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  • Writer's pictureAllan Shedlin

This Is What I Learned From My Lovely Emma On A Windy Day

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

A Guest Post by Rob Richardson

Program Instructor, the Close Up Foundation and DCG DADvisory Team Member

“Bye. See you tonight.” Then off went my daughter, her husband, and their 6-year-old.

And so began my day alone with Emma.

Emma’s my 9-year-old granddaughter, the first offspring of my first offspring. To say Emma is a delight begs more descriptive adjectives. She starts talking as she enters a room, snuggles for a hug when you least expect it, and asks probing questions, like, “But, what would Captain Underpants do at a time like this?”

When she's not talking while entering a room, she enters reading a book. Usually, it’s one of the Captain Underpants classics. But she also absorbs any number of other age-appropriate novels.

Rob and Emma and Captain Underpants

Emma was the one who introduced me to the elementary school principal who, through no choice of his own, was hypnotized by a couple of boys into becoming Captain Underpants! I hadn’t laughed out loud at a cartoon since the original Rocky and Bullwinkle of my youth. I mean, kids are not supposed to turn their principals into bumbling superheroes who wear huge underwear while battling fearsome villains named “Professor Poopypants!”

But my time with Emma was always either too short or in competition with her energetic, athletic, 6-year-old brother, Zach. They snuggle while watching TV, run around making up games, or yell at each other (because the one who yells loudest will definitely convince the other to stop doing that annoying thing they are doing).

Today was different.

Today, Emma’s parents were taking Zach for the day. It was time for Emma and me to make a day happen together.

Emma grabbed her book (The Captain, of course) and I grabbed a picnic lunch. It was time to discover what might still be open given the coronavirus restrictions and where a grandfather and granddaughter could spend a nice day learning more about each other.

On the way to our still-to-be-determined destination, Emma and I talked through a few superhero adventures. But soon the conversation drifted to me talking about our family’s history and her talking about her friends and what she liked about them. I discovered she really liked being with a 4-year-old in her neighborhood. She ruminated that someday she might want to be a pre-K teacher.

Wow, I thought, what a fine aspiration. And I told her so.

“My mind isn’t made up, Papi,” she cautioned.

It was a nice day as far as pandemic days are concerned. Very sunny, but quite windy.

I knew of a hotel and restaurant complex that was on the site of an old plantation in Virginia, not more than 40 minutes from the house. Emma was game, and off we went.

When I was there two weeks earlier, the buildings were closed but the property was open and the occasional visitor walked through the gardens. When Emma and I arrived, we found the property closed up tight. I decided to help her hop a low fence and we picnicked near a waterfall. Emma read me some more from Captain Underpants, and we both had a giggle or two while eating our grilled cheese and sliced apples.

After finishing our lunch, we headed home to watch a cartoon of the Captain teaming up with a mysterious 80-year-old karate superhero. The two protected the neighborhood from gigantic robots and, miraculously, the good guys prevailed.

Next, it was bath and bedtime.

As I sat after putting Emma to bed, I reflected on how lucky I was to have some time alone with her. I found a granddaughter who had a wonderful sense of humor, a gentle and intelligent way, and who loved taking care of younger children.

Paying closer attention to her, I learned a lot. I realized Emma had no guile. She is a careful observer of what’s around her and has an instinct for caring, which, while not constant, is absolutely authentic. My granddaughter is a personable, lovable girl.

It was a good day to be a grandfather!


Rob Richardson is the proud father of three girls and “Papi” to two grandsons and a granddaughter. He is a senior business strategist and educator with a focus on non-profit, philanthropic, and educational programs and organizations. Currently, he is a Program Instructor at the Close Up Foundation. He also is a DCG DADvisory Team member making the Daddying blog's first, but certainly not last, post focused on granddaddying.

With communications and leadership roles consulting for The Conference Board and the Committee for Economic Development, Rob prepared business leaders to amplify their voice and direct corporate resources to propel state and local education improvement. Before that, he led program development and fundraising at Achieve, Inc. and Change the Equation, both national non-profits launched and supported by CEOs. From 2001-2011, Rob served as the East Coast education manager for Intel Corporation. He provided strategic direction to Intel’s investments in K-12 schools and higher education to improve programs in math, science, and engineering, particularly for women and underrepresented minorities. Prior to that, he founded and was president of a regional education center for nine years, offering professional development to teachers in 10 school districts. For this, his organization won a White House citation for public/private partnerships. Rob earned a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University and a master’s from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He currently lives in Washington, DC, not far from family members.


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