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February 28, 2021

Kids, your grandparents aren’t the kind and generous people you think they are

Image credit: Wikipedia Commons, Catherine Scott
Image credit: Wikipedia Commons, Catherine Scott

Hey kids, I’ve got a secret to share with you.

Your parents are hiding the truth from you, and it’s best you know before it’s too late.

Here it is- Your grandparents are not the people you think they are.

Oh sure, these old people are sweet and generous now, but back then, they were grumpy and cheap. “No” was their favorite word, and they made us earn our own money for the things we wanted.

It was brutal. Your grandfather made us cut the grass with a push reel lawn mower because we couldn’t afford the extra gasoline. Your grandmother had us vacuuming with 90 lb. steel suction machines that would shred any toy or hamster that got too close. (Yes, it happened, and no, we don’t want to talk about it.) We started working around 11-years-old when we discovered other families would actually pay us for babysitting. (There was no pay for watching your aunts and uncles.) We could make big money when we hit 13 and the local farmers hired us to detassel the seed corn. It was hot, smelly and awful, but we could earn $3 an hour to go through the fields and pull the flowers off the young corn as the sharp leaves cut into our arms and bugs flew into our faces. As odd as it may sound, these experiences made us better people.

Of course, our lives weren’t complete drudgery. We also played outside during our childhoods. A lot. Your grandmother would kick us out of the house in the morning, and we couldn’t come back until the street lights came on. She had no idea where we were or what we were doing, but all the moms kept a vigilante watch on the neighborhood and were quick to report us for every infraction. Do you want to know why your parents don’t like paddle ball? Because psychologists hadn’t created the “time out” concept yet, and your grandmother kept that paddle on top of the fridge to use every time we needed an attitude adjustment.

Your grandparents provided us with Big Wheels, an easily-recyclable plastic trike with an equally durable plastic brake that ground up against the back wheels and sent us into marvelous spin-outs on the side walk. We didn’t have fancy anti-bacterial ointments to put on the wounds we gained from our Big Wheel-induced concrete faceplants; our parents pulled Bactine or iodine out of the medicine cabinet and poured the sanitizing liquids directly on our wounds.

Our toys didn’t talk or play music, but they gave us plenty to talk about. Barbie had a little sister that went through puberty when you twisted her arm. GI Joe was no weenie little action figure; he was a tall and muscular military man. Stretch Armstrong was filled with sticky goo that spilled out when you cut his legs off. We probably pooped out a lot of Lite Brite pegs or melted stuff with our Easy Bake 400-watt light bulb ovens, but we were happy. And your grandparents were clueless.

I’ve got another secret for you; as much as we swore we’d never be like our parents, we find ourselves doing and saying the same things. Your grandfather ripped all the tape out of our Purple Rain cassettes because he heard the lyrics to a song about a girl named Nikki, and hence, we had no choice but to delete your Lil Wayne MP3s. Your grandmother dragged us back inside when we tried to go out in clothing that was too tight or too short, and hence, there is no way in Hades you’re getting a push up bra to wear under your Five Seconds of Summer t-shirt or wearing pants that say “Juicy” on the butt. Sorry, kid. We’ve been there, done that and faced the consequences. It’s your turn.

Your grandparents are actually very cool right now, and in all honesty, we never expected it. Enjoy these old people because you can learn a lot from them, especially about how easy you have it as a kid today. Ask Grandma about her period, and she’ll tell you about how the drug store used to wrap pads in brown paper because they were considered risqué products. Ask Grandpa about what he did after high school, and he’ll tell you about being drafted to fight in Vietnam.

I tell you these secrets because someday you too will be a parent, and you’ll realize your parents did the best they could with what they had. You’ll realize we made mistakes, but we loved you unconditionally and sometimes that love required us to do things that may have hurt your feelings, but ultimately built your character.

We had to learn the same things about our parents. We’re actually grateful for the way they raised us, and someday, you’ll appreciate us, too.

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