Second-Fiddle to Pop

Our grandson yelled “Pop’s here,” and ran toward us as we entered our oldest daughter’s home. Zack halted in front of me. I was in his way to get to Pop, who was coming through the door behind me. I slyly blocked Pop, who was in cahoots with me, hiding behind my back. I had gotten used to playing second-fiddle to my husband around the grandchildren and found ways to have fun with it.

Priscilla came up behind her son as I snorted. Familiar with the scene, she said, “Zack, say hi to Grandma.”

Zack's excitement to greet Pop had made me invisible. Only after Pop had lifted, flipped and put Zack back down, did our grandson focus on me. I materialized into a person in the space where he had only seen a barrier to Pop. Keeping an eye on Pop, Zack gave me a hug and allowed me to kiss his towhead. I love the unabashed sincerity of a three-year-old.

When Zack’s sister was three, she preferred visiting Pop at home. Priscilla dropped Mia off, and she bee-lined straight to Pop. I grinned as she whooshed past me and tipped back her head to his face towering over her yo-yoing curls, her miniature body wiggling with anticipation in front of Pop.  

Pop and Mia began their play with a favorite drama. Mia magically put Pop to sleep. He stretched out on the couch, pulled his baseball cap over his eyes, and started snoring. Mia snuck up to sleeping Pop and cried, “Wake up, wake up,” shaking his arm.

Surprised Pop called, “Who woke me up?” Mia bounced, giggling. Pop squinted at her. “Did YOU wake me up?” That was her que to begin casting her sleep spell again.

When the game lost its novelty, Pop’s hat drew Mia’s attention. Instead of waking him, she grabbed the brim and whipped it off Pop’s bald head.

He sat up. “Give me back my hat, you monkey.” Pop shook his finger at Mia, like the salesman in the children’s book Caps for Sale did to monkeys who stole his caps. I had read the classic to Mia during another visit when Pop needed a rest.  

Mia tossed Pop’s hat back onto his head. It landed with the brim to the side instead of facing forward. Pop didn’t fix it. I snickered at the new style along with Mia.

Wobbling his head, he announced, “I’m G-Pop.” He caught an imaginary microphone from the air and started raping. “G-Pop’s in the house. Yeah, yeah. It’s G-Pop.”

Mia got her invisible microphone and rapped along to the song, putting her name into the lyrics. Pop added a turntable to their air performance and scratched a pretend beat to their original composition. “It’s Mia and G-Pop comin’ at ya. Yeah, yeah.” As their audience, I laughed so hard I had to run to the bathroom.

Priscilla arrived to take Mia home. Still wound up, Mia said, “Mommy, I don’t wanna go home. I wanna play music with Pop.” She continued her pogo dance rap.

Pop pulled his baseball cap’s brim forward. “You have to get ready to go home now.”

Mia turned the brim to the side again and picked up where her performance had left off.

Pop swiveled the brim to its original position. “It’s time to go, Mia.” He stood up when she reached for the cap. Mia climbed onto the couch next to where Pop stood. Again, she tried to slide the brim and bring back G-Pop.

Priscilla lifted Mia from the couch onto the floor. She got down to Mia’s level and explained in a calm voice, “Mia, it’s time to go home. We’ll visit Grandma and Pop again soon.”

Mia stepped away from Priscilla and said, “But I don’t wanna go home. Me and Pop are playin’.”

“It’s getting late and you’re tired. Pop’s tired too.” Priscilla shouldered Mia’s bag of playthings that we hadn’t opened. She went to take Mia’s hand, but Mia pulled away.

“I don’t wanna go home.” Mia cried angry, tired little girl tears.

Priscilla wrangled her and said a quick good-bye to me and Pop. She carried Mia through the house as I followed with Pop hiding behind me. At the front door, we plopped quick kisses onto Priscilla and Mia’s perspiring foreheads.

Mia let out an insistent wail. “I wanna stay with G-Pop.”

All three of us adults tried masking our laughter. But we couldn’t do it. Our mirth made Mia’s volume rise. “I want G-Pop” echoed through our house and blew out the front door from our daughter’s arms.

Pop and I have another grandchild who’s a big fan of G-P.

Arriving at my pregnant daughter’s house to babysit, I anticipated Malcom’s usual greeting. As I came through the back door, he ran into the kitchen and stopped in front of me with rosy cheeks. “Hi, Malcom,” I said.

He scanned the kitchen, let out a breath and asked, “Where’s Pop?” Was he accusing me of purposefully leaving Pop at home? Malcom stepped closer and looked up at me suspiciously, “Pop’s working?”

“No, he’s busy today, honey.” I expected him to accept this and settle for playing a board game. Pop didn’t enjoy games that came in a box as much as Grandma. And Malcom loved them.

He looked me up and down, avoiding my face. Like he was frisking me with his eyes. Didn’t he believe that Pop wasn’t in the house? Or in Grandma’s pocket? Maybe he couldn’t understand Pop and I weren’t physically connected when Pop wasn’t at work.

His disappointment made me feel bad for the little guy. He really enjoyed being with his pop. “Mommy told me you got a new game. Topple,” I said. Malcom had a knack for balancing things. He astounded us standing a credit card on the slim, shallow lip of their fireplace guard, and stacking blocks higher than children his age usually had the ability to do.

Malcom turned away and walked into the living room explaining how to play the new game. That was my invitation to follow him. Our outbursts, when the pieces fell, weren’t as raucous as over Pop’s antics. But Pop’s fan seemed to enjoy our focused play as much as I did.

None of my grandchildren ever threw a tantrum when they had to leave me. But they come to Grandma to do home experiments, when they need juice, or want to go on an adventure walk. I must admit, I also fan over G-Pop. As his sidekick, I settle for basking in the glow of his popularity. After all, I get to play with him every day.




  1. Oh my gosh! I love this, Dawn. And I truly understand. When MY grandchildren see me, they usually say, "Where's Auntie Re," my daughter, or "Where's Pop"? I am third fiddle in this group. My husband usually plays with them like your husband and can take the physical wiggling and still hold on. I am like you. When I'm with the kids, I take them on adventure walks. I play let's pretend, or hide and seek. When we play hide and seek, my grandchildren tell me where to hide.
    And if I don't hide there, they say:
    "Gramma, didn't I tell you to hide in the closet?"
    I'd answer, "Well, yes but..."
    "Get in the closet." And they stand there, arms akimbo as best a 3 and 4 year old can, watching.

    Great post, Dawn!

    1. I love your story about your grandchildren telling you where to hide, and being persistent about it. So much fun. Thank you for it.


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