I have a new little buddy.
His name is Joaquin. But I call him Little Dude or Mr. Wiggles.
I am 67 years old. As I write this, Joaquin has just turned 3 months old. He is my grandson.
Yep, first grandchild. I understand I’m getting a late start on grandparenthood, so I’m trying to catch up as fast as I can.
And that means trying to impart the wisdom I have gained from almost seven decades, so Little Dude can make his way in this crazy world. His crazy world, of course, will be so much different from my crazy world. So I’ll try to advise him in ways that are universal, not generation-specific. Like being a Giants fan, folding a burrito and driving his parents insane.
(Actually, he should figure out that last one by himself. Kids have a way of doing that, just as his mom did.)
OK, let’s get a few things clear. As a career sportswriter, I was a failure when my daughter enrolled in a college that did not have intercollegiate athletics. And now, neither Joaquin’s mom nor dad have much interest in sports.
But I can take one look at the Little Dude and tell he’s going to be a hell of an athlete — he’s kicking up a storm, he has a powerful grip and he already has mastered the game face.
So I have declared myself in charge of teaching hand-eye coordination. If he’s tall and rangy, I see several options — golf, tennis, swimming, futbol goalie. If he’s shorter and muscular, I’ll steer him to wrestling or maybe gymnastics. If he’s left-handed, he gets a baseball in his crib. No football, no hockey, no boxing; we value brain cells in our family.
But I’m an open-minded guy. Mr. Wiggles might wish to be a dancer, a poet or a theoretical physicist. Or, judging by the way he’s always willing to smile for a camera, an actor. OK by me, as long as he also can master a well-struck 5-iron, a sliced backhand, a 3-point jumper or a smooth backstroke. Got to be a well-rounded Little Dude.
So, to help me wrap my brain around the next couple of decades, here is my Top 10 list of advice for young Joaquin while he grows into adulthood.
(Pay attention, kid. This may be as lucid as you’ll ever see me. I’ll be 85 at your high school graduation, and if your grades are good enough, I promise not to show up in my tie-dyed Jimmy Buffett & the Coral Reefers T-shirt.)
1. Treat people with respect, and they will reciprocate. If you are rude and insolent, you’ll have an unhappy life.
2. Learn to appreciate the outdoors. There are few things man made that can stand up to what nature has to offer.
3. Understand that technology produces tools for us to control. Do not let them control you.
4. Your family is your biggest source of support. We don’t always agree on everything, but the love is always there. We will never abandon you.
5. Understand partisan politics for what it is — a game in which the self-important try to force their will on the self-impotent. Don’t fall for it.
6. Choose your battles wisely. Champion righteous causes, and learn how to identify them. Perfect the art of compromise — and try to understand and respect the opinions of others. (Remember, understanding someone’s opinion does not mean you have to agree with it.)
7. Try to master something — a sport, a trade, an art form. There is great satisfaction to being good at something. And don’t cheat. You will never enjoy success if you earned it fraudulently.
8. Words are important, so use them properly (like knowing the difference between there, their and they’re). And learn other languages. Pay attention to your father when he speaks to you in Spanish.
9. Believe in something — science, a religious faith, a ball team. Use it to enhance your life, not to condemn others. But don’t let someone else force their beliefs on you — especially Dodgers fans.
10. Value education — and not just for a job skill. Embrace the arts and sciences so you will be an educated person, better able to make important judgments and decisions. Because decision-making is your most important task. If you make the correct decisions most of the time, you will have few regrets. And that will make Grandpa proud.
It’s up to you, Little Dude. But don’t hesitate to ask your parents for help and advice. No, really.
Ken Robison is a retired Fresno Bee reporter and editor. He lives in Selma.