My grandson Christian turned 11 today. It seems like only yesterday he was a toddler throwing the butter dish out the kitchen door. Ah, good times.

I never had any sons or brothers, so my grandsons are a continuing source of wonder and amusement for me: “Look at that! Boys do that. They’re just so different, aren’t they?” And as Christian is the oldest, I tend to scrutinize his behavior, sort of like a marine biologist observing a fascinating new species of plankton.

I don’t know if he is representative of all 11-year-old boys, but I suspect he isn’t far off the mark. I know it isn’t cool to wear a superhero T-shirt when you’re 11. I know it’s possible to put a 1,000-pc. Lego set together in under a day – don’t ask me how, but it is. And I know black is the preferred color for backpacks. He likes to play baseball and basketball because he’s good at it. I hope he never wants to play football because then I’d have to pretend to be happy.

Our conversation at his birthday party yesterday went like this:

“Christian, what’s it like turning eleven?”
“It’s okay.”
“How was camp?” (Because he was away at camp last week.)
“How’s baseball going?”

We can go on like this for hours.

The butter dish episode is buried in the archives here somewhere. Long story short, while their parents were in the process of moving one day, I babysat 11-month-old Grace and little Christian, who had just turned two and was pretty much fed up with the whole relocation thing and basically just wanted his mother and got mad and threw the butter and the plastic butter dish out the kitchen door, although it landed right-side up, so no harm done. Come to think of it, that may have been the same year he broke my nose in a bizarre swing set incident. Oh, I don’t know, the good times all blend together after a while.

But mostly I want to say that he has grown into an amazingly kindhearted and thoughtful kid. He will let his two little boy cousins beat on him endlessly and never tell them to knock it off. He knows right from wrong and puts up with all sorts of adult craziness. He tolerates it when I kiss him (on the forehead). However, he stubbornly refuses to stop being allergic to half the food groups on the FDA pyramid. Maybe when he hits high school.



Pages from Grandma’s Diaries: Christian, part 2

Nov. 21, 2008
Called daughter Jill last night to talk about the upcoming weekend. As usual, it was a multitasking nightmare on her end – i.e., talking to me and making turkey sandwiches while getting the kids to come to the table, stay at the table, and not fight over the condiments. While his sisters were content with turkey, Christian, of course, wouldn’t have it. Said he’d make himself a grape sandwich instead. Jill, who goes with the flow now, said fine but he’d have to wash the grapes first. This momentarily stunned him, as in his four years on earth no one has ever given him permission to wash food before. But he did wash the grapes (in the bathroom sink), cut them up, put them on bread and maybe even ate it, who knows. He’d do it.

Nov. 4, 2009
All the grandkids, ages 2 to 9, went trick-or-treating on Saturday (an Indian, a Superhero, Snow White and a China doll). Everyone remembered their manners and said thank you when they were supposed to, until they got to the house where a man answered the door holding a big bowl of vegetables while his wife stood behind him with a camera. “What would you like?” he asked the kids. “An onion, a carrot or some broccoli?” The three little girls were speechless. Christian looked at the vegetables, turned around and said, “I’m outta here.”

Jan. 20, 2010
If you ever start to think you’re indispensable, get yourself a grandchild. I haven’t seen the kids for a while and was missing them a little, so I called over there yesterday and Jill put Christian on the phone.
“Hi, Christian,” I said. “I miss you!”
“Oh, Grandma,” he said, “I miss you too. Here Maria, talk to Grandma.”

March 26, 2010
My son-in-law Bret couldn’t come over to hunt mice last weekend, so I couldn’t go down the basement to wash clothes. Five-year-old Christian spent the night on Saturday, but he’s a little young to hunt and I wouldn’t want to scar him psychologically. I may have to bite the bullet and go down there soon. Or I may just buy more socks.

