NORMAN — “If I had known how much fun my grandkids would be, we would have had them first.”
That oft-repeated statement by grandparents is a biological impossibility, of course, but it describes the joy that comes with having a third generation — or even a fourth — of your own family.
Without question, my mother-in-law loved all 33 of her grandchildren and all 68 of her great-grandchildren. But there were times when I heard her recite this little ditty: “I’ve seen the lights of Paris and I’ve seen the lights of Rome, but the lights I love most of all are the grandchildren going home.”
I challenged her the first time she muttered it in my presence, and her response struck me as one of life’s truisms.
She explained that grandchildren are God’s gifts to those of us who endure the seemingly unending worry, financial strain and physical and emotional exhaustion of rearing our own children.
And that once you reach the exalted realm of grandparenthood, you no longer have to be the first responder to the soiled diapers, unprovoked crying, temper tantrums and hunger pangs of the little darlings — unless you choose to be.
In most cases, grandpa and/or grandma get to hand the tyke back to his or her parents, usually at the first sign of trouble.
When my wife and I were rearing our brood, we developed the rule of “the smeller is the feller” when it came to changing dirty diapers.
In other words, if your nose caught even the faintest odor emanating from a toddler, you had the unenviable task of tracking down a clean diaper and giving someone a fresh start.
In fact, there was a period in my life when I believed that “quick change artist” meant someone with more than one child in diapers.
One of our friends proudly posted this sign in his family room: “God couldn’t be everywhere so He made grandparents.”
Not to be outdone, my wife came up with this one for her sewing room: “Grandchildren always welcome, parents optional.”
My favorite really tells how many grandparents truly regard their grandkids: “What happens at Grandma’s house … stays at Grandma’s house.”
That could be one of the reasons we get all of those happy, unsolicited hugs from grandchildren.
Role models are important teachers in our lives. That thought often takes me back to my childhood and the warm memories of having my grandparents living next door.
Today, at 300 pounds plus, I know in my heart that I’m still Granny’s “little cherub.”
Keith Kappes is a columnist for The Morehead (Ky.) News. Contact him at email@example.com.