Commonplace Thoughts of a Residual Welshman: How to Get Grandchildren

These days, I meet more and more people who are desperate for grandchildren.  Yesterday, here in Rome, I sat at a coffee bar and spoke with a woman about my age, who was so looking forward to her first grandchild.  But she couldn’t conceive of a way to get this grandchild, even though her son, who I think she said was 29 years old, had been married five years, and her daughter of 27 years had been living with her boyfriend (in his wealthy parents’ home) for five years.  She wondered what she could do to promote one of them getting pregnant. 

Now of course, my first thought was, “Why, when I am sitting at a coffee bar in Rome, innocently drinking a cappuccino, do people always ask me weird questions like, ‘How do I get my kids to have unprotected sex?’” I think it’s some kind of strange ambiance that I must have that screams, “Go ahead, ask me a deeply personal question—I don’t care how weird it is.”

So she did, and I wish I had thought then of what I thought of subsequently. Instead of giving her a straight answer, I just commiserated, saying, “You know, people are having fewer and fewer kids these days. They’re so expensive!” Or something stupid like that.  But what should I have said?  That’s what I will tell you now.

“Plan A”: use reverse psychology. Pretend you hate the idea of grandchildren.  Say things like the world is “overcrowded” and “needs fewer people anyway.” If you’re like most parents, you’ll always be “wrong” so, de facto, you will be wrong about this. This alone should do the trick.  Your child will immediately find his or her significant other, copulate without protection and, if you’re lucky, conceive.

But what if your kid is not subject to reverse psychology? That is to say, they’re the one in twenty-five who actually respect their parents, though of course they can’t ever tell you that; that is Regulation Number 41 of the “Offspring Code.”  So that won’t work with them. In that case, discard the reverse psychology ploy and go to “Plan B”: find out what kind of contraceptive they are using and deliberately sabotage it.  I recommend doing this alone—don’t tell your spouse, if you have one, and don’t tell your in-laws.

The exception to that last piece of advice, though, would be that you know your in-laws have also been complaining about the same thing and there’s a chance that they’re creepy enough to go along with you in this plan.  This would be more likely to work if your child, like that of the woman at the bar, happens to live with the in-laws. Then, it is a simple matter. When the young couple is out of the house, show up for “tea” and, with the in-laws, break and enter into your child’s and his or her other significant other’s love next and poke holes in their condoms. This is easily done with a simple pin.  “Ninety-nine percent effective” is dramatically reduced to “ten percent effective” with a mere pin prick.

Third, let’s say they don’t use condoms or you are afraid to break and enter. Plan “C” is to use guilt.  Now the effectiveness of guilt depends on two things: 1) how far you’re willing to go with it and 2) how subject your child is to it. But, you’ll be glad to know, it’s really more number 1 than number 2.  Now the easy-to-say but far-less-effective type of guilt goes like this, “You know, Sarah’s daughter, Emily, has two babies already, and they’re soooo cute!” 

That will not work. Your daughter has probably secretly despised Emily anyway since childhood.  You made them play together just because you enjoyed spending time with Sarah, and Emily was a little brat.  Somehow you never noticed. Your daughter is more likely to turn this into your own guilt trip than hers.

No, the kind of guilt we’re talking about here involves, like a good Greek tragedy, the evocation of pathos.  “I am old now, and I may not live much longer. But I don’t need ever to see grandchildren to be fulfilled. Anyway, I would probably be a bad influence on them.” This will only work, by the way, if you will not be a bad influence. Those of you who are bad influences will need to modify the rollout somewhat. Yet this should do the trick, if you present it correctly. 

But some children are resistant, even to “Plan C.”  Which brings us to “Plan D.” It is the creepiest of all and makes tampering with the birth control seem like child’s play. “Plan D” is a modification of “Plan C,” and involves two things: part 1, lying and getting away with it, and part 2, a miracle.

Part 1 is the harder of the two: you have to create a disease that you don’t really have that is or could be terminal. Then you reapply a modified version of “Plan C”: “I know, given my diagnosis, that I may not live to see grandchildren, but I am content with that.  I just want what is best for you guys. The exact timing of when you start your family is way more important than whether some old,” [and here you fill in “lady” or “man” as appropriate], “lives to see it.”  And you have to sound like you mean it, for it to work.

Then the easy part, part 2: the “miracle.”  A few years later, you simply say that you went to the doctor and there’s no trace of that incurable disease. Everyone is happy, everyone wins!  They probably even throw a party for you.  And you just sit there grinning through the whole affair, for it worked: you got grandchildren. And because you were so ill, they even named the first baby after you. Congratulations!

And that’s how to get grandchildren.

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