Recently, my husband and I offered to take care of my daughter’s children over a long weekend. We had taken care of the grandchildren overnight before but never for three nights and not at their present ages of one and three. It was a weekend to remember and one for the books!
We love all our grandchildren but to be truthful I had forgotten what it is like to take care of a little one year old whose sole desire is to walk and then run after her older brother. The older brother has just entered his third year. There is no such thing as a ‘terrible two’. I say ‘terrible’ because I remembered my own children at the age of two (piece of cake) and them at the age of three (not too much). Not sure where that term, ‘terrible twos’ comes from.
Our little granddaughter is a go get ’em kind of girl….a spitfire! I guess she will be very much like my daughter. The saying that my daughter learned at an early age is ‘no guts, no glory’. I would like to think I was the one who taught her that and I know when she would come in crying over a friend who had just bullied her I would tell her that no one should push her around and that she should go back out and stand her ground. Now, I know that sounds a bit confrontational but I didn’t tell her to go beat the hell out of that mean friend. I merely wanted her to go back outside and stand her ground and not be bullied! No punches were thrown and no fists went flying. I do believe what goes around comes around, however, and because of that belief that mean friend probably has had some difficulty in the friend department over the years or maybe just control issues. Oh well.
The three-year old grandson is a typical three. Feeling his oats. Seeing how far he may push the parental and the grandparental boundaries. When we see our grandchildren we have always given them 100 percent attention. This could have been the problem on Day #1. All the attention all the time. Once we figured that out we played it much smarter. Needless to say we were exhausted at the end of Day #1. We hi-fived each other saying we had done a great job even though we skipped bath time and went straight to the bedtime ritual. Wine followed … quickly. Sometime during that first day we figured our job was to keep them fed and alive. After that all bets were off!
Day #2 was a complete day. Did I mention that Day #1 was only part of a day? Afternoon really. No matter. Day #2 came early. We were both awake and I made the smart decision to get up and have coffee before I heard either of the children waking up. Smart if I do say so myself. Ahhhhhhhh that first cup of java makes all the difference in the world during peace and quiet time. My memories were coming back slowly but surely. I didn’t start drinking coffee until I actually had my own children I think. I really don’t understand mothers who don’t drink coffee. It is a drink in which all mothers around the world should indulge. It is a NEED and not a WANT. I used to be up before my children woke up for this very reason. I was mentally and physically ready to greet my children in the morning with a smile and lots of love. It made all the difference. I decided I would do the same with my grandchildren. “I got this” I thought to myself.
Morning time is for hugs and kisses in pajamas and if you can plan right…snuggling in bed. There is nothing better than snuggling with your own children when they first wake up. The same goes for grandchildren. Diapers changed and pull ups changed to big boy pants and here we go! Back in bed we go….but….Wait! Very little snuggling. Breakfast with a capital B was on my granddaughter’s mind first thing. I got away with a few kisses and hugs but had to wrestle her to keep her on her back to change that diaper. Yep, I remember that wrestling match with both of mine too. Try to change that diaper before anything drops to the floor and makes a bigger mess. You know what I am talking about. Clean and the use of Butt paste (or whatever the heck it’s called) during a wrestling match makes it very interesting. That butt whatever stuff gets all over if you aren’t careful. I think that paste is the stuff lifeguards use to put on their noses when they worked….zinc oxide. You can’t fool me. Aha! The same. I used baby powder with my children and it did the trick for the most part. I think baby powder is passé’ now for some reason but I still love and remember the smell of baby powder and what memories! ….and it had to be J&J baby powder and not a ‘copy’. I knew where to put my money. I am still not sure why a child wants to turn over on the changing table. For one thing it is about a three foot drop to the floor and it very well could hurt. For another I can’t change a diaper when a baby is in a crawling position. Perhaps all diaper changers should learn how to change a diaper in that crawling position. It would certainly make things easier.
