The Better Letter: Field of Dreams

Eight simple rules for grandparents plus a bunch more

More than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems safe to say that we’re finally — finally — entering the late innings. The early optimistic numbers on post-vaccine transmission rates seem to be holding up. On Monday, the White House announced that all 50 U.S. states have made vaccination possible for their full adult population. On Wednesday, 2,563,671 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered, with 134,445,595 Americans (more than half of those eligible) having now received at least one dose.

For me, it’s beginning to feel like it’s late in the game, too.

This week I went to Petco Park and saw the Padres play there for the first time since 2019. It was wonderful to be out and it was wonderful that my bride and I were out with baseball. 

My dad worked in a steel mill. When the weather allowed, I’d wait for him to come home in the evening at the end of our street. Supper would have to wait. I’d be holding my baseball glove and his, plus a ball, waiting to have a catch.

On account of the miracle of vaccines, I also saw my children and grandchildren last week – for the first time since last summer. Lots of catch was involved there, too. Eight simple rules for grandparents are the primary focus of this week’s TBL.

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Building a Field of Dreams

Parenting is hard. Really hard.

As the philosopher Peter Kreeft recognized, “Having children is the most heroic thing we can do because nothing changes your life more than having children. Martyrdom is easy; it’s over quickly; children are never over. Never. Not even if they die before you.”

Grandparenting, on the other hand, is mostly delight. My ninth grandchild is due in September. It’s like Cicero (quoting Caecilius Statius) “plant[ing] trees for the use of another age” or, better still, building a field of dreams and having the best time ever doing it.

I have eight simple rules for grandparents I think are worth sharing. I try to live by them. My better half really does.

  1. What you do matters (they are always watching). Don’t forget: They are always watching.

  2. Love them unconditionally (no more and no less). Good parents set boundaries and expectations. Support the parents but let them take all of that on themselves. Their rules may not be yours. We actively try to avoid doing more than loving them for strategic reasons, too. If all you do is love the grands, they’ll come to you when they can’t or won’t go to their parents – and better you than anybody else. Besides, it’s like being able to ignore vegetables and getting double dessert.

  3. Keep reminding them how wonderful they are. I want my grandchildren to know that Grandy and I are their biggest fans and supporters. One of my grandsons had his Opening Day last Saturday. It was glorious. We all cheered, the right team won, and Will autographed a baseball for us. It’s on display already.

  4. Be generous (especially with time). Kids care less about what you do as that you do it. I try to do what my grandchildren want as long as they want to and we are allowed. My record is nearly two-and-a-half consecutive hours of catch. I thought my arm might fall off. The societal emphasis on “quality time” is more myth than reality. There is no substitute for (just-plain) time.

  5. Bend the rules (but don’t break them). Respect the rules, but don’t be afraid to stretch things a bit for the benefit of the grands.

  6. Tell stories. A good story allows the listener to feel thoughts, allowing us to learn and remember them. Stories are thus the best way to teach family history, values, and other important lessons. And kids love to hear about their parents when they were kids.

  7. Have fun. Fun is the best activity and crucial to your legacy.

  8. Offer wisdom (carefully and sparingly). Age brings a modicum of wisdom, if you’ve done things right. Grandchildren are uniquely positioned to hear and absorb it from you.

Getting old(er) isn’t always great. But grandchildren are amazing. They’re a great reward for having survived parenting. Grandparents have most of the fun (and often a lot more) without the responsibilities of parenting.

Win-win.


Totally Worth It

We tend to major in the minors and ignore the most significant threats, as demonstrated below (wait for it).


If you tied a rope tight around the Earth’s equator – 24,901 miles of rope – and then added just a single yard of slack, would the extra material make any noticeable difference to someone standing on the ground nearby? 

I was astonished to find that, contrary to our intuition, the answer is, “Yes.” 

The additional yard of rope raises it almost six inches off the ground all around the earth. The 20th-century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein believed that the gap between our intuition and physical reality reveals something important about our thinking. After all, if something that seems obvious to almost everyone can be totally false, what else might we be wrong about?

As it turns out, the correct answer to that question is, “A lot.” 


Alex Pareene: “I’m no public health expert, but from what I’ve seen the clotting issue needs study. But since it only affected women, the right move would've been for the FDA to declare J+J the ‘Dudes Only’ vaccine and then print t-shirts that say ‘It Takes a Real Man to Handle This Johnson.’”


Last week, I offered what I described as perhaps the best one-minute movie ever. My friend Tom Brakke, proprietor of the excellent periodical, The Investment Ecosystem fortnightly (if you aren’t already a subscriber, take a moment to go here and sign up; I’ll wait), emailed to acknowledge that my offering was pretty great but proposed one he thinks is even better. Decide for yourself. I think he’s right.

This one is five minutes rather than one, but it’s pretty great, too.


Democracy across the globe has declined for the 15th year in a row, according to Freedom House’s annual “Freedom in the World” report. Arch Puddington details this backsliding for American Purpose, explaining why today’s dictators are even worse than those of the past. 


This is the most delightful thing I saw or read this week. The most powerful. The most inspiring. The most important. The most crucial. The most fascinating. The most remarkable. The coolest (even though it was very hot). The craziest. The best advice. The most incredible. The most terrifying (if you were there) and the most terrifying because we are there; it is also brilliant journalism. The funniest. The stupidest. The most audacious. The most bizarre. The smartest. The sweetest. The least surprising. The most poignant

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In a manuscript tradition labeled the “processus Sathanae” — Satan’s lawsuit — 14th Century legal scholars imagined surreal trial scenarios in which the Prince of Darkness pursued Hell’s claim to the souls of humanity in a celestial court, with God acting as judge. Significantly, the suit of Satan is always right on the merits. He has no need to lie in the courtroom. Humanity convicts itself. There isn’t any disputing what we have done; the only question is how the debt to justice will be paid.

Thanks to the mercy, grace, and the work of Christ, the Lord always finds in humanity’s favor despite the evidence. Here is that concept in musical form: NEEDTOBREATHE’s driving, powerful Mercy’s Shore.

“One day we’ll wash up on mercy’s shore.”

And when grace abounds and we get pulled out of trouble….


Benediction

Children are a wonderful blessing. Grandchildren are grace personified. And I am thankful beyond measure for them. This week’s benediction is Avi Kaplan’s lovely Song for the Thankful.

Thanks for reading.

Issue 60 (April 23, 2021)