My wife and I (a.k.a. “Gramm” and “Pops”) are flying solo this week–we’re gramming and popsing for the first time without the presence of our kids. Two of our granddaughters, Elyse and Emily, are with us while their parents are at a conference. So there’s no hand-off to Mom when the diaper starts to emit it foul vapours, no smiling to oneself in the dark and rolling over when one of the little darlings begins to scream in the night, no “Hey, Babe–wanna go out and [fill in the name of an activity, any activity at all] tonight”?
And we’re taking a crash course in Emilese, the language in which the younger of the two is fluent. Astonishingly fluent. Here is an abbreviated glossary for your use in case you ever meet a member of the same people group:
- wuh-DAH is an interrogative which sounds just as it is spelled and means, obviously, “What’s that?” (I have been in American cities where this is actually a cognate.) This expression is used with a rising inflection and, if there is no immediate response, a rising volume. It is learned quickly by virtue of its endless repetition and the accompanying gesture–pointing to an object or person with a slightly bent and slippery little index finger.
- yangingam-hu-LIN-gamumph is a descriptor that applies to virtually anything and is pronounced many different ways. It is sometimes accompanied by wild gesticulating and often precedes riotous laughter. Its etymology is unclear.
- Aaaaahhhh is a utilitarian expression that could quite often be considered, in strict grammatical terms, an expletive. A very ancient word of unknown origin, it is common to many language families–as well as North American families–and its meaning can usually be determined by context.
We had forgotten just how much creativity goes into effective parenting, especially at meals. I have had to slyly pilfer green beans and pieces of pancake from Elyse’s plate to lessen the culinary burden with which she had been strapped at the beginning of the meal, as the rule of the house is that there is no dessert if the plate is not clean. To deny a growing girl a bowl of Hokey Pokey ice cream for the sake of a bean or two just doesn’t seem ethical to me. Sometimes, distraction is the key to success. This morning my wife asked Elyse, who was struggling with her pancake, “Elyse, did you know that another word for ‘chew’ is, ‘masticate’? Can you say, ‘masticate’?” She could, so she masticated the rest of her pancake after Pops expertly steered each supersonic piece into her open hangar. (Admittedly, this ploy seems to work better with boys.)
Mastication has its rewards. This morning, it was a pineapple boat for each girl–a fresh pineapple quarter carved into a boat shape, its deck crammed with little pineapple passengers. No prompting or subterfuge was required here. These vessels disappeared as if they had been steered headlong into the Bermuda Triangle. (This strategy will definitely be included in the upcoming Pocket Guide to Gramming and Popsing.)
Creativity can also be developed through literature: “Will you read me this one?”, referring to a colourful cooking adverzine we got in the mail, and, “Can you read it again?” Or through the visual arts, with an Etch-A-Sketch or by means of the more erudite discipline of art criticism: “Yes, that looks exactly like Daddy riding a horse in Chicago.”
Restraint is, we have found, another valuable gramming and popsing virtue: “Okay, 47 more times down the sliding board, and then Pops is going to drag his sorry carcass back home.” Most often, though, restraint involves turning one’s head–or, in extreme cases, getting up and leaving the room–so one can smile when a more stern expression is appropriate or laugh uproariously without being noticed. To be seen laughing in such circumstances signals certain death to the entire gramming and popsing process.
An engineering degree should be required for anyone who is in possession of a stroller, car seat, high chair or port-a-crib (or whatever the thing is called) designed after 1985. Whenever I try to unfangle one of these contraptions, I look over my shoulder to make sure nobody is watching and then check for video cameras. I believe these implements serve as prime examples of sycretism in our culture since, while they are sometimes useful and may appear harmless to society as a whole, their origin is clearly demonic. I have been ignored, scorned, mocked and even viciously attacked by several of these agents of angst, and some ugly incidents have even occurred in front of bystanders. It may indeed be that they save children’s lives, but I’d like to see the statistics on how many grandparents they have either maimed, killed or institutionalized. But oh, no–the mainline media wouldn’t dare risk the loss of billions in advertising revenue by exposing this hidden menace.
The little ladies are asleep now, dreaming blissfully of pineapple boats and Hokey Pokey ice cream. Gramm and Pops can’t wait until they wake up so we can walk down to the Sippy Cup Cafe with the demon stroller and let them expend as much energy as possible in the playroom while we sip double espressos to calm our nerves.