I've often noticed how grandparents let their
grandkids get away with what I consider murder. I imagine it's only
natural for them to try to diminish the guilt of not allowing their
own kids to do fun things by green-lighting dangerous activities
for their grandkids. Or maybe it's a revenge thing with the
intention of severely frightening a son or daughter who was a
constant pain growing up. That was my grandpa's reason.
For whatever reason, I relish the day I'll get the chance
to do things with my grandkids that would give my own kids
coronaries. This brings me to my father-in-law, who loves his
grandkids so much that he can't say no to activities with risks of
disaster so high even an insurance actuary couldn't calculate them.
It's ironic because he likes me, but it really seems that he's the
one trying to get away with my murder.
I have two boys, age 8 and 6, who, from the time they were
old enough to walk, have spent countless hours with Grandpa in his
garage. I always steered clear so he could enjoy his time with
them. Actually, my thoughts are usually, "Let him deal with them."
Many times I relaxed on the couch reading a paper while occasional
loud noises emanating from the garage filled my ears. That was
until one day last week when I heard the circular saw fire up, the
sound of a Dremel tool whirring and what sounded like a hammer
driving nails all happening simultaneously.
Then it dawned on me: My father-in-law does not have three
So I entered the garage at a crazed fatherly pace to find
that, luckily, it was my father-in-law who was using the circular
saw, shockingly, my 8-year-old was manning the engraver and
terrifyingly, my 6-year-old, without any eye protection, was
starting and driving nails into a board using a claw hammer.
"They'll be fine," he said. "A kid learns best how to hammer by
smashing his thumb a time or two."
That night, I went over all the similar situations in the
past eight years that I had overlooked. The more I thought about
it, the less I slept and the luckier I felt that I had kids who
were still breathing.
I remembered the time I came around the back of the house
to see a 3-year-old standing at the top of an extension ladder
helping Grandpa clean leaves out of the gutter. "He's got the
balance of his Grandpa." This coming from a guy who fell off the
roof of the gazebo he was building twice in a five-minute
I remembered the dart game with real metal darts between
two boys who never ever got through a game of Candy Land without
resorting to fisticuffs. "Once they get poked, they won't do it
Then there was the time Uncle Kevin's car alarm kept going
off because Grandpa decided to let the boys play baseball on the
same driveway where it was parked. "Let him say something. I bought
it." And don't get me started on the rock-throwing contest in that
No matter how much I want to end the blatantly dangerous
goings-on between Grandpa and his grandkids, I realize it would
destroy this insane bond he has built with them.
So I have a new strategy: Either I find a father's support
group that is already in session or I start my own. Anybody
Bryan Missey is an IT expert, husband and dad living in
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