Dear Grandparenting: This must be my lucky year. I know am living right because it’s been my great pleasure to meet a future President of the United States, countless up-and-coming CEO’s, a budding prima ballerina, great scientists in waiting, a fledgling Andy Warhol and the soon to be greatest hockey player of all time. What did I do to deserve such good fortune? It’s ridiculously easy. Just hang around with a group of grandparents and wait for the big bragging to begin.
Sure, we grandparents like to brag. It embarrassed me when my grandmother boasted about my “broad shoulders.” But I honestly cannot remember a time when so many grandparents are going so overboard. It’s like a competition, with everybody trying to out-do each other. I have to suppress my urge to say zip it up. What’s wrong with these people? It is sheer insanity to boast that your grandchild will grow up to be someone rich and/or famous. This is what’s wrong with America. Everybody and their uncle want to be an instant star. I don’t pretend my grandchildren will be a big shot overnight success. I pray they will become productive citizens. I hope you are thumbs down on this competitive bragging nonsense too. Roger Menendez, Everett, Wash.
Dear Roger: Grandparents are the consummate notorious braggarts — sometimes it seems like it’s their job. And while no one begrudges the grandparent who whips out photos of their grandchildren at the drop of a hat, it can get mighty boring to find the conversation hijacked by a grandparent dishing up lavish praise on a young child who still has plenty of growing up to do.
Bragging is more pleasurable than many imagine. According to a 2012 Harvard study, sharing information about one’s life triggered brain sensations similar to eating food and having sex. Adoring grandparents on the brag about their flesh and blood presumably receive a lesser but still ample stimulation. And perhaps competitive bragging is an extension of the unfortunate trend toward praising children for doing what’s expected, the notion that every kid deserves a medal every month of every year.
Grandparents would please everyone if they toned it down to a more realistic level. Parents can resent putting undue pressure on their children to climb to the top of the heap; commending children for their effort makes much more sense. Listeners who feel that their own grandchildren are diminished in comparison are likely to take offense at over the top bragging. Grandchildren may well wonder why boastful grandparents are drawing so much attention to them, or disagree with their grandparent’s point of view.
Parents are so intertwined with their children that it’s sometimes difficult for them to step back and be practical. Instead of engaging in competitive bragging, good grandparents should focus on providing a dose of the proper perspective.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Duke from Waynesboro, Pa. says his grandchildren “are great imitators. My part of the bargain is to give them something good to great to imitate.”
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.