How can I be a good Grandfather?
February 3, 2009 7:50 PM   Subscribe

This week I'm going to be a grandfather. His name will be António. I need advice. My daughter and I get on famously. I very much like the father. But I want to be the best grandfather that I can possibly be - probably not very good, but still. Very good. Useful; an ally; a butler even. The other grandparents are earthier - hunters and developers, good people - while I am airier and fairier, meaning literary and intellectual. There's a possible aesthetic and philosophical clash. But much love all around. Though there's distance (80 miles) and differences, How can we (all) achieve harmony? I realize my role is minor but I'd like to play it to the best advantage of my grandchild. Please help.
posted by MiguelCardoso to Education (42 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I'm confused about why you think you'll be a bad grandparent, or what exactly you aren't sure how to do. My dad is a wonderful grandpa. Here's what he does: loves his grandkids unconditionally, which he tells them, and shows them. He shows them by: giving lots of hugs, taking them on occasional one-on-one mystery trips (mcdonalds! the zoo! a walk in the snow!), teaching each of them to sing "take me out to the ball game" as soon as possible and then taking them to a ball game, letting them have the extra piece of candy, being proud of all their achievements, having special names and rituals with each of them. Really, those are the things he does to be a good dad, too. It's all about making the kids feel individually special. And these are the types of things that I think most parents -- whether earthier or airer. Chances are the grandkids will make all the grandparents closer.

Here's something I wish he would do: get one of those "record your life for your grandkids" books and fill it out. things like how you met your wife, what you thought about having your kids, your grand kids, that type of stuff. It'd be priceless someday.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:58 PM on February 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Congratulations and welcome to the grandparent crowd! You will love it here...

Miguel, you will know what to do the minute you lay eyes on that precious mite. I promise.

You will be the one to buy him books and maybe draw him funny doodles and make funny faces with him.

This reminds me of what my own father told me upon holding his first grandchild in his arms. He told me this:" You are NOT to spoil this baby......that's MY job."
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:02 PM on February 3, 2009

Relax. The simple fact you are worrying about this so much that you're looking for pre-advice tells me that you are already three quarters of the way to being a great grandfather.

Be yourself. When he's a baby, let him sit on your lap as long as he wants. Read him the best stories. If you're the airy fairy type, teach him to paint, and give him poetry books. Let the others take him to football games while you go for a hike in the mountains.

My prediction: you will be his favorite, eventually.
posted by rokusan at 8:05 PM on February 3, 2009

My mother lives about 3 hours away and has spent at least one night every two weeks since our daughter was born five years ago. She never spent the night at my house other than the occasional holiday previously. By spending so much time she became a seamless part of the our routine and my wife and I can check out when grandma comes.

So I think planning on doing whatever you are comfortable doing (the park, museums, football - whatever) but doing it regularly and often is a good start. If you can give your grandson dinner, a bath and put him to bed (and let the parents go to a movie) you will always be welcome.
posted by shothotbot at 8:08 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


My dad's role has been gentle subversion, living a life that's obviously different to the life lived by the other set of grandparents, and telling humorous stories about when I was a little boy. That seems to have worked out pretty well.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:25 PM on February 3, 2009

I don't think this is the kind of thing you need to over-think or even plan. My wife's parents and my parents have very different upbringings, values, and personalities. As far as I can see our 7 & 5 year old daughters view them all as carbon-copy clones of love. If only I could learn that outlook.
posted by Rafaelloello at 8:33 PM on February 3, 2009

Be yourself and be around when you can, because you never know what/when counts. My grandmother was a fierce, hilarious woman who had no clue what to do with children (even though she had four of them, they related with varying degrees of conflict). She entertained us, though (small grandchildren trapped with her in a hot car in an airport parking lot for two hours) by licking bits of ribbon and sticking them to our faces. Not a traditional/reliable way to convince people of your worth, but kids are smart. She was the best. Congratulations!
posted by unknowncommand at 8:37 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

If this child turns out to be less earthy and more airy and fairy, you'll be his best ally. My parents were not into gardening, but one set of grandparents were. I'm a gardener now, and I feel like the time I spent playing in their garden while they puttered around really helped shape my feelings about being around and using and eating and appreciating plants.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:25 PM on February 3, 2009

Well, the baby part is easy. I think the tricky part is dealing with the parents and the grandparents-in-law. Depending on existing relationships and philosophical differences, there can definitely be friction there. Without knowing any details of your situation it's hard to comment specifically.

