Like all parents, I know my children imagined me as a doting grandmother, happily playing with their children, unburdened by the daily demands of parenting. And it's true that one of the joys of having grandchildren is spending special time together. To me, that means reading books, drawing, going to the park, singing and dancing to Beatles tunes and playing games like War or Go Fish. But over the years, I have developed a sense of impending dread about certain special games...
1. Polly Pockets: My grandchild chooses her favorite tiny plastic dolls from the bin. I am given the ones with taped on arms and torn outfits. First, we have to dress hers. This means pulling little plastic clothes on them with my arthritic hands. Mine can remain naked, as they are superfluous to the plot. They are evil. Hers do all sorts of exciting things. Mine are instructed to try to hurt hers and end up in prison.
2. Thomas the Train: My grandson lines up as many trains as possible and begins to push them on the track. I suggest we add cargo or trees or even people to the game. I'm told no -- just trains. In a short time, the track comes apart or the train derails. My job is to fix it quickly and add even more cars to the train. And please, no sound effects. This is serious work.
3. Chutes and Ladders: This is a game that calls for cheating. No grandchild of mine may go down the chute. I must count their moves carefully and ignore it when they skip over the dreaded spot that send them back to the beginning. Of course, it is desirable for me to go down the chute.
4. Trouble: Similar to Chutes and Ladders, I must avert my eyes when they take extra turns or somehow make it to home without the correct number. I must never bump their pieces back to the beginning. And I must pretend we are following the rules, just not the rules that come with the game.
5. Teacher: My granddaughter seats me on the floor in front of her white board. She draws or writes something and asks me questions. I must raise my hand. My answers are always wrong, so she has to teach me the right answer. Then we erase the board and start again. This could last for an hour and I will always be wrong.
6. Transformers: My grandson brings me a jumble of plastic and asks me to turn it into a robot or a race car. I twist and turn the pieces, but nothing resembling anything emerges. He can do it in five seconds, but he insists I have a turn.
7. Kits: Any kit with multiple pages of picture-only directions stumps me. It could be a Lego rocket, an American Girl craft, a Rainbow Loom bracelet pattern or a K'NEX Ferris wheel. If I have to make anything with more than 10 steps, I rebel and start to freelance.
8. Big bubbles: We tried this several times over the summer. People sent me recipes on Facebook, I searched Google for ideas, and I even went to a craft shop to buy glycerin. No matter how I mixed the potion, all I got were slimy hands and bubbles that popped within seconds. The kids still had fun, but I felt pretty inept.
9. Water Balloons: It looks like fun in the abstract, but why are the balloons so tiny and thin? The kids like to pump them full of water but can't make the knot. Again, not a great job for old hands. After I am soaked and my hands cease to work, the special part comes. We have to pick up the broken balloons from all over the yard. The kids do this for two minutes and move on, leaving me crawling over the grass to make sure no animals get sick from the pieces left behind.
10. Fetch: This is best played with a 15-month-old boy. He throws any object he can find and I retrieve it. Then he throws it 100 more times, laughing maniacally every time. And I foolishly find it and return it to him each time. That's the game.
OK, grandmothers out there -- it's time to confess. Add your dreaded games to my list.