You’d think Christian would want to go to a movie or McDonald’s or the Science Museum once in a while, but all he ever wants to do is play. With me. Even though I’m no good at it. Even though I approach play with great reluctance and the sure knowledge that I’m going to be hurt. I will be hurt, because all toys fight. Not just Spider-Man and the robots but the toy animals and the K’Nex and the videotapes and lumps of Play-Doh. Dixie Cups make an excellent army – just line them up and smash them flat. I think what he likes is that I’m always willing to be the roundly defeated loser. You can’t get that with a lot of playmates.

Pages from Grandma’s Diaries: Christian, part 1

This is one of my favorite pictures of my grandson Christian, now six. Looking for trouble and loving it. We sort of knew what to expect when he was still a baby. Before he could walk he was tearing around in his walker, flailing the stick from his sister’s Easy Bake Oven. The kid always liked sticks. You had to move fast.

When he was one and walking, but you still couldn’t understand what he was saying, he’d get mad and let loose a torrent of abuse – gibberish really, but you knew by the tone and the finger-pointing it wasn’t good. His mother was left to say things like, “Don’t you take that tone with me, young man!” Which was complete nonsense, of course, but must have given her the illusion of control.

When he was two, he broke my nose. My fault actually. I was pushing him in their backyard swing when his little sister Grace came toddling by. It looked like the swing was going to clobber her, so I bent over to grab it and, momentum being what it is, Christian’s head met my nose. Crushed it. Lots of little bone pieces in there. When I looked up, the two of them were staring at me, innocent and clueless, as is the nature of grandchildren. I figure I saved Grace’s life, and she’ll give me some money one day.

When Christian was old enough for preschool, his mother signed him right up, hoping he would learn to get along with other little boys like him. There were no other little boys like him. And he didn’t like any of them. After yet another bad report, she said despairingly, “My God! My son is the bully!”

He got over it though. He has friends now and everything. In fact, I worry that he may be a little too sensitive and someone will hurt his feelings. You can’t win at this grandparent thing.

Inflation and the Price of Popcorn

My grandson Christian, who is six, came over to spend the night last Saturday. I like to have the grandkids over individually now and then in order to study them more closely. So far I’ve learned that I have next to no control over my own actions let alone theirs. There appears to be some force within them that saps my will. I think it’s situated behind their eyes somewhere, as that is usually what does me in.

It is not my intention to spoil the grandkids. It just works out that way. Thinking frugally, I took Christian to the cheap-seat theater, where two tickets to Despicable Me cost just $5. Then I paid $18.50 for two small popcorn, two small drinks and a box of Dots. He didn’t touch the popcorn and ate about three Dots, although when we were standing at the concession stand, Dots had been indispensable to his happiness. We now know he doesn’t like Dots. Then you can’t escape the theater without passing the videogames in the lobby, where weak people will pay $3 in quarters for two rubber bands shaped like familiar household objects.

Nevertheless, I was grateful Christian didn’t suggest going to Chuck E Cheese, because I would have had to take him. Chuck E Cheese should be avoided at all times but especially on Saturday afternoons, when the children run free like animals on the Serengeti. You lose track of what you’re spending at Chuck E’s, because you have to change your cash dollars into Chucky coinage, which is all the arcade games will eat and faster than you can say Vegas slot machine.

The next morning I had to drop Christian off at church, so on the way we stopped at Target to buy a toy. Because that is what we do. I was thinking something from the $1 Spot. Christian was thinking giant LEGO Star Wars set for $99.99. Negotiations ensued, as they always do, and we settled on one “big” toy for $19.99 and one “small” toy for $9.99. Also four toys from the $1 Spot, two for each sister. Can’t forget them.

Got lost on the way to church, which happens sometimes when you drive to St. Paul. People from Minneapolis can wander for days over there searching for a freeway entrance. So we were at least a half-hour late for church, where my son-in-law Lynn was waiting unruffled on the steps. He’s pretty easy-going about things like that. Also, he likes me.

Christian and I had a good time. He was happy, I was happy, money is replaceable. Next up, Maria. She doesn’t come cheap.