My grandfatherness started ticking when a granddaughter crawled up beside me lugging a book titled "Grandmother's Alphabet." You know: Grandmother is everything from an Artist, who does so-and-so, to a Zookeeper, who does something else. It's a charming book, but what about Grandpa's ABCs?
- or so it seems next to a 4-year-old.
- rubber balls and soft plastic starfish from the Museum of Science are among items that bounce off him.
- he is asked to suggest but not decide what do we do now.
- he parleys with leash holders when toddlers start to run and shout, "Dog! Pet!"
- in his case this marketing term for people who seize on the latest thing refers to going online to buy toy ATMs for small girls.
- boy, does he like to say, "You're a real tree climber!" or "I didn't know you could count that far!"
- on the one hand, he tries to imagine what words a 2-year-old is referring to; on the other he keeps saying, "I guess you don't want any more," "I guess you didn't hear me," "I guess...."
- if he isn't playing peekaboo, he's hoping to be found under the kitchen table.
- you can tell him he looks like a grandfather, but he knows he's about 17.
- will someone save him before he bombs again? What one wall said to the other is one thing. But what do I have in this bag? The New York Philharmonic. Who's conducting? Granddad needs help.
- who else would say, "Maybe it's time to stop jumping on the bed and read about spilled milk that looks like clouds."
- not in the sense his classmates referred to Grandma, but someone has to respond to "Lookit me!" and "Now lookit me!"
- so what if the 4-year-old sneers, "You're not a monster," and the 2-year-old shows he can compete with anyone in open-mouth roaring?
- he calculates when to shovel the scrambled eggs into the 2-year-old and when to stop at "Me!" and watch with wonder as the self-spooner finds his mouth without seeing it.
- he barks orders when serious injury threatens or there's no decent interval before a plaything is wrested from the first one to pick it up.
- OK, he could be pleading guilty to excessive grandpaness, but actually he pleads to keep the rake and football out of the house and the broom handle from puncturing the screen door. Not that he doesn't appreciate zealous little sweeper-uppers.
- he has avoided one question ever since a granddaughter was introduced to unfamiliar adults and announced "Four" without being asked.
But he can't help himself: "Are you sure you want to swing higher than this?" "Have you seen your other shoe?" "Do you want to climb into the stroller all by yourself?"
- what else do you call someone who looks around after the grandchildren have left and makes everything Buckingham Palace again?
- he treads a fine line between laughing with the 2-year-old who's pummeling him with a paper bag and not chuckling when the 4-year-old asks him to a party and says, "Check your schedule."
- he'd rather do it himself, but he knows he should ask the little chaosmakers to put things back in their places. Sometimes they seem to like to.
- his lexicon is: "How about one more mouthful? How about giving your sister a turn? How about putting your socks back on? How about having your bath first? How about keeping the marker on the paper?"
- yes, he too often volunteers an old song to fit a new tyke - "You've got big brown eyes, I never cared for big brown eyes, but you've got big brown eyes, and that's my weakness now." But he tries lullabies at wide-awake nap times. "Go to sleep, my ba-a-by..."
"You could at least say 'toddler,' " said the 4-year-old, storming in as if with hands on hips. "He's not a baby!"
- he can never tell when someone will reach up or out and say "He'p." Then he hoists someone into a car seat, where he or she will usually insist on clambering in alone. Or the one eager to put the letter in the postbox has to be lifted to the opening. Or someone just gets too tired to take another step.
- figuratively speaking, he copies everything to tell the parents what happened in their absence. "I can't believe that when I told her I couldn't hand her milk to her because I was driving, she said, 'You could pull over.' " "Then he used the chopsticks as drum sticks with great dexterity...."
- maybe it was the Stockholm syndrome, but he came to identify with his munchkin captors and defend their imaginative misuse of household objects as a form of creative energy.
- he noticed he would be waved off from doing many things, but just maybe he could come in from behind with arms over small shoulders and fingers joining at the waist to fit the pesky end of the zipper into the slot and pull it up to the chin. Maybe a glare for pinching the neck. But grandpas have to try.