Whatever you want, Darling.

Have you ever noticed a look of resignation on a child’s face? That moment when a grandchild gives in, and does what the parents say. You can tell that submission isn’t easy. Something happens in the shoulders. The head may droop. The step may be slow.

Go to bed now, young lady.

Rise and shine, it’s time for school.

Brush your teeth. Right now.

Two more bites of beans, or no dessert.

Kiss Aunt Daisy. She loves you. (We know she smells funny.)

Hug your sister. She didn’t mean to trip you.

No more screen time for you,

And so it goes.

As a grandmother, I recognize and applaud the authority of the parents. Their job is to raise the children to be responsible adults.  But as a grandmother, I can sometimes feel the powerlessness that overcomes them.

So I have a little grandparent antidote. It’s called, “Whatever you want, Darling.” When I have a grandchild to myself and there are choices to be made, I set it up so that all the choices are acceptable, and then I say, “Whatever you want, Darling.”

If we get a snack on the way home from school, the choice of where to buy it is up to him. If we are taking a walk, the choice of route is up to her. Going to a bookstore? Make sure you are in the right section of the store. And then let the child choose. Are you listening to music in the car? Surely you can stand a few minutes of what sounds like bangs and crashes. The morning of a sleepover, it’s time for breakfast. Cold pizza or cereal? You know the phrase by now. The smiles in response are magic to me, and I believe that there’s no harm in letting a child choose between acceptable alternatives.

I know parents whose son was accepted in two good high schools. They were different, but both were fine and so to my surprise the parents let him choose. They declined to editorialize. It was his life. It was fascinating to watch this teenager square his shoulders and make his decision. Making this choice was his first steps toward adulthood.

Kids have to mind their parents. But we can give them a little taste of freedom—and responsibility–by setting things up so we can say, “Whatever you want, Darling.”