Do you remember when you were a kid, and you just finished doing something spectacularly stupid, and then your mom would say, "You just wait, Buster. Some day you'll have children of your own, and then you'll get yours..."
As with most things, my mother was right. My son spent the better part of his childhood doing heroic duty to her memory, picking up and channeling every one of my childhood sins so that they could wash back over me in a giant dose of Kiddie Karma. Now that my son is grown and married, I've decided that I’m going to raise the ante.
You see, as parents it was our job to teach our kids to say, "Thank you" and to keep their pants pulled up when we had company. We had to convince them that it is generally a good idea to flush the toilet. It was our responsibility to mold them into future doctors, lawyers, astronauts, politicians, armed robbers, or televangelists.
A grandpa is free to be nothing more than a kindly old coot with an endless lap and a bottomless wallet.
And I have come to believe that we can use our special status to get the ultimate revenge on our sons and daughters. Like graying and slightly arthritic Doctor Frankensteins, we can lovingly shape our grandchildren into perfect little monsters.
Here are five simple little ideas to get you started:
• Take them to the zoo. Gently explain to them that they could have a zebra of their very own, if only Mommy and Daddy weren’t so mean.
• Always show up bearing gifts. Start with something like a slide whistle or a tambourine, and work your way up from there. Your grandkids will never forget their first snare drum.
• Once you’ve exhausted the world of high-decibel entertainment, you can move on to toys with thousands of components, each one small enough to go unnoticed but large enough to detonate the old Hoover. With careful shopping, you should be able to find Legos that will blend perfectly with virtually any carpet.
• Any time the grandkids are with you, keep the chocolate flowing; you always want to bring them home talking fast and grinding their teeth. Hershey Kisses are particularly ideal for this, since they have to be handled a lot and will tend to get nicely smeared on hands, faces, in hair, behind ears, and occasionally over every square inch of a sibling.
• To follow up on this last idea, before you send them home you should stuff their backpacks with treats “for the road.” Here again, Hershey Kisses are ideal, with an added bonus that the little foil wrappers will end up scattered like shrapnel all over your son or daughter’s home.
And so forth. The main thing is to always be alert for opportunities to sow the seeds of discontent. For example, if you should happen notice the grandkids watching a motocross on TV, simply drop a casual comment like, “You know, I really think every kid should have a dirt bike.” Just stay sharp and be creative - the possibilities are endless.
Now I will admit that all of this is speculative - we don’t actually have any grandchildren of our own yet, despite all the charts, diagrams, and instruction sheets I’ve sent to my son over the years. Although, now that I read it over, it seems like this column might explain a lot.
Copyright © 2011, Michael Ball
Mike Ball is the Erma Bombeck Award-winning author of "What I've Learned So Far..." and the book What I've Learned So Far... Part I: Bikes, Docks & Slush Nuggets.