Why Grandparenting Should Be an Olympic Sport

A new baby stokes the competitive fires.

grandparent-and-baby shutterstock.com

I know an athletic event that would have swim star Michael Phelps and track/bobsled athlete Lolo Jones flat on their faces and begging for mercy. It's what I call the Grandparent Games; they require competitiveness, stamina and feats of superhuman endurance. I should know: Ever since my first daughter was born a few years ago, I have had a front-row seat to some awe-inspiring displays of athleticism.

It all started about 30 minutes after Bellamy was born, when my husband phoned his and my parents to announce they had a new granddaughter. The race was on! Who would be first to speed across town in a taxi, maneuver the interminably slow hospital elevators and reach the foot of my bed, camera at the ready? We called that one a tie as they all breathlessly entered the room together, 22 minutes later.

Related: 4 Common Delivery Day Dilemmas

The arrival of grandchildren seems to unlock previously untapped stores of energy, passion and strength in people who should be spending their golden years kicking back. So why not make it official and give out some prizes? Here, my proposal for the five medal events of the Grandparent Games: The Great Gift Race: I have friends in the suburbs whose houses have become 5,000-square-foot toy chests, as each grandparent tries to out-gift the other. A Barbie Jeep given by one grandma begets a Barbie palace by the other. The prize, of course, goes to whoever can find a toy that will keep little Isabelle entertained long enough for Mom and Dad to eat dinner and read an entire section of the newspaper in peace.

The Tigger Triathlon: Not long after my older daughter casually mentioned to my father that she wanted a Tigger DVD. Dad could have ordered it online, but that would have been too easy. Like Indiana Jones trying to find the Ark of the Covenant, he raced from store to store until he found one. The medal goes to the grandparent who puts the most miles on the car searching for that one obscure object of desire.

The Time Trials: In this event, contestants angle to see who can spend the most time with the grandchild. When my mother-in-law volunteered to be my daughters' regular Wednesday-afternoon date, my parents were soon rearranging their schedules to babysit every Monday. The big winner? Me, of course, the mom who got two free days of child care a week!

The Endurance Derby: The first time my parents had Bellamy to their house for a sleepover, they took her to every child-friendly venue within 10 miles, including a children's museum, a petting zoo, a playground and McDonald's. When we came to pick her up, both my parents were collapsed on the couch while Bellamy did cartwheels around the living room. A special ribbon goes to any grandparent who survives an entire weekend with a toddler.

The Quick Draw: You can almost see the slo-mo replay of this event: Grandma is cruising the supermarket cereal aisle when she spots her neighbor pushing a cart in her direction. They lock eyes, pause for a second, then quick as lightning reach into their handbags and pull out their "brag books" of baby photos. Whoever gets the book open first wins. Let the games begin!