Jerry Zezima, a Newsday assistant editor who writes a nationally syndicated humor column for his hometown paper, The Show More
Ever since my adorable little granddaughter was born in March, I thought I knew everything there was to know about being a grandfather but was afraid to ask.
Then, flush with triumph after changing a diaper, I got over my fear and asked for pearls of wisdom from my college buddy and longtime friend Tim Lovelette, who has three granddaughters.
"One of the most important things you can do when you have granddaughters," said Tim, who lives on Cape Cod, Mass., "is to get them to watch the Three Stooges. This is the difference between being a grandfather and being a grandmother. Men love the Stooges and women hate them. Women are missing out on a huge piece of culture. So it's crucial that we get the next generation of women -- our granddaughters -- to watch the Stooges. Have a Stooge marathon. Your granddaughter will love it. Then she'll be hooked. And it will be too late for her grandmother to do anything about it."
Tim added that his wife, Jane, is the best grandmother in the world, despite not being a Three Stooges fan.
"I'll put my wife up against any other grandmother," he said proudly. "We'll have a competition. They can duke it out and Jane will win."
I told Tim that my wife, Sue, is a wonderful grandmother.
"I don't doubt that," he said. "But Jane has a height advantage. And Sue doesn't have Jane's experience."
That's because Tim and Jane's oldest granddaughter is 6 years old, the middle one is a year old and the youngest is 8 months.
"Jane watches one on Mondays and another one on Thursdays," Tim said. "She'll take the bus into Boston to baby-sit the youngest one and come back at night. And Jane watched the oldest one before the little girl got big enough to go to school. The most impressive thing is that Jane has to baby-sit me. I'm less mature than any of them."
As a result, Tim said, very little is expected of him.
"Jane assumes all the grandparenting responsibilities," he noted. "Nobody expects me to do anything. I'm not responsible by design. It's a conscious irresponsibility. I run a successful insurance business, I keep out of jail, I'm the same guy you met in college -- a little heavier but even more handsome -- but I've developed this aura of irresponsibility. If you start out with low expectations, you can't go wrong. That way, if you do something good, like go for a walk with your granddaughter, you can be a real hero."
"My granddaughter is too young to walk," I said, "but I've put her in the stroller and taken her for a spin around the patio."
"You're a good grandfather," said Tim. "I'm impressed. I'm in awe. I mean, you even change diapers."
"I guess I'm a late bloomer," I said, "because I didn't change a lot of diapers when my two daughters were babies."
"I've changed one diaper in my life," Tim acknowledged. "You're willing to do things that I won't do. I love being a grandfather, and I love my granddaughters, but there's a limit to everything."
Tim does take credit for being diplomatic.
"You have to be very judicious when you have more than one granddaughter," said Tim, whose daughter-in-law is the mom of the oldest two and whose daughter is the mom of the youngest. "If one mother senses a child is getting more praise than another, it's Armageddon."
Tim said choosing the name you want your grandchildren to call you also is important.
"I like the names you and Sue picked out: Nini and Poppie," said Tim. "I've always been Big Daddy and Jane has been Go-Go. But when the youngest one was born, my daughter said she didn't like those names and wanted us to change them. So now we're Grammy and Grumpy."
Tim paused and added: "I'm Grumpy. And pretty soon, I'm going to introduce her to the Three Stooges."