Adventures in Grandparenting: School Days

Margo Bartlett
Margo Bartlett

If I were that kind of person, and this were that kind of publication, I'd be saying things abbreviated on social media right now. WTF, for one. (Please don't translate this, even in your head. Or pretend it means Wow That's Funny and move on.)

I can't find the brakes for my inner musings, though. Just 10 minutes ago, it seems, I was glorying in the thrill of having not one but two new babies in the family, one of each style. When a second boy arrived three years later, it was bliss.

But now, these first babies are 5 years old and in kindergarten. They have lunch boxes. They have backpacks. They're bringing home worksheets with pictures circled and parades of lowercase F's and T's marching on the lines. They're full-fledged participants in the educational system.

I can't wait for all three of my grandchildren to read billboards while we're driving and have favorite authors and become obsessed about a book series, even if the series is science fiction or steampunk or some other baffling genre. I'll be so glad to see them discovering everything books can be: a free vacation, a secret getaway, a ticket to visit other places, other worlds, other lives.

Years ago, a character in a book I was reading decided to go into the back room of one of those “adult” stores you see on the side of the interstate. While I have never stopped at such a place, when this character ducked behind the curtain, he took me with him, because that's what books do: take us places we'd never otherwise go.

Naturally, I'm not going to counsel my grandchildren to search for books that will take them into seedy back rooms. But I'll watch in delight as they meet characters I know and love, and introduce me to others I haven't met yet. I haven't any doubt that they'll relish reading, because they already relish being read to.

When my daughters were looking at colleges, we often listened to Garrison Keillor tapes while we drove from to one campus or another. More than once, we parked in an Admissions lot and sheltered in place until Keillor finished his story. Years before, while driving to Massachusetts, I read “Little House in the Big Woods” aloud to my husband and daughters. There wasn't a dry eye in the Chevette when I choked out the last lines.

My grandchildren are learning math, too. Just yesterday, my older grandson asked my husband and me to honk as we left his house. “How many beeps?” we said.

“Honk three times and then two times, so five times in all,” he said. Whether that feat of calculation reflects incipient genius or another worksheet, I can't say. The fact is, he and his cousin are on the road to formal education, not to mention hallway congestion, cafeteria culture, clothing fads and the social soup that will thicken as they move through the grades. But they have strong parental backup and grandparents, too. I'll be the one waving a James Stevenson book and saying, “Want me to read on the way to soccer practice?”

My guess is, almost always, they'll say yes.

Margo Bartlett and her husband have two daughters, two sons-in-law, three grandchildren and two car seats. She also writes theJust Thinking column forThisWeek Community News. You can reach her at