Do my grandchildren prefer their other grandparents? - opinion

The Wife: “There are things they get here that they can’t get from their other grandparents. Think about that.”

Grandparents Day (photo credit: Courtesy)
Grandparents Day
(photo credit: Courtesy)

“Which grandparents do you want to go to for Shabbat?” my daughter-in-law, Skippy’s wife, asked her son a few weeks back.

“To Saba Urb and Savta Susie’s,” he chirped, unable – of course – to pronounce my name.

“Why there?” the daughter-in-law probed.

Because after Shabbat they order pizza.”

The first part of the answer given by my four-year-old grandson, the eldest of Skippy’s three heirs, is the thing of which grandparent’s dreams are made.

The second part? Not so much.

 Making pizza in Naples (credit: DAVID HARRIS) Making pizza in Naples (credit: DAVID HARRIS)

“That’s it?” I pressed The Wife, after she related what Skippy’s wife told her. “He wants to come here because we order pizza?”

“He’s four years old,” The Wife said. “Why do you think he wants to come? Because he wants to look at the books in our library? Because of the scintillating dinnertime conversation? Because of our sense of humor?”

All of those are valid points, though a bit troubling. Because what will happen if there is no pizza?

And, indeed, Skippy and his family came to us that Shabbat. But our post-Shabbat fare that week was homemade lasagna, rather than pizza from the neighborhood pizza shop.

The result? As they were packing up to leave, the little ingrate whispered to his mother, “Ima, I want to go more to Savta Galit and Saba Benny’s, because here there is no pizza.”

The Other Side

Savta Galit and Saba Benny are the Other Side. My oldest grandson, my pride and joy, told his mother he would prefer to go to the rival grandparents.

THE SON of a Holocaust survivor, I grew up with only one pair of grandparents. That one kid could have two pairs of grandparents was very distant from my reality.

I never had to grapple with which pair of grandparents it would be preferable to spend time with, or which grandparents I would prefer come over to babysit. I never had the dilemma about what to call each grandparent so as not to get them confused – this one grandma and grandpa, the other side bubbie and zayde – because there was always only one pair. It was obviously going to be just grandma and grandpa. Simple.

But my grandkids? They have a choice, thank God, a blessing that should not be taken for granted.

But what if I’m not the grandparent with whom they would rather be?

What if – before his parents drummed into him the idea that he needs to love all his grandparents equally – you would wake up my oldest grandson in the middle of the night and ask which grandparent was his favorite, and he would say Saba Benny rather than Saba Urb? Then what?

And believe me, competing with Saba Benny and Savta Galit is no easy task.

Saba Benny and Savta Galit are cool – they have a motorcycle. Saba Benny and Savta Galit are young – I’m closer in age to Savta Galit’s parents than I am to Savta Galit herself.

Saba Benny and Savta Galit have a big private house with a lawn where in the summer you can barbecue around a large plastic swimming pool – I have a small apartment with a modest balcony where in the summer you can eat a Popsicle.

Saba Benny has hair.

But, most of all, Saba Benny and Savta Galit are native-born Israelis, which means they speak Hebrew without an accent and know all the words to all the songs sung in preschool. And, when they take the kids to the zoo, they actually know the names of the animals.

“WHAT’S THAT, Saba?” my second grandson asked excitedly on a recent trip to the Ramat Gan Safari, pointing to a pelican. I had no clue what the word for pelican is in Hebrew, so I said slowly, but with a Hebrew accent to make it sound authentic, “pe-li-con.”

“Thank you, Saba,” he said with complete trust, in that two-year-old Hebrew voice that makes everything he says sound adorable. He could say, “Saba, you’re a moron,” and it would sound precious. Toddlers speaking Hebrew are like adults speaking with a British accent: everything just sounds good.

Suddenly, however, I felt horrible, overcome with feelings of inadequacy about being in this country that had not gripped me for years. My grandson was looking at me for a simple answer to a simple question. He was looking at his grandfather for guidance, to help him, to enlighten him, to teach him, and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t name a lousy animal.

That would never happen to Saba Benny and Savta Galit. Nope, they surely know the Hebrew word for pelican, as well as the Hebrew word for mongoose and lemur and all the other animals climbing and creeping and crawling around at the Safari.

I came home from the zoo and unpacked all my feelings of inadequacy for The Wife.

Then I concluded: “Put yourself in their shoes. If you were their age, who would you rather spend time with? The tired, alter-cocker couple with funny accents who speak a foreign language? Or somebody who they can be seen with around their friends without feeling different; someone who can read bedtime stories to them without stumbling over the hard words; somebody who knows what to call a pelican?”

“But we can give them things they can’t get from the other side,” The Wife countered, kindly. “There are things they get here that they can’t get from their other grandparents. Think about that.”

“There are things they get here that they can’t get from their other grandparents. Think about that.”

The Wife

So I did. I thought about it long and hard.

Here’s what I came up with: We can give them our complete attention when they come over, not like their other grandparents who are so young they still have school-age kids who need their attention even when the grandkids come for a visit. We can let them watch any American football game they want on my NFL Game Pass subscription. And we can help them prepare for their English matriculation exams in another decade and a half.

In the meantime, I’ll just always make sure that there is plenty of pizza whenever they come around. 