From dealing with my own parents/inlaws/wife/kids I will try to give some general advice:

1) Don't judge the parents. It can be tempting to offer advice, but sometimes new parents can be a little insecure or resentful. Support the parents and give advice only when solicited. My wife used to bristle at even the slightest, well-meaning comment or suggestion by my mom or her mom. And like your family, there is love all around. Sometimes parents can just be defensive though.

2) Be available, but don't be pushy. I know some new parents love having the grandparents around to help. I know some new parents just want some space with their new baby. Be available and if you're not called upon just be patient. If you insist on changing diapers or giving baths you will be much more welcomed in the house. Or if you insist on making dinner, doing the dishes and vacuuming you will also be more welcomed. If all else fails, buy them stuff. That might sound crass, but it's hard to turn down a grandparent visit if you come with diapers or new clothes or a freakin baby bjorn or something.

3) Don't judge the in-laws. Even if you don't agree with things the other grandparents may or may not be doing, don't make it an issue with the parents. Don't even mention anything at all. You'll just put the parents in the middle and cause resentment. Trust the parents and just enjoy taking the kid fishing and stuff.
posted by Wayman Tisdale at 9:28 PM on February 3, 2009

You're going to be great(based on how you're already thinking about this)!

You might want to decide on different nomenclatures between grandparents. For example, my maternal grandfather was Grandpa and my paternal one was Grandad.

Just be yourself and congratulations!
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 9:32 PM on February 3, 2009

In reading this, I'm reminded of another person asking a similar question of me, as I had experience in it, although it was not grandfathering.

What I told them applies a bit, I think. And that was to have everyone stop for a few minutes and actually discuss what was happening. "We are all here to do what we're all here to do. Our goals are the same. Do you agree? I think my role in this play is ABC and yours is XYZ. Do you agree? If not, what are they? Let's have a real conversation about this."

Far too often, people think things are understood, that they go without saying. But they do not, and from that ground, weeds and nastiness sprout.

So, as you pass Antonio around the room to cuddle, just say it to your daughter and to the father. "I want to be the best grandfather that I can possibly be. I realize my role is minor but I'd like to play it to the best advantage of my grandchild. Please help."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:42 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Start a college tuition savings account or all-purpose trust for your grandson. Congratulations.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 11:00 PM on February 3, 2009

Tell the child the stories of Miguel Cardoso. They won't be interested in much else you have to say.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 11:05 PM on February 3, 2009

Congratulations on the impending birth of your grandson!

I didn't grow up with a grandfather, and my only living grandmother was somewhat emotionally unavailable to me - I always felt like I was missing out. But, my grandmother always made a regular effort to take me to the community symphony concerts from a very early age - I fell in love with classical music when I was seven or eight years old. I took up an instrument and became a very dedicated musician, largely due to this exposure. Sure, I had times when I resented her lack of involvement a great deal, but as I grew older, she and I became much closer, largely because we shared a common interest and we had dedicated time together. My sister never really got the same attention from my grandmother, and they are not close at all.

The moral of the story: just being a regular, consistent, and stable part of your grandson's life will make you a great grandfather. Just be yourself and share your interests with them. Maybe he'll share them, maybe he won't, but he will always appreciate the attention and the love that you shower him with!
posted by honeybee413 at 11:22 PM on February 3, 2009


You said "I realize my role is minor". I think you're wrong there. Even if you are limited in the amount of time you will have with Antonio, you will still have significant impact.

As a grandmother, I relish the reality of my influence, made clear to me in retrospect by the profound influence of my maternal grandmother, despite an 800 mile distance physically bridged, at best, annually. There's no way to measure her impact on my life.

