Denise Etheridge Column Teaser

I love being a grandmother and adore my grandbaby. And I really appreciate getting all of the enjoyment from watching her toddler antics without having to be the bad guy when she misbehaves.

I figure it is my prerogative to laugh at my adult children as they navigate the pitfalls of rearing the next generation.

My parents and in-laws were strict with their kids, especially the oldest. When they became grandparents we gaped at how they interacted with our children. Who were these people? Did aliens replace the parents we knew with kinder, gentler pod copies?

Now that it’s my turn, I understand the change from a parental role to a grander, more laid back role as a grandparent.

Still, it’s not easy for young families today. In some ways their lives are more harried and stressful. They’re juggling hectic work schedules and expensive child care.

Yet I have no doubt my son Michael’s little girl, my 2-year-old granddaughter Vashti, will grow up to be an amazing woman like her mother, Katlyn, and her Aunt Rachel. However, she has recently entered the terrible twos with a vengeance and can be a handful.

On a recent phone call, Michael told his dad and me that he and Katlyn are unable to shop for groceries without Vashti throwing a tantrum, demanding she get some small toy or treat. I voiced sympathy for my son and daughter-in-law having to deal with handling a moody tot. I often had to parent alone during the years my husband, Frank, served in the Air Force. Frank had many temporary duty assignments and spent a lot of time away from us keeping our nation safe.

Frank laughed and reminded Michael that he, too, went through the “Gimmie” stage.

“Don’t you remember that toy plane you wanted and broke?” Frank asked our son. Michael said he didn’t remember that particular incident.

Well, we do. He was around 4 years old at the time and we were living in sunny Florida. (Remember, we moved around a lot with the military.)

Michael had picked out a toy plane with gift money from his grandma Maria. Frank tried to persuade him to purchase something sturdier and repeatedly warned our stubborn little boy that this toy would break more easily than the other items they had considered. That’s the one he wanted. And promptly broke before we reached the car in the parking lot. So, he began to wail and then acted rudely, being disrespectful and calling us names. So he got a swat on the backside before being placed into his booster seat.

We thought nothing of it until a police car pulled up behind us in the driveway once we reached the house. Someone apparently had reported that we beat our child.

Really? I’ve always been under the impression that true (and terrible) abuse usually happens behind closed doors, not in a public place in front of multiple witnesses.

The female police officer questioned my husband and me apart from the kids. Then she questioned our then 10-year-old daughter, Rachel. Finally she talked to Michael as he happily turned on the officer’s police cruiser blue lights and siren. She thanked us for our trouble, said there was nothing amiss and went on her way.

Michael was unfazed. Frank, Rachel and I were still shocked over the incident. Nothing like that had ever happened to us before — or since.

So, as a grandparent, unless my grandchild attempts to harm herself or someone else, I’m stepping back and letting her parents set boundaries and enforce the rules.

I’m there for the fun stuff – you know, like flimsy toy airplanes.

Denise Etheridge is a staff writer for The

Walton Tribune. Her email address is

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