Learning 21st century grandparenting techniques

I may not be smarter than a 5th grader, but I can darned sure pull one over on a 10-month-old.

To my immense displeasure, it seems my grandson keeps helping himself to my prized remote controls, one for the television and a second one for Amazon fire TV.  He much prefers the Amazon Fire remote’s smaller size and rounded edges, apparently preferable chew toy qualities.

It was cute at first.  It really was.  I’d be stretched out carrying on the time-honored tradition of lounging comfortably while channel-surfing long established by my father and his father before him, and I’d catch the little tyke staring at the remote with fascination.

Like my dad’s remote, my Amazon Fire remote even responds to voice commands, although the commands I can issue are more robust: “Alexa, play The Lord of the Rings.”

Dad’s voice commands were not dissimilar: “Michael, get in here and change this TV over to channel 6!”

Yes, I was my father’s remote control.

Heaven forbid the reception was bad.  Then I had to go turn the antennae outside or, preceding that advanced technology, hold aluminum foil on the rabbit ears.  If I ever get cancer, I am convinced it will be due to holding aluminum foil on the rabbit ears during the entirety of Super Bowl X in 1976 when I watched my favorite Quarterback of all time, Terry Bradshaw, lead the Steelers to defeat the Dallas Cowboys lead by my favorite coach of all time, Tom Landry.  It was quite a conundrum for more than my stiff neck and arms, but since I loved every single player on the Steelers roster, I was actually thrilled.  I’m still just a little sad for Landry, though.

Being dad’s remote was a responsibility handed down to me by my sister and later passed on to my brother, although his time of suffering was greatly reduced by the purchase of a television with a real infrared remote control.  While the rest of our family felt as cool as the Jetsons, I quietly harbored significant resentment that my brother did not suffer the same agony as my long years of being disturbed from the pinnacle of GI Joe’s covert infiltration of a Cobra base.

He got off easy in my opinion, but I was comforted by the less numerous but still not infrequent shouts of, “Shannon, get in here and hand me the remote!”

I do my kids the honor and respect of always keeping the remotes within arm’s reach.  If I need a drink from the fridge, well that is another thing…

But now, there is this:  The constant battle of the grandbaby snagging the remote and directing it promptly to his mouth for a taste and me, if I am too slow, wiping away a thick layer of saliva before tucking the remote safely out of his reach.  Sometimes it’s almost enough to make me set him down.  Not quite, but almost.

He is so fascinated by it, of course, because he thinks it might be food.  He seems to think everything in existence is food.

Amazon remote?  Let me taste it!

Thomas the Tank engine?  Food.

A book?  Food.

A ball? Food!

Food?  Projectile!

I’ll never comprehend that last one, but I do vaguely recall my kids wanting to put everything in their mouths at that age, and I rest comfortably in the knowledge that most children grow out of this phase.  Not so much, myself, of course.  Even today, if someone gets between me and a hot Krispy Kreme, that somebody could lose a finger.

Still, for the short term at least, this competition for my remote is solved.

“How?” you might ask?

Well, I had an Amazon fire remote go bad a few years ago and, packrat that I am, I never disposed of it. So now, when I am resting comfortably, channel-surfing by the traditional manipulation of buttons on the remote because I am old school, I place the defunct remote on my belly, look sternly at him, and threaten severe consequences such as tickling or washing his face and wait for the magic to happen.

Almost immediately, his eyes lock on the treasured device.  His mouth begins to water at such a rapid pace that I myself have considered the possibility that maybe these remotes actually taste good or something.  I’ll get caught up in my show only to realize moments later, the little pickpocket has the remote squarely in his hands, chewing on one end like a pit bull gnawing on a rawhide bone.

To properly set the hook the first few times, I wiggled the bait by snatching it back from him, feigning irritation and placing it back on my belly.  Each time he follows with a subtle or not-so-subtle counter-snatching of the device, finally strategizing that he can turn his back to me and I won’t see him trying desperately to reach the electronic marrow inside.


48 year old grandpa – 1.

10 month old grandson – 0.

My wife tells me this is not a great parenting technique, but I’m not parenting.  I’m grandparenting.  My only regret in this masterfully executed ploy is that I can’t brag to him about it and expect any appreciation of my brilliance for years to come.

Until then, I’ll try to not be concerned that every time I change channels, he looks at his chew toy inquisitively and gives me a suspicious glower.

© Michael L. Collins


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