The Lever

My daughter told a story recently about her two-and-a-half-year-old son. This is the grandchild who has the audacity to live 3000 miles away from me. They were playing soccer at a park, when he picked up a big stick and called it a lever. He then proceeded to place it under the soccer ball and demonstrate how one uses a lever to lift an object.

“Did you learn about levers in school?” his mom asked.

“No, from Maya the Bee.” Maya the Bee is his favorite TV cartoon. He’s watches it at night while his mom tames his half African/half Caucasian hair with creams and a comb. He can tolerate all sorts of head-rubbing and hair-tugging while absorbed in his shows.

My first reaction to this story was amazement and pride that this little toddler could remember what he saw on TV, figure a way to apply it in real life, and try it out. I’ve watched Maya the Bee many times with my grandson when I visit, and I sit there slack-mouthed, not absorbing a single bit of plot or character. The only things I learn from television are the chances of rain for a particular week, the antics of the U.S. Congress, and the people dying unnecessarily around the globe. My grandson has something to teach me here.

But then it made me think of how parents can use grandparents as a lever to raise a child. Just as our grandson could have lifted that soccer ball unassisted, our children would do a fantastic job with their children without our help. Like a lever, we grandparents can lighten the parenting load just a little.

A grandparent can provide invaluable information when parents are stymied. Things like:

“Did we have tantrums like this when we were little?”

“I don’t remember.”


“How did you train us to sleep through the night?”

“We didn’t.”

A grandparent can offer advice even when not asked. One of my favorites is to paste a link from an online article about potential dangers to children like falling through screens and running with food in their mouths. The parents never respond to these, so I imagine them rolling their eyes if they even click on the danger-link. But I notice they occasionally do make some related household adjustments. What can I say? I try.

Probably the main thing that grandparents can provide is reassurance. Our pride in our grandchildren is a lever to lift up the parents’ confidence that they are doing just fine in raising these wonderful kids.