Even When I Think I Understand My Grandkids, I Do Not


My grandchildren are exceptionally bright. This is, of course, because they have my DNA in them. Virtually any grandparent out there will tell you this very same thing about their grandchildren but, in my case, it’s true! Other grandparents may also tell you that I am severely misguided, and that their grandchildren are truly the brightest stars in the universe. I am not about to get into a shouting match with those people. I don’t need to. I know the truth.

Case in point: The other day my grandson Skippy, now 7, came up to me and asked, “Did you ever go on safari, grandma?”

This is exactly the kind of sentence that sets my grandchildren apart. The little genius didn’t ask, “Did you ever go on a safari?” but phrased it as a proper English gentleman would — “on safari.”

I answered honestly, as I always do. “No, I didn’t, but your grandpa Mark did when he was in the Merchant Marines.”

The truth here is that Mark’s father had had it with him when Mark was a teenager and signed him up for the Merchant Marines against his will. Mark spent a horrible, hot summer in the belly of a ship, shoveling coal. To make matters worse, upon reaching the coast of Africa, Mark sat down on the dock in a pool of cashew oil which, it turns out, is a caustic resin used to make varnishes and will wreak havoc on your backside. Which it did.

“Annnd,” I continued. “When grandpa was on safari, he was charged by an elephant!”

“He was?!” Skippy was duly impressed.

“Yes,” I said. “He was in a Jeep with other people but, yes, your very own grandpa was charged by an elephant.”

Skippy pondered this, then asked a follow-up question. “What card did he use?”


“The elephant.”

It took me a minute, but I got it. Then I got something else. “Hold on, Skippy,” I said. “Are you talking about Safari the web browser or a real safari?”

“The web browser. What are you talking about?”

“A real safari!”

“What is a ‘real’ safari?”

“It’s when you put on a pith helmet and grab your blunderbuss and go into the jungle and shoot wild animals!”

I couldn’t believe what I was saying. It sounded made-up, even to me.

But 7-year-olds are just learning about the world, and you have to admit that, except for the inevitable extinction of beautiful, peaceful animals whose potential value to the earth hasn’t even been determined yet, taking out an elephant sounds kinda cool. I mean, if you’re 7.

After I dropped Skippy off at home, I told my daughter about the conversation. She laughed, thinking it was just hilarious that I hadn’t simply assumed that the kid meant the web browser. “Who goes on safari in the jungle anymore, mom?” she said. “I mean, really. You do know that you go ‘on Safari’ every day, don’t you?”

No, I did not. But I now had firsthand knowledge of the phrase “generation gap.” And I also had a nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach that once you pass down your superior DNA, it’s gone. Gone for good.