My daughter just told me she’s pregnant with her first child, which means I’m about to become a grandfather. I’m looking forward to it — provided the child is healthy, attractive and intelligent. These qualities, however, are not guaranteed, as my superior genes will inevitably be mixing with those from his or her father’s side.
Before a child’s birth, all new grandparents must make one very important decision: they must choose what they want the child to call them. I suppose some grandparents allow their grandchildren to come up with names for them, which is how they end up being called dumbass shit like Gam Gam. But I’ve never ceded control to anyone — much less a baby — and I don’t plan to start now.
I could go with the simple and classic Grandpa, but that seems a bit informal. Pop, Pop Pop, Papa or any iteration thereof is completely out of the question, for obvious reasons. I’ve toyed with the idea of having the child call me Nono, which is what I called both of my grandfathers the few times I visited them in Italy, but my grandchild will be half Irish, and therefore unable to fully appreciate the great blessing of his or her Italian heritage. I know one man who insists his grandchildren call him Rocky, which is exactly the kind of playfulness I plan to avoid with my own grandchildren. Grandfather is a reasonable option, but I’m worried it will be shortened to Granddad, which I absolutely cannot abide.
For all of these reasons, I’ve decided to have my grandson or granddaughter call me Al. It’s what everyone else, including my children, calls me — why should my grandchildren be any different? The last thing I want to do is give them the idea that our relationship is special in any way, or that I’ll be a different person to them than I am to anyone else. After all, I plan on showing the child the same amount of affection I show everyone else in my life: none. There will be no knee bouncing, no tickling, no baby talk and no nonsense of any kind. As such, forcing the child to call me Al seems like the only appropriate option. Less formal than my full first name Alfredo, Al conveys the exact amount of familiarity I find appropriate under these circumstances: very little.
I believe Al sets the exact tone for the relationship I wish to have with this and all of my grandchildren. This child must understand that ours will be a criticism-based relationship, and that we’ll discuss two topics almost exclusively: the child’s weight and the child’s schooling. I vow to always be the first person to tell the child when he or she has gained so much as five pounds. Each time I see the child, I will interrogate them about their progress in school and urge them to do better. In the event the child is earning straight A’s, I will take full genetic credit for the child’s intelligence.
Becoming a grandparent is a rare opportunity to set a precedent for your relationship with a person from birth, which is why I’m going to make sure this child feels uncomfortable around me from day one. The world is a difficult place, and your first — but not last — challenge is me. It’s nice to meet you, kid. You can call me Al.