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March Mania

Doug Lewandowski column: The happy routines of being a grandparent

DULUTH -- A knock on the door. It opens and three little bodies come racing through the kitchen and into the living room. Arms are thrown around aging legs and hugs are doled out, a grandparent’s bonus as we get to hear about their exploits.

There really is not all the time in the world for a post-70s oldster when the old guy with the long beard and scythe stands in the corner checking his watch. At least the dude wearing a black hoodie and holding a ragged edged sickle isn’t knocking yet, as far as I know. Getting to this point in life when time available is a reward for those years when hours were in short supply; when a living had to be made.

After greeting comes the eating. Every nook and cranny where Tootsie Rolls or Cheetos are squirreled away is fair game. Even when taking great pains to conceal sweet indulgences on the highest shelf behind the chicken soup fails — they know the game I play — trying a diversion to the lower shelf where “healthy” treats are kept is sure to be fruitless. Has anyone ever heard of healthy treats? They won’t buy it.

Having grandchildren around to break the daily routine lifts a spirit occasionally preoccupied by the consequences of wear and tear on aging bodies and psyches. They are way better than Advil or Zoloft for aches and pains and a foul mood.

They play. Wooden blocks are touched, stacked and tasted. And when the towers built are obliterated, starting over and doing it again teaches. Finding out why things work and what happens when the square peg won’t go into that round hole, educates how to manage frustration and move on to solving problems. Drawing and chunks of Play-Doh all over the place fuels their imaginations.

How they view the adults in their lives are revealed by watching the multiple changes of cast-off dresses and old suits that encourage role-playing. And discovering where to put a body in space and time is a skill that is learned and relearned for a long time, along with managing emotional states when things don’t go well. Getting hockey pucks and soccer balls into a goal requires focus and persistence.

Personalities evolve. There are powerful dynamics at work that involve genetic inheritance, environment and placement in a family. Intelligence and talents show up in many ways by good grades, hands-on brilliance and being able to make friends. Given that all grandkids are smart, a first child could be driven, assertive and athletically gifted. Number two might have artistic interests that produce unique creations, and the third could have many of these characteristics but earns the “Boss” title. They know what they want.

If we are lucky enough to be around to see grandchildren grow up, the excitement and hugs still remain when they come in the door. Then it's time to sit down and hear of life adventures.

Doug Lewandowski is a retired counselor, educator and licensed psychologist. Write to him at