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|The Grandma Mantra - Page 2|
Larry cut off Susan's self-flagellation. "No problem, don't be silly. We've had plenty. It's a wonderful dinner."
I wanted to tell her how I'd once passed off store-bought chicken paprikash on my unsuspecting in-laws, but I knew to keep my mouth shut.
Unfortunately, my mouth had sprung back into action as soon as Hannah had been born. Before the hat and after the pillow there was the fever episode.
"She's burning up," lamented Susan one day as Hannah lay on a quilt on the floor, kicking her feet and grinning, making me want to grin back.
I bent down and placed my hand on her head. "She feels cool to me." Blessedly I stopped before saying "You'll learn to gauge these things as you become more experienced." But, alas, I'd said enough.
Susan quickly scooped Hannah up and dashed off to find the thermometer, not bothering to say good-bye. I called out, "Let me know if there's anything I can do," but she didn't answer, and I never found out whether Hannah was feverish or not.
Larry and I had eagerly anticipated becoming grandparents, and we were thrilled with Hannah, but it was clear that we were heading for a grandparenting trainwreck. What to do? I called up an old friend who had four grandchildren and described the situation.
"Bring presents," she said. "Anything little, but nothing sharp and no small parts—soft books, age appropriate. Open a college fund, give money even if you can't afford it. And, oh yes, I forgot the most important thing," my friend said, pausing for emphasis. "Don't talk. Volunteer nothing. I mean nothing. Nada. Just smile and maybe occasionally say something like 'That's nice, dear,' but remember: speak as little as possible and bring presents. Never pass a toy store without going in."
It hasn't been easy—there've been numerous slip-ups—but Larry and I have learned the lesson well. Now he bites his tongue when he watches Hannah eat the third ice cream of the day. I've learned to love safari-style hats (they do, after all, keep the sun off a child's neck). And although we hug and kiss Hannah as much as we can, we never, ever put a hand to her forehead to see if she's feverish. That's her parents' job. We've mastered the grandparents' mantra: "Keep your mouth closed and your purse open."
"Jeanne Mills" is a New York writer and a longtime Networker fan, who's using a pseudonym here for obvious reasons. Letters to the Editor about this department may be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.