She was just who she was, an object of endless fascination for me. AND, as so many before me have said, she just loved me. Just love him the way only you can because only you are you, and he, he . . . and part of each other. It is just so cool.
posted by neelhtak at 11:31 PM on February 3, 2009

Show him the glory of life as you see it and feed him brownies for breakfast and he will think you are the bee's knees.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:26 AM on February 4, 2009

Your role is not minor. Right this minute, I am looking at the dictionary (a big, beautiful Webster's Third International) that my grandfather gave me for my high school graduation, probably the single most useful and appropriate gift I've ever received. To my right, I am looking at my single most prized possession -- my grandmother's dining set, bought by my grandfather for her upon his return from World War II. I go to sleep every night, and their photo on my book case is one of the last things I see.

You will matter more than you can imagine. And you're going to be great. You're going to do just fine.
posted by scody at 12:42 AM on February 4, 2009

My Dad is the best with my kids. He lights up when they arrive, shows endless patience, and really switches 100% attention to them when they are around. If he is weeding the garden when one walks out he will engage them in the task, or drop it completely if they want to show him a feather or go look at his strawberry plants.
He takes them to the zoo and on days out, and gives them huge amounts of time and attention when they are together.
Yet we live 100km apart and see each other once or twice a month, so in total he spends maybe 3% of his time with them. They would feel the percentage is much higher, though, because he is so keen with them when he is around.
posted by bystander at 2:16 AM on February 4, 2009

Best answer: Em primeiro lugar, parabéns pelo António :)

On the subject at hand, I can only share my own anecdotal experience of being a Granddaughter. I loved my Grandfather, who, unlike you, was the "hunter and developer type". On the other hand, I turned out more like you, "airier and fairier". He, right-wing as he was, took to calling me a "communist" with an amused smile on his face. When my parents divorced, my Grandparents became the unshakable core I needed. Kids crave constance, and Grandparents are usually in a stage of their lives where they can provide it. I think it saved me, honestly.

One thing I always remember him saying was "aprende, que eu não duro sempre" ("Learn from me, I won't last forever"). I don't think I ever believed him, not until the very last day, when my Grandmother summed it up in a sentence: "you have lost your friend". Not a day goes by I don't miss him.

I couldn't possibly end without showing you this. It tells you everything I could never say.
posted by neblina_matinal at 2:42 AM on February 4, 2009 [5 favorites]

I fear you may have forgotten that you are Miguel Cardoso. Be as awesome to the kid as you are on MetaFilter, and he'll worship you.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:13 AM on February 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

Well, I'm not here to reassure you. I had both kinds of grandfathers.

Follow the wretched path -- be a man of God but treat your wife badly, make her wear blankets all winter. Let the toilets freeze. Every year. Lead your communities' religious practice by words and not deeds. Feign farm poverty. Disown your daughter for not sending kids to Catholic school. Cut off her communication with her mother until it's too late. Die a rich pastor and give your millions to the Church, leave a will that seems designed to cause tension among your children.

Or, treat your ex-wife with respect, even when she left you and took everything you had. Even when she abuses you at family gatherings. Teach children in neighboring small towns to build, to weld. Champion the nascent artist in your grandkids, and give them gifts that encourage their creativity and even the quirks that their parents can't stand. Give them dangerous things like pocket knives and books. Give them signs that you're both an adult and confused by adults. Show them you can be mischievous. Talk to them like adults even when they seem hopelessly naive. Show up as often as you can. Let your strengths and quirks ring out and ring true -- never hide them and they'll echo through the generations. Don't hold back with your grandkids because a moment of honesty and intimacy will stick with them for a lifetime. Talk to them about hardship, tell them (or show them, if it's too hard) the things their parents are unable to show them because of proximity.

Forgive your grandchildren when they're distant, confused teens pulling away from you. Find ways to communicate with them during this time -- even on a long delay, like letters written but stashed until they come back to you looking for help. The mistakes you made and adventures you had when they were your age are nothing to be embarrassed about, and in fact those stories may be the only thing you have to bring them close to you.

