The Common Good
March 2011

Grandfathers Are Our Future

by Ed Spivey Jr. | March 2011

It's official: WikiLeaks says she's the cutest.

As the nation's leaders have warned us -- when they're not serving seconds on dessert to the wealthy -- our economic future is in jeopardy. If we do nothing to staunch the flow of government spending, we’ll be passing on an enormous debt to our grandchildren.

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It’s a complex problem, but there's a simple answer: We need more grandchildren.

I'm starting immediately, having recently taken delivery of my first. And from her beautiful face and sweet demeanor you'd never guess her share of the national debt is about $600,000, give or take the taxes that deserving Wal-Mart heirs won't have to pay.

Her financial obligations aside, looking at this child reminds me of why superlatives were invented. In fact, WikiLeaks just released secret government documents disclosing that my granddaughter is cuter than anyone in the State Department.

Yes, her hair is a little thin in front, but the timeless solution of the comb-over is just one of many ideas I plan to suggest. Because, let’s face it, I need to make up for failing to raise my own daughters to be productive members of society. One is wasting her time protecting the environment, which Republicans say is no longer necessary. And the other -- the new mom -- is not a doctor (eliminating any use for the "My Kid's a Doctor and Yours Isn't" bumper sticker I ordered), preferring instead to be a hospital trauma nurse. Like that's hard.

Speaking of hospitals, my last visit was for the recent birth. My presence was critical since I was the only person in the delivery room who had the time to check email and monitor my favorite blogs. I shared the latest headlines at numerous times, but with all the commotion I don't think anybody was listening. So I remained at my assigned position by the window, where it was felt I would be of most use, ready to turn away from the latest YouTube video when needed. But when the doctor asked -- with an enthusiasm I still can’t understand -- "Okay, who wants to look at the placenta?!" I suddenly remembered an important phone call I had to receive, out in the hall, where the reception was better. Darn the luck.

With a grandaughter at home, I'm learning a lot about the latest trends in child-rearing. For example, nursing mothers are now encouraged to grasp the baby in what's called the "football hold," a term that I'm guessing was coined by legendary coach Vince Lombardi. Unfortunately, after catching the ball and remembering their coach’s advice, many of his receivers just sort of stood there, lost in the moment, before being tackled violently from behind.

And who knew diaper technology had advanced so much? Diapers now come with a patented "Leak-Lock System" that works perfectly every time, except when your boss is holding the baby. (And why diaper manufacturers don't incorporate dung beetles is still puzzling to me.)

To no one's surprise, a new baby triggered my natural protective instincts. Springing into action after the birth, I immediately gathered up the boxes of paper clips we keep next to our electrical outlets. Safety first, I always say. We'll just have to figure out another way to check the electricity.

And speaking of safety, for much of my granddaughter's young life I hope to keep her suspended securely in a net hung half-way between floor and ceiling, far from the electrical outlets that still have boxes of bobby pins nearby. (I can't think of everything.) This will only be temporary, of course, until she becomes a teenager, at which point I’ll pull the net closer to the ceiling.

Our new granddaughter was an Advent miracle, the blessed conclusion of our time of waiting and watching for the Grand Child. Although her birth was not greeted by shepherds who watched their flocks by night, it was noted by our cat, who watches her bowl by day, in case something happens. The baby was a welcome addition to the other seasonal visitors to our home, such as the Christmas Sink Fairy, who magically appears each night to wash the dirty dishes placed there by my adult daughters. Sadly, the Christmas Laundry Fairy wasn't seen at all this year, even though my children left cookies and milk on top of the washing machine.

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.

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