Grandparent’s joy goes down the tubes

Grandparenthood is bad for you.

Forget what what all those heart-tugging television commercials, Norman Rockwell paintings and sappy greeting cards imply. Having grandchildren is a tough gig. Not to mention expensive.

The cost of birthday presents, Christmas presents and graduation presents grows exponentially. Grandparents are the first ones to be called for unpaid babysitting and they’re No. 1 on the list when there’s money to be raised. In the past few years I estimate that half of my retirement savings has been pledged to grandkids for participating in school fundraising walks, with no evidence whatsoever that any of them put down their Nintendos long enough to actually walk anywhere.

The financial stuff isn’t what makes being the parents of parents a strain, though. It’s the fear factor.

When my kids were kids, I never was overly-fearful about their safety. I just figured that bouncing down a flight of stairs, falling out of a tree or sailing over the handlebars of a bike was a normal part of childhood and would be valuable learning experiences for them.

But now I see life-threatening danger whenever my grandkids are around.

Last weekend, for instance, I visited my middle son and his family at their lake house and on Saturday morning we all went out on a boat to go tubing, which involves sitting or lying on an inner tube and being dragged at a high rate of speed around a lake filled with jet-skiers and other maniacs.

Because my internal organs still are recovering from the joys of tubing they experienced last summer, I decide to stay inside the boat this time and just watch my 7-year-old grandtwins having all that fun.

Which, I discover, is even more painful than being the one dragged. Because they whole time they’re hanging on to the bouncing tube and being dragged across the water, my mind is filled with terrifying possibilities.

Their father, I know, never would let them do anything that really was dangerous for them. And the kids did seem to be having fun bouncing around out there. But what if they flip off, hit the water and break several important bones? Or flip off, hit the water and get run over by a jet ski? Or flip off, hit the water and get eaten by a shark? (OK, there probably aren’t that many sharks lurking around inland Ohio lakes; but when your imagination starts to run away with you, it’s hard to catch.)

They tubed without injury for an hour and a half although, to me, it seemed like a lifetime. But it was a valuable learning experience.

It taught me that I’m probably too old to have grandchildren.

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