Eventually, leave the earth cleanly, without piled-up hard feelings. Leave a lifetime of letters stashed in all your kids junk drawers and fire safes. Leave some recordings of your voice, maybe some videos, because after a while your voice will fade.
posted by fake at 5:12 AM on February 4, 2009

The grandparents role is one of unconditional love. You are to spoil him with gifts and candy and side with him in all arguments against his parents. Do all the things you wished you'd done with your own children but never had time or money as you time is running out (hopefully no time soon though) and the money is worthless where you are headed.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:29 AM on February 4, 2009

Congratulations Miguel. Having recently fathered a second, I have found the best role that the grandparents have played is to be loving and interactive with the kids, showering them with positives and also having the respect to realise that when Dad says enough is enough of feeding them chocolate at all times of the day, they respect that and back off... and then feed them more treats when I'm not looking.
posted by Frasermoo at 5:42 AM on February 4, 2009

My advice: If you are a reader, then read to him! Reading to a child is a fantastic way to bond! Not to mention the educational value.
posted by Vindaloo at 5:54 AM on February 4, 2009

My dear Miguel,

First, some practical advice: Let the parents raise the child as they see fit. This may mean that they do things you don't agree with, or which inconvenience you, especially issues around media, food, and religion. Respect and obey their wishes and don't argue, so long as the child is safe, loved, and well cared for. Nothing can sour an otherwise good relationship than parents who don't feel their wishes will be honored when the grandparent is with the child.

Now, to the other.

Any child would be lucky to have you as a grandparent. Introduce the child to the delights and music of language and imagination. No child is too young to be read to. No child is too young to hear a story.

Grandparents for me represent unconditional love. If you can provide that - not unconditional approval, mind you, but unconditional love - you will be doing everything right.
posted by anastasiav at 5:55 AM on February 4, 2009

My SO started telling our grandson when he was a baby, "How'd I end up with the best boy in the whole world?" He tells him this everytime he sees him.

That grandson is now six years old and will sometimes whisper to other people, "Did you know that I'm the best boy in the whole world?" What a gift to give a child.
posted by tamitang at 6:01 AM on February 4, 2009

Nthing that your role will be major, not minor, but don't sweat it. Just remember it's often the "little things" that will be remembered/treasured by the grandchild -- when I think of my granddad, I always remember that he would let me curl up in his lap and then let me light his pipe with a match -- holy crap I'm actually holding a lit match in my hand and I'm not getting in trouble! this is freakin' awesome!!!

And it's great that you'll be an "airy-fairy, intellectual" influence on him. Introduce him to the books/movies/music that he wouldn't experience otherwise, and you'll be a hero. Make sure he's reading the Phantom Tollbooth & Roald Dahl & the Golden Compass while all the other kids are reading the 2016 equivalent of Goosebumps.
posted by the bricabrac man at 6:46 AM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

First, Miguel, Congratulations! What a wonderful milestone in the life of both you and your daughter.

neblina_matinal's post was most apt and made me cry, thinking back to my grandfather. Sadly, I didn't have a very good upbringing with my mother, as indicated here. It is absolutely without a doubt in my mind that because of my grandparents that my brother and I turned out to be the people we are today.

They loved us unconditionally, nurtured us. Taught us from right and wrong. Kissed us when we needed it, pushed us back out the door to face the world when they boosted our confidence after we were knocked down, and always, always had our backs. They cheered us on with our successes. They pushed us further, telling us we could do whatever we dreamed we could when we doubted ourselves.

My grandfather was one of the most upstanding, honest, forthright men I have ever encountered. He wasn't afraid to stand up for what he believed in, and would extend his hand to those who needed it. Even if it was not the popular thing to do. He didn't care what other people thought as long as he knew in his heart it was true. And that is something that has always stuck with me.

When I was little, I would wait for him to come home (my brother and I were at their house more than we were at our own), and they had this crummy stray cat named Mandrake that was allowed to stay in the basement when it was cold out. Poppy used to wear fedoras (yes.... I know there's a huge fedora thing here on Mefi, but he wore the fedora with style and grace). He would intentionally loosen the fedora on his way in from the garage as he walked past the staircase, and without fail, Mandrake would reach out and swat the hat off his head. Every night. I would sit on the couch and just laugh!! I couldn't have been more than five or six years old. Just about the age of my oldest daughter now.

