Grilled GrandPA: John

How many children do you have? Two. A daughter and a son, both in their thirties.

How many grandchildren? What are their ages?
My son has three faster than lightning, more devious than supervillians, keep you on your toes all day boys - aged five, ten, and twelve.

Any great grandchildren? I hope not.

What do your grandchildren call you?
Generally, I'm called Grampy. Sometimes I get Grampo or Grampopotumus. The oldest has started calling me by my first name - in French!

After the initial elation, what was your first concern upon hearing you would soon be a grandfather? Initial elation? I must have missed that memo. Unfortunately, Brandon was not conceived from a happy union. An unintended birth from two parents who were ill prepared children themselves, they had no chance of a successful relationship and were already headed for the rocks by the day he was born. Dread and apprehension were heavy in the air that year.

However, the moment I clapped eyes on that hour-old boy, I drifted into a different lane. I fell like a ton of bricks in love with him and vowed to his wrinkled little red face that I would always be there for him no matter what. Twelve years later, I have yet to break that promise.

How often do you get to see your grandchildren?
They all live with us so I see them constantly. If I could just get them to stop reading over my shoulder and breathing so close I can practically taste their breakfast life might be a bit easier. When they lived with their mother I saw them at least once a week until she and our son finally got divorced and we had to sue for grandparents visitation rights. That was a trip I don't wish on another living soul.

What is the best thing about being a grandpa? I've never had a moment's hesitation about spending as much time and energy as I can with these boys. We've been best friends, sharing and experiencing the world around us. I love to watch the developmental awareness spread across their faces as something important occurs to them that they couldn't possibly conceive of the day before: standing on their own feet, understanding the subtlety of a joke, realizing the world is round and what that signifies, etc.. I know that it will end all too soon and they'll be off in a world and life of their own but while it's mine, I live for it.

What is the most challenging part of being a grandpa?
Teaching the need for honesty and trust is an incredible challenge because children don't come by it naturally. Lately, I get tired more easily and can't run around and do the fun and games so much. But we find other ways to communicate.

Describe a recent time that one (or more) of your grandchildren made you laugh out loud. They make me laugh every day. I work hard at teaching them to have a sense of humor so they all make jokes and find the funny side of things, even the five year old.

For instance, he is just learning to read on his own and still has trouble pronouncing. But last week he stumbled through an entire picture book using a southern accent! (One of the many I put on when I read to him). It was hilarious and he had a great time doing it.

They all tell jokes that they make up.

What is your favorite thing to do with grandchildren who visit your house? Send them downstairs to their own apartment (jk, lol - as they say). Seriously, it has evolved because they live with us now. We used to go adventuring on bikes and climb trees. Not so much of that these days because I'm the primary caregiver and feeling a bit older. Now I help with homework, take them out places and we talk. Good talk with kids is underrated. It's not something you can do without practice. If you want to learn something about children, you can't ask them outright unless you already have a working conversation going with them. They need to know you've been listening all along.

What is your favorite thing to do when visiting grandchildren at their house? When I did visit their house, I'd usually take them out somewhere. The local library, donut shop, park/playground. We'd play cards, run around the jungle jim, make up adventures and songs.

How do you maintain the bond between yourself and your grandchildren between visits?
I don't like the phone with small children. Conversations seemed pointless and forced. Often my letters wouldn't get to them, either, because their mom wouldn't deliver them, so we had little or no contact between visits. Since they didn't expect any and we saw each other often, it was okay. The only times it got difficult was when their mom and her parents refused visits during her marital problems. The longest that ever lasted was a summer.

What do you most want to pass along to your grandchildren?
Trust, self respect and a sense of humor. There's too little of these things in our dysfunctional world. Self-esteem is not the same as ego although many people confuse the two.

What is one word you hope your grandkids think of when they think of you? Kindness and laughter. That's two words. You pick which one to edit out :) <Editor’s note: I don’t edit these except for spelling and formatting. :o)>

What is one thing you wish you had learned earlier as a grandparent? This is a tough question. Not to say I haven't made mistakes but the learning curve was so tight on this bumpy, pot holed road that there wasn't a moment's leisure time to think things through and make better choices. The rug was constantly shifting under the kid's feet. Frankly, I wish their parents were normal, middle class people who held down jobs, were sane, and raised their kids in their own home. Then I could have been a bossy, crotchety granddad who was constantly at their door with attitude and unsolicited advice that they wished I'd left at home.

What one bit of advice would you give a new grandpa?
Grandparenting is a long haul. Pace yourself, have patience, things work out through time more than they do from short term efforts. Many new grandparents are afraid the kids won't know them or love them or any number of things but through time they'll see who you are in ways you never expect. They absorb and formulate opinions and ideas of their own just like adults do.

John's three must-see blogs: - a homepage that leads to my writing and author visits, flutemaking and jewelry work, and video animation, too; - my grandparenting blog; and - my thoughts on science and science fiction.