I desperately wanted another cup of coffee after the changing diaper episode. If you throw Cheerios on the tray of a high chair, you can pour another cup of java but it will get cold quickly since Cheerios on the tray does not a breakfast make. Omelette, bananas, oatmeal, milk….now that is a breakfast. Let’s not forget those frozen waffles. They do smell very good but I could not bring myself to make myself a toasted waffle because I could not take food out of these children’s mouths. My husband, however, did not hesitate. We did not have frozen waffles ready to pop into the toaster 30 years ago. Whoa is me. Too bad really. We had to make the darlings from scratch and so those were saved for Sundays normally. Along with pancakes. Oatmeal was the fav with my children and fruit. Oatmeal in the hair, on the floor and everywhere in between. A mess it was because oatmeal left for a while becomes gluelike.
A three-year old can be a bit fussy with food. Where oh where is that child who used to eat so much and ate everything? He has disappeared! Now, he would like to pick out what he wants to eat. Really? Many a meal he didn’t eat until it sat on the table for an hour or so waiting for him. When he got hungry he came to the table and ate but NOT the vegetables. When I was growing up I remember my grandmother insisting that I eat all my vegetables including lima beans. To this day I will not eat lima beans or anything that looks like lima beans. It’s a bad memory filed under “ICK”. I did not ever insist that my children eat their vegetables. If they didn’t want to eat then ok but I certainly wasn’t going to force them into it. I won’t force my grandchildren to eat anything either. A Nana doesn’t do things like that. Maybe sneak a chocolate Easter egg to him on the sly and then have a big boy conversation on what to tell Mommy and Daddy and what not to tell Mommy and Daddy when they get home. Let’s just say my grandson did not starve! (Just kidding parents : ) )
We also decided to (and I was good at this part)….follow the schedule that my daughter had worked hard on for the children. I always liked schedules. It was partly selfish on my part but I recall really needing a rest period of about an hour. My daughter loved her naps and going to bed. No problem there. My son, however, did not want to sleep through the night for one year. It was him or me I decided close to his first birthday. I was losing the battle to be sure. I was always exhausted having to wake up once or twice a night for a whole year. Especially when you had to get up early for that cup of coffee and I had a husband who had to get to work. So I did what any red-blooded good mother would do. I scooped up my daughter and told my husband I was going to the basement to sleep the entire night and if my son woke up he would just have to cry it out. Something, by the way, I should have done months earlier. He did wake up and he did cry. Every mother knows how difficult it is to hear your child cry and to fight the natural instinctive desire to go ‘save’ that child…..for better or worse. Of course I didn’t sleep well that night nor did I sleep the next night. But, I am happy to say, my son never woke up again during the night. We both won the battle. I was able to sleep the entire night and so did he! Ahhhhh heaven that third night. For those psychiatrists or psychologists out there he did not cry for long…..maybe ten minutes…..so keep comments to yourself. These days I would probably get arrested for parental abuse.
My son never liked naps and he is still full of energy. Not sure what makes one child love napping and another not. True with my grandchildren too for the most part. My grandson has always loved sleeping. Never a problem. Eventually though the morning nap was dropped and both take that afternoon nap that all mothers and Nanas need desperately. It is rest period and that wonderful time just to do absolutely nothing. For a whole wonderful hour. Back in the day I was hooked on a soap. Can’t remember the name of it but that hour was just for me and my soap with a bowl of popcorn to enjoy. Stare at the boob tube and munch on popcorn for one glorious hour! Life did not get any better than that those early years.
By day #3 we got the hang of this taking care of grandchildren business. The household was running smoothly. Meals were balanced with my granddaughter eating like a champ and my grandson barely eating but all was good anyway. Schedules and naps were ‘down’ pat and life was getting quite comfortable. On day 3 we made a mistake and we were feeling very sure of ourselves and I dare say ‘cocky’. We made a huge decision to go to the local mall area and shop for an area rug we desperately needed. We only had a small open window of time to shop in between the meals and the naps. We dashed. Safely in the car seats my grandchildren were in full cooperative mode. We took off. We were only on the shopping spree for an hour. Out of the car seats and back into the car seats. Whew! That is a workout in itself. Anyway, Team Grandparentals decided when we tired of the in and out routine to have one of us stay in the car with the grandchildren and the other would dash in and take a look-see at rugs. If anything was of import the car would be parked and the grandchildren would come out of the car seats and into a buggy. Whew again.
