If you’ve been through this, you’re lucky because invariably it’s one of life’s great joys: meeting a grandchild for the first time. That’s what New York public relations executive and essayist Bob Brody is preparing for right now. And that’s why he has written this imperative essay: “How To Get To Know Your New Grandchild: A Must-Have To-Do List.”
A week before this Christmas, I’m going to meet someone special for the first time. Her name is Lucia Antonia. She’s now 12-weeks-old and weighs 11 pounds. She lives in Italy, more than 4,000 miles from my home in New York City, and she’s our first grandchild.
To prepare, I’ve done what I always do for important occasions, namely, put together a to-do list. How exactly should I introduce myself? Does the Italian government issue any guidelines? What best practices do etiquette experts recommend?
Here, then, to help me — and to lend a hand to all the other new long-distance grandparents out there facing the same quandary this holiday season — is my agenda, complete with precautions:
- Avoid asking Lucia if she likes grandma better than she does you. It will reflect poorly on your judgment as a husband and a senior.
- Feel free to tell her she’s beautiful. Do this if only for the very sound reason that it happens to be objectively true. But also remember to tell her she’s smart … and promises eventually to be socially adept, spiritually sound, and just all-around decent.
- Hold off on teaching Lucia how to dribble a basketball, pitch a baseball, catch a football, kick a soccer ball, or throw a right cross. She should probably learn to walk first. You can always get her a sports agent after she turns five.
- Develop a business plan to present to her, preferably via PowerPoint. She will be eager to hear the specifics on how, and just how much, you plan to invest in her future. Will you, for example, be funding a new car on her 18th birthday? Her pursuit of a doctorate? A wedding in St. Peter’s Basilica? Be prepared to defend your numbers.
- Never ask either her age or her weight. After all, she’s still a female.
- Refrain from recounting your entire family history right away. Interested as she may eventually be in hearing you disliked chemistry class in high school, it’s probably much too soon for her to absorb it.
- Find an algorithm that’s guaranteed to show how her family can raise Lucia perfectly. If no such predictive formula exists, identify a child-oriented venture capitalist who will finance the invention of one.
- Resist the temptation to ask Lucia where she plans to go to college or what she will major in and when she expects to get married and have children. I mean, she’s only an infant and has yet to learn to speak, so it’s probably a little premature.
- Encourage her to believe that if she ever goes corporate, she’ll be as qualified as any man to become a Fortune 500 CEO. But by all means forgo the use of the word “empowered.”
- See if anyone has come up with an app that indicates with some degree of precision how best to guide you straight to her heart.
Then again, maybe my best bet is to keep it simple. Maybe I should just pick Lucia up in my arms and look her right in the eyes and kiss her on both cheeks, European-style, with all the love bursting in my heart. Then I’ll be ready to say what I came to say: “Hi, Lucia. I’m your grandpa.”