Boomer Grandpa: Let's channel kids' activities away from TV

Summer is here finally and it feels great. For the baseball fan, there's nothing better. The sounds at the ballpark (Target or Mayo Field) or watching the M & M boys (Mauer & Morneau) play. Today almost every Twins game and certainly all the Vikings games are televised.

Most grandparents might not watch much TV with their grandkids, but now even watching the evening news or any sporting event we see a constant barrage of ads about male "problems," a new one concerns men's undergarment shields, and of course the blaring catwalk Victoria Secret advertisements.

Is nothing sacred anymore? Come on. Where is Charlie Tuna when you need him? Coca-Cola ads, Kellogg cereals, Pepsodent - where are you?

Years ago the ads were simple when boomers were growing up. They were pretty straightforward, nothing very personal.

My older sister Patty thinks my family got our first TV when we lived in Alaska, around 1957 or 1958 (yes, before Alaska became a state). Years later, when my family lived in Sandstone, Minn., I can remember when my Dad had the TV guy hook up a rotor. We could turn a dial on top of our set to point the antenna toward Duluth or toward the Twin Cities. You could even hear it turning. Wow, what would they think of next? With the whirling antenna on our roof we got maybe six channels and none of them were crystal clear reception.


If I watched the NBC baseball Game of the Week in the 1960s on a Saturday afternoon, the Hamm's Bear might come on dancing to the jingle "From the Land of Sky Blue Waters." My Mom and Dad never had to explain anything to me. It was beer. Adults drink beer. At some point in my life, I knew I would be able to visit the land of sky blue waters. (I still occasionally do.)

In those days when I read a Sports magazine I might see Mickey Mantle or Roger Maris smoking a Chesterfield cigarette. I figured it out. I knew I could try them at some point. Of course I didn't know that when I did try a Kool behind my Grandpa's barn in Kansas, I would be apprehended by my mom. Humbling moment for a 10-year-old — and I didn't smoke another cigarette after that.

Today, of course, there are a gazillion channels. It's hard to relax and enjoy a Vikings or Twins game with my grandkids. Now they are hearing about the "right moment" and seeing people in bathtubs or underwear models wearing, well, underwear. Good grief.

When I'm watching TV with the grandkids and these advertisements come on I might holler in a loud voice, "So, how has the weather been lately at your place?" or "Ahh, how was school today?" I don't know, color me old-fashioned, but it's getting ridiculous.

This past Sunday in the St. Paul Pioneer Press there was an article by Pamela Knudson about "Facts of Life" in regard to kids seeing sexual images and messages these days. The point was to talk to them early and often about attitudes and values.

If I do watch television with the grandkids, I better be prepared when they start asking questions. I will just say, "I'm not sure, you better ask your Mom." I think one time in the barrel for that job, talking to my own kids, is enough. It certainly would be nice to be able to watch TV with my grandkids without feeling uncomfortable when the ads come on.

I guess my idea to avoid ads that I don't care to see with the grandkids is to stay active and to get them outside as much as I possibly can. I have also been trying to get my 10-year-old grandson interested in chess and cribbage — no success so far, but I'm working on it.

Right now, it's summer. Boy, have we waited for this. Let's get in the car and get to some baseball games with grandkids in tow. It's the right moment and I certainly wouldn't think there will be anyone on the field in a bathtub or in their underwear.


Grandkid Quote of the Week

My two grandchildren have recently started taking piano lessons. My seven-year-old granddaughter was trying to teach me a few notes on her piano. She became a little frustrated with me when I didn't catch on fast enough, and she said, "Good grief, Grandpa, I'm seven and I know this stuff."

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