I'm sitting here writing this, looking at my four year old playing on the floor right now, crying as I write this. My grandfather didn't get to meet my kids, and for that I am profoundly sad. Mr. dancinglamb and I made a trip to Florida so that he could meet my grandparents about nine years ago. Three weeks after after our trip, my grandfather died in his sleep. What he didn't know was that Mr. dancinglamb had been planning on proposing to me not long after that. I am so very glad that they had the opportunity to meet one another. It turns out that they have many of the same personality traits. Thoughtful, deliberate, kind, upstanding.

All you need to do is love your dear Antonio and it will all come together in the end. Love him with all your might. Whisper and sing to him. Tell him your stories, your dreams and hopes. Dance with him in the kitchen, show him the moon.

As far as your daughter goes, if your relationship with her is wonderful, then you already did well the first time around. Now is your time to shine with your second generation.

I have no doubt that you will rock it. Go and enjoy it. Godspeed to you and your family for a safe delivery.
posted by dancinglamb at 7:05 AM on February 4, 2009

>>as indicated here

forgot the link: here
posted by dancinglamb at 7:08 AM on February 4, 2009

The best thing you can do is to just be you and to find your own way with Antonio, whoever Antonio turns out to be. You are the unique person you are, and Antonio will be the unique person he is, and so the way to be Antonio's grandfather is simply something you'll have to figure out together -- and I promise you you'll be able to figure it out.

I'm nothing like my niece's other aunts -- the ones on my sister-in-law's side of the family -- they're all married and have other kids, and meanwhile I'm the weird arty flaky one who right now has no job and lives in a cheap apartment in New York with a cat. But you know, I realized that if my niece had aunts that were all the same that'd be boring as hell. So I'm letting my freak flag fly! ("freak" in this case is simply going to mean that I'm going to go out of my way to spoil her rotten with candy and really loud toys, because I'm pretty sure the other aunts are going to be more restrained.)

You're the unique person you are, and Antonio got that unique person you are as a grandfather. Have fun with that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:23 AM on February 4, 2009

Sr. Cardoso, muy estimado,

Please know that my grandfather taught me to laugh, more than anyone else. Silly jokes that only a three or four or five year old could love. After that, he was golden. Of course, he and my grandmother spoiled us . . . as many others have written above, that's their job. Indulge your grandson, and all who follow in his footsteps, as warmly and as sincerely as is humanly possible.

But more to the point of your question, while my grandfather didn't teach me to read, he taught me to LOVE reading. While he would let me play with whatever, wherever in his house (including, famously in my family, the time I set about "paving" a road through his house [over rugs and carpets, from the front to the back door] with a mixture of mud and pebbles), he would sit patiently at the kitchen table and read. He would read his favorite books, Gore Vidal, James Michener, Cervantes (?como no?), Calderon de la Baca, and, even, from time to time, the Velazquez diccionario bilingue (that may have been his favorite book), as well as countless others. He would encourage any and all of my youthful flights of fancy from his perch, book at his front. From watching him, I grew up fascinated with books, a fascination that has shaped my life more than anything else I can imagine. I only wish he were here to share the fabulous Eco novel I just finished yesterday.

And he encouraged, if not coddled, my interests. Like almost all young children, I was fascinated by dinosaurs. So one day, in advance of my visit, he took a bone from an old roast, buried it, shallowly, in the back yard, and suggested that I dig at a certain spot shortly after my arrival. He told me he was convinced I'd discovered a new kind of dinosaur.

He also taught me to cook: almost all young children express an interest in what the adults are doing, especially if the family (as mine still does) practically lives in the kitchen. He would set me up on a stool so I could reach the counter, and he taught me to make a mean Caesar salad, as well as a variety of soups, stews, and sauces.

