My granddaughter has the face of an angel and the body of Winston Churchill. It's no wonder little ones can't walk; they have heads the size of medicine balls and bellies like Sumo wrestlers -- all supported by tiny little legs that couldn't hold up a bag of popcorn.
I have a theory that is totally unsupported by science and rational-thinking people. Babies are born with an innate knowledge and wisdom that fades quickly over time. By the age of 2, they are as dumb as the rest of us.
With that in mind, I engage her in deep philosophical conversations. Granted, she can't speak a word of English. But when we converse, she looks at me with total comprehension in those baby blues.
The other day I sat her on my knee and explained that I was the better grandfather, the old man of choice in her life. She tilted her head and smiled up at me. Was she agreeing or patronizing me?
I continued. "OK, the other guy is better looking and probably has more money, but I am larger and warmer and I'll let you jump on the couch if you ever learn to walk. Besides, Grandpa Number 2 is an old poophead."
When I say "poophead" she starts to laugh. So I say it louder in a voice that sounds like Julia Child sucking helium. Each time I say the word, she laughs uncontrollably, then suddenly stops cold.
She looks at me in excited anticipation until I scream "poop-head!" Then she nearly falls off my knee in paroxysms of laughter.
Just then my daughter walks in the room. She gives both of us a nasty look. "Dad," she scolds, "what are you teaching my baby?"
The perfect daughter and I have reversed roles. I am now the disobedient child and she is the frustrated parent. I mutter something about discussing the nuclear crisis in Iran with my only grandchild as she heads back to the kitchen. I whisper to my granddaughter, "Mommy is a poophead, too." She giggles.
I regale my little one with stories about how grandpa was once a handsome prince who married way beneath his station by choosing grandma. I explain how I was the strongest and smartest boy in all of South Buffalo and all the beautiful young princesses were after me. I hold her little cheeks in my hands and say, "I only married grandma because I knew someday I would meet you."
My feeling is that grandfathers are put on this earth to provide comic relief for their grandchildren. Child rearing has become serious business, what with play dates to attend, Baby Einstein DVDs to absorb and organic food to digest. Parents no longer give their kids table scraps and plop them in front of the television set. They seem much more conscientious than my generation -- although we were the group that never used the word "no," gave everybody trophies and made sure all children fell in the 95th percentile.
For my part, childhood is a time of no rules, lots of chocolate and running through the house naked. So, too, is old age.
I love playing with my grandchild knowing that I don't have to change her diapers, clean up her recycled dinner or calm her down at 3 a.m. As she grows older, I will be blissfully unaware of any bumps in her life like school trouble or boy trouble. To me, she will always be the perfect child. Her parents will have to deal with the teen years, the inevitable disappointments and the defeats that she will have to face. I will only be there to enjoy the graduations, the awards and the triumphs. Parenting is truly hard work; grandparenting is a walk in the park.
Bob O'Connor, who lives in Hamburg, is having a wonderful time with his first grandchild.