It was during one of these look sees that I had the privilege of sitting in the car while my husband ran into a store. All was well until suddenly … the fear of the unknown hit me squarely in the head. My granddaughter decided that she was not having any more fun and that she wanted to go home. Oh no! Maybe she wanted an early nap? Her poor cry took over the car and she looked like she was being tortured. Tears poured out of her dear little eyes and ran down her cheeks while her little lips trembled in dismay. She was angry with me to be sure. How could I do such a thing to her… like shop. She wanted to be home NOW. I couldn’t take her out of her car seat because putting her back in would be absolutely cruel to her. I had to bite the bullet and I decided to wait for the rug seeker to come back to the car. I texted but no answer. Nerves were beginning to fray. My poor granddaughter was in distress and I was the cause. So where in the blankety blank was my husband??? Why didn’t he answer my text? Was he coming out or WHAT???
The stress level heightened. Out of the blue my grandson said to me, “I have to POOP!!”…… Wait!!! What???? You have to what??? OMG. Really? I said the only thing that came to me. “Can you hold it?” Now, I realize chances are that a just three-year old little boy probably does not know what ‘Can you hold it?’ even means. But my grandson is brilliant and I figured he has heard this question many times already. He responded, “NO!”……and again, “I have to POOP!!” My mind was reeling. I couldn’t run him into the store with my granddaughter hysterically sitting in her car seat. WHERE are you husband of mine??? You know that feeling that you get when your body is being taxed with the unexpected and a cold sweat breaks out on the brow? I wasn’t feeling well at all. I didn’t know where the _____ my husband was, my grandson had to ‘poop’ and my granddaughter wanted OUT. I thought to myself this was not what I had in mind as a little get out of the house adventure. My idea of stopping for ice cream quickly escaped out the window. WAIT…..is that my husband opening the store door and heading towards the car? Oh praise the Lord! Yes!!!! The passenger door opened and I shout….”He HAS TO POOP…..NOW!!!” My grandson’s face was in a contortion….a grimace really. I had thoughts of a major accident and my grandson’s feelings and anxiety about making a mess would be grounds for psychological counseling and his grandparents would surely be arrested for that child abuse I mentioned.
The quick thinker my husband is sent us all in motion toward a bathroom. I moved the car and he moved his grandson. The child was freed from his car seat the fastest I have ever seen him being freed. A run inside a store. Thankfully, apparently, the bathroom was to the right of the store entrance. Safety of a bathroom. They could breathe! No counseling, no hurt pride, no tears of embarrassment. Yeah! We did it. Group effort won the day. We felt pretty proud of ourselves and of our grandson. He held it!
But, alas, our granddaughter was still in distress and we spent the next half hour driving back to the safety of their house. Not sure who came up with the idea but we started to sing all those childhood songs we learn with one change. We sang them in hip hop. I am unsure who was having more fun. We were gyrating in our seats singing……’Whoa…..that little bitty…..YES…..that itty bitty spider……NO! Not a b i g spider…..we said a teeny little bitty spider…..’ while our grandson laughed hysterically and threw in a line or two in that hip hop sing-song himself. Our granddaughter stopped crying and was probably enjoying the laughter of her brother and the high pitch sound inside that car. YES!!!
By Day #4 (three nights) the schedule was cooking, children were clean (they had baths), teeth shining, were not starving, all laundry was washed and folded, house picked up and we were on the watch for the parental units flight information and arrival times to the airport. My grandchildren still loved us and we still adored them. Life was good and we were relaxed. Alleluia! We did it!
Funny how we can forget the day-to-day functioning of when we had our own children. Taking care of grandchildren is tiring….I won’t lie. I am not 34 and 35 anymore. However, it sure took me back to my own child rearing days and those sweet memories. When I look into my children’s eyes now I still see their little faces peering up at me. I remember when my son was one and my daughter 3 1/2 and I remember all the special joy they brought me then and I appreciate the joy they bring me now. We can multiply that joy with their children in the here and now and watch them grow.
I always have to laugh at the TV commercial of the escaping young couple handing off the baby to that shuffling ‘old’ father holding the baby out away from his body and shouting at the disappearing parents “NO, PLEASE, DON’T LEAVE ME WITH THE BABY!” Silly man! Relax! By Day #4 it will be a piece of cake. Just don’t forget about that bottle of wine and for heaven’s sake don’t forget about that java!