Of course life was not perfect. Of course there were disappointments as well as joys, and of course those disappointments stung deepest when they mattered the most. But by sharing his love of life, of laughter, and of literature, my grandfather passed on the very skills (as gifts?) that allowed me to rise above the disappointments, and to cherish, extend, and enhance the joys. I was eleven years old when he passed. Thirty years on, I still miss him terribly.

And so now, in addition to the memories I have of him, I also have his library, worthless to anyone else but priceless to me. I have a lifetime of experience that he shaped more strongly than anyone else I can think of from my early years. Of course he passed too soon, all of the best grandparents do, but from my own perspective, I can think of no grandfather more valuable than the literary, bookish type who loves a silly joke, who allows the grandkids to pave the living room with mud, and who lets them help out in the kitchen.

!A su salud, a su familia, y al tiempo para gozarlas!
posted by deejay jaydee at 7:37 AM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

First, pick your name! I particularly like "Pops".

There are some really great suggestions here. Reading to him would be tops on my list. But listening to him is, I think, the most important. My grandmother listened to me with infinite patience, and my dad did the same with my boys. Both of my sons grew to be better people because they had my dad to just listen. The unconditional love thing is great, too, and every child needs one person like that in their life. Love, patience, time, and fun. That's what grandparents bring to the table.
posted by raisingsand at 7:38 AM on February 4, 2009

I can only tell you what made my grandmother such a wonderful person and hope that it helps. She told me lots of jokes and when I got older she moved on to the dirty ones. She hugged me every time she saw me even if she had just hugged me ten minutes before. She let me sit in the bedroom with her while she put on her moisturizer that smelled like coconuts. She was a buffer between me and my parents when my parents were fighting. She offered me a safety and warmth when things got really bad. When I was a kid she treated me like an adult and listened to me when I had something to say. When I was an adult she treated me like a kid and made sure I knew I would always be her baby. She told me I was her favorite ( I later found out she told ALL of the grandkids this!) She just loved me. That's the great thing about grandparents for many of us--they give us all the love we need without having to do the difficult things that can create tension between parents and children. My memories of her are all soft and warm and uncomplicated unlike my memories of my parents which are warm and loving in their own way but come with sharper edges.

I still miss her so much.

Congratulations on becoming a grandpop! Just love that little baby with all your heart and you'll be fine!
posted by lysistrata at 7:44 AM on February 4, 2009

Response by poster: Well, that was helpful and moving beyond all my expectations. Reading your comments has reassured me, changed me and given me wonderful feelings and ideas. My deepest thanks to you all!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:46 AM on February 4, 2009

MiguelCardoso, your job is he fun part. Remember all those times you had to discipline your children? Take that out of the equation. You get to be the treat for your grandson being good! You are the visit he looks forward to.

So you are the literary, intellectual type? You will be the grandfather that reads fantastic stories (and maybe even makes up some. Starring him!). You will be the one opening his mind to new areas of imagination and magic.

Also, when he's older, you will be the one to give him sage cocktail advice. I know you will.

Anyway, just make yourself available and make time for the little one. All the rest will come to you and feel right. Pass on what skills and loves you want to share with him and all will be well.
posted by piratebowling at 9:05 AM on February 4, 2009

Part of being a good grandfather (and parent) is taking responsibility for planning for you own Long-Term Care. Research Long-Term Care Insurance and even if you choose not to approach Long-Term Care planning with the purchase of Long-Term Care Insurance, consider setting up a savings plan for that purpose. And then be open and discuss with your children what your wishes are regarding Long-Term Care.

One set of my grandparents did this, the other set did not. The difference in how it turned out was striking. Especially on my mother (whose parents never did any planning of any type).

Best of luck .. once you deal with the ugliness of Long-Term Care, the sweetness of your grandchildren will be even more enjoyable.
posted by olddogeyes at 9:52 AM on February 4, 2009

OMG it's Migs!!!! (runs around the room )

Paraben! What a great experience.
All I can add from observing my own father with his grandchildren is, observe Antonio closely and learn his secrets. Let me explain.

