Funny Things That Only Grandparents Do

Our actions may be unusual, but our motives are good

Grandparents and grandson holding autumn leaf
Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury / Getty Images

Grandparents do the darndest things, including some that even we don't understand. But that's okay. We are just trying to give our kids and grandkids some good stories to tell about us when we are gone.

We Use Third Person to Refer to Ourselves

When a person talks about himself in the third person, we tend to think it's due to narcissism, but grandparents do it for slightly different reasons, we think.

When that newborn grandchild appears in your life, you want to make it clear exactly who you are and what your relationship is going to be. To this end, you say things like, "Say hello to Grannie!" or "Grandpa loves you!" The habit never entirely goes away but instead morphs into a way of pulling rank—sort of flexing your grandparent cred. That's when you find yourself saying things like "We don't wear panties on our heads at Grannie's house." Or, when the grandchildren become teenagers: "Grandpa doesn't think you should pay good money for torn jeans."

Our grammar expert calls this habit of speech illeism, but perhaps we should just call it grandism.

We Cherish Everything the Grandchildren Touch

Parents aren't the only ones who have kids' art hanging on their fridges and other kiddie creations all over their houses. We've heard of well-pulled together women who will sport atrocious manicures or pedicures for weeks because the stylist was a grandchild. We've delayed dismantling Lego structures and taking apart puzzles because they are grandchild reminders. One of our friends even puts off wiping their little handprints off her mirrors. Or at least that's her excuse for smudgy mirrors.

We Change Our Minds

We didn't care for soccer until the grandchild started kicking the ball. We hated hip-hop until the grandson proved to be the star of his class. We weren't interested in traveling to Mexico until we got the chance to go with a grandchild. We never watched American Idol until the grandchildren started talking about it. We thought texting was ridiculous until we discovered that texting is the easiest way to communicate with a grandchild.

Grandparents can be amazingly flexible when a grandchild is involved, but sometimes we inadvertently reveal that our enthusiasm is newly acquired. I'm thinking of the grandmother who is trying to be tech-savvy but keeps referring to posting on Spacebook. And the one who thinks WTF means Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.

We Stick to Frugal Habits Long After They Quit Making Sense

Almost every grandparent we know does something crazy to save money. Usually, it's something that saves only a few cents. For example, we tear our dryer sheets in half, which means that we save perhaps two cents on each load of laundry, or about 10 cents a week. Don't laugh, though. That's a whopping $5.20 a year.

Some of our friends reuse aluminum foil or plastic bags. Some order water in restaurants then turns it into lemonade using the free lemons and sugar. They may be going on a European river cruise next week, but this week they are saving $5 by stiffing the restaurant on drinks.

We Have Given Up on Trendy Hairstyles

We're grandparents. Grandmothers have lived through the Buster Brown (look it up), the bouffant, the shag, the poodle, the pixie and the Toni Tennille. We've pin-curled, bobbed, feathered, layered, permed and ironed. Most of us have found a style that works for us, or we have simply given up.

As for Grandpa, he may have lived through the flat top, the bur (what they now call a buzz cut), the bowl cut and the pompadour. He may have even once sported a mullet. Now he's ahead of the game if he merely has hair.

We Emulate Our Own Grandparents

Every mom has had that moment when she realizes she is reusing her mom's lines. Grandparents have those moments, too. Does your husband talk about "going to town" as though it's a big hassle although there's a major shopping center five minutes away? And all the grandparents we know obsess about the weather. They especially like to compare rainfall with their friends and neighbors. "We got an inch and a half!" "Are you all farmers all of a sudden?" one of the younger generation asks. No, we are just channeling our own grandparents—and thinking of getting some chickens...

That's Grandparents for You

We also think that every store should have salespeople to help customers, that words are better than icons in almost every case and that some things work better without a computer chip. But we are scrambling like crazy to try to keep up with changing times because otherwise, our grandchildren will leave us behind. And that would not be funny.