So I'm at this New Year's Day party listening to my friend Ellen, who is telling me about her art-museum excursions with her seven-year-old granddaughter, Carol. I am already feeling inadequate because none of my grandchildren has expressed much (actually, any) interest in going to an art museum, while Carol actively wants to. Furthermore, she walks into The Phillips Collection and asks where the Rothkos are, because, as she explains to her grandmother, she likes Rothko's colors.
Also discuss: The joys and challenges of grandparenting.
I am astonished. Maybe even enchanted. But what I'm mostly feeling is … competitive.
This is not a nice emotion to experience. A better person than I would surely eschew such competitive feelings. But I haven't. Nor have most of the grandmothers I know.
Even if we are known to be basically modest, even if, as mothers, we refrained from shamelessly bragging about our kids, we grandmothers feel entitled to inform the world that our grandchildren are not merely extraordinary but … the most extraordinary. And if another grandmother is one-upping us in the extraordinary contest, we one-up right back.
I, for instance, wasn't able to counter Ellen's report with my own Smartest in Art grandchild story, but with a deft segue I shifted the category to Most Profound, recalling the morning that my Olivia and her cousin Nathaniel were playing word games. Nathaniel had proudly printed his version of the short form of telephone — FONE — on a piece of paper, and when Olivia crossed it out and wrote PHONE, he was cranky, insisting that her weird spelling was wrong. Olivia, four months older than Nathaniel, listened to him holler for a while and then declaimed, from her vastly superior fund of life experience, "Nathaniel, in this world, things aren't always what they seem." I rest my case.