. We were at a local playground on Sunday morning when a pretty little girl came up to him, smiled at him and said, "Hi!" Aidan totally ignored her. So I gave him a little life lesson on how he should always say, "Hi!" back when a pretty girl says, "Hi!" to him. If I had learned that lesson about 10 years earlier than I did, my life would have been very different. Not necessarily better. Just different.

Owen, who will be 2 next month, is at the "maximum cuteness age." His main persuasive technique for getting you to do anything is to turn his huge brown eyes on you, flash a toothy smile, and ask (with one word usually) for what he wants. It works every time, but he will have to develop more sophisticated communication strategies as he gets older. He has also learned that he can make grown-ups laugh uncontrollably with certain antics. He's a funny guy.

So I skipped sailing and we played.

We went to the zoo. Emily's favorite animals were the seals, Aidan said he liked the elephants best, and Owen seemed to enjoy the giraffes the most even though he called them zebras. It wasn't quite clear to me whether he was joking with us or whether "zebra" is his word for "animal with four legs and strange markings."

We went to Evelyn's, our local clam shack, for lunch.

We hung out at the Tillercottage and played with all the toys here.

We had baths and bedtime stories. Or at least the kids did.

We played on swings and slides and did all kinds of other silly stuff.

At the end of the weekend, after they had gone home, I reflected on whether I should have gone sailing instead. But then I thought...

How many more months is Owen going to hold up his hands to me and say, "Up!" meaning he wants to be picked up and, if he's lucky, have a ride on my shoulders? For that matter, how many more months will I even have the strength to lift him up? The kid is huge and growing like a weed.

How much longer will Aidan want to trade silly knock-knock jokes with me that don't make any sense but that still make him laugh his socks off?

How many more years will Emily want to go for an early morning walk to the beach to collect sea shells with her grandfather? And how much longer before she is too grown up to slip her hand in mine as we walk back up the steep path to our house?

There will always be days for sailing.

Opportunities for days with grandchildren are special.

Besides, there was bugger all wind all weekend so I don't think I missed much.


meech said...

Smart man.

Annie Stow said...

Love this post! We had a 7 minute session on "How to Get Pretty Much Anyone to do Pretty Much Anything" from @UpsideUp. I told everyone about my sailor blogging FIL, and all the fellow bloggers thought it was awesome. I'm glad Emily already knows how to get what she wants. She must get it from her mother.

Thanks for letting me travel off to Mom2.0. Had a blast. I'm glad you did too.

Anonymous said...

I'll second that! @diabolo214

Baydog said...

You really are shy, and surprisingly soft-spoken. And most importantly a really good Grandfather.

JP said...

Great post, and very true. One benefit of missing the Queen's Jubilee Thames Pageant is to see the nephews and neices

O Docker said...

Thanks for this post.

Your words have a timeless, universal quality. It's almost as if I've heard them before. You've made me probe deeply into my conscience and reexamine some of life's most fundamental truths.

I'm beginning to question whether imitation really is the most sincere form of flattery.

Tillerman said...

Flattery is always totally insincere. But this is post-modernist homage. Post-modernist homage is the most sincere form of imitation.

my2fish said...

Tillerman, sounds like a great time spent with your grandkids. it's amazing how the time does fly by with children (and grandchildren) - as you said, there will be other days for sailing, you don't want to miss to many opportunities to spend time with them.

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