My father did all the usual, hugs and stories and time. But after a few years I noticed something extra special. He truly observed his grandkids and often knew exactly what to say or do in difficult situations. Children are born with a personality all of their own. One of his grandchildren, a boy, was a really fearful child. Despite a happy, loving upbringing he was a worrier. As soon as he heard about the Twin Towers, every tall building had to be avoided. When he learned about lung cancer, every cough or splutter from an adult was a cause for concern. I noticed early on that my father would spend a little more time with this child and spin him the most fantastic yarns. When he developed a problem with arthritis in his leg, the little four year old was tearful imagining he would have to go to hospital and get it chopped off. His parents were beginning to lose patience and wonder if they needed to take him to see a paediatrician, but my father made up stories about the Wild West, Cowboys and Indians and wove a fantastical tale of an arrow injury to his leg. Each time the child reached for a negative reason for something my father would take him off on a surreal voyage through history. Later on this child became aware that his negative reasoning was as fanciful as his grandfathers stories, but it happened at his own pace.

Similarly with my daughter who was a very serious and studious child (quite unlike her mother!) the other grandkids made fun of her. He would take her aside and ask her to explain the book she was reading to him, and really ask questions until it appeared she was teaching this wiley old man. It was clear to the other grandchildren that he respected her opinions and she found her feet among the passle of grandkids. There are too many examples to mention.

That's what was special, he really learned each child and was their champion.

best of luck!
posted by Wilder at 10:06 AM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

All of this advice is wonderful. Please permit me to share a few anecdotes.

One of my grandpas died when I was about 2, though my step-grandpa Ray came along when I was 8 or so and did a pretty good job of getting integrated into my life. The other died when I was a senior in high school. I LOVED my grandpa and Ray.

I think the things that mattered most to me were the special times that we had together. Often, they were very simple. Ray and I would go to the hardware store when he was working on his boat, and I would giggle because his work pants were so ripped and mangled that you could see more paint-spattered boxer short than pant leg. He let me help and watch as long as I didn't get in the way. Sometimes we sat in the den and listened to classical records together until my grandma (a rather shrill lady at times and not much for music) told us to turn that racket off. It was something we could share that, in that moment, nobody else did. Ray was not very talkative, but he was himself, and he let me be myself, which unfortunately was often more than I could say about his wife.

My other grandpa was intellectual and conservative but SO curious about the world. He dressed formally but always had a smile and a pun or a twinkle in his eye. He also took us on special trips, sometimes on our own and sometimes in smaller groups (so, for example, my brother and the next cousin in line went to Mark Twain's hometown, or we would all go to the aquarium). Above all, Grandpa made me feel like what I thought and knew was important. I was always fighting people who made me feel like my thoughts didn't count because I was too young. No matter if I was 5 or 15, Grandpa made me think and make connections and find the humor in the universe and enjoy things in whatever way I could. It's funny; even though I always got educational gifts, I always loved them; I was never embarrassed by him like I was with my parents. And he was so proud of me; he would drive three hours to come to every orchestra concert I had. He was proud of ME, not just one of his grandkids who did something or other. He listened to ME and made me feel special for thinking the things that only I thought or said.

You don't need to bribe them or coddle them or do anything special. Just... make a little magic in their lives. It's easier than you think. Congratulations, and good luck!
posted by Madamina at 4:35 PM on February 4, 2009

Response by poster: António was born on Friday the 13th, romantically bordering on Valentine's Day and already we get on like a house on fire! Thanks - from all involved, mother and father included, for all your tender and clever advice!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:29 PM on February 14, 2009

Congratulations, Miguel, on the safe arrival of your grandson. May you have many, many years of laughter and love to cherish with him and your family!

Hugs to all of you!
posted by dancinglamb at 8:28 AM on February 15, 2009

Congrats, Miguel! What a blessing!
posted by lysistrata at 2:41 PM on February 18, 2009

Migs, being Migs, I think the best thing you can do is tell him how to eat sardines from the grill, like you taught us. It's the words, and the way that you use them to build a beautiful, sensual world, that will be the main thing. Yup, I'm pretty sure that YOUR particular job is going to be the stories.
posted by cookie-k at 2:21 PM on April 13, 2009

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