My daughter called in a panic yesterday. “Our furnace isn’t working! We’re freezing here and the repairman can’t come until this evening! Can I bring the kids over and I will bring all their homeschooling stuff so we can do school at your house?”
They arrived on my doorstep forty-five minutes later. My daughter, probably the most organized Mom and teacher on the planet, set the kids up with their school lessons and gratefully accepted a cup of coffee, before she began teaching her online homeschooling classes to several more students in cyberspace. Not only does she teach her own two children, run her own day home, but also teaches forty-one other students of all ages online. Truly I am astounded by her! Still, she seemed genuinely grateful that I was home and available when she needed my help yesterday, even if it was just providing a warm place to “do school”. I chuckled remembering when I was asked to “help” her in the past. Let’s just say, I’ve come a long, long way since then in learning Grandparenting 101 lessons!
I knew when I became a grandparent that I would be called upon to babysit and care for my children’s children. I live so close to my kids that I am blessed to be able to see my four grandbabies often, and it is my delight and pleasure to babysit them regularly so their parents can have a much deserved date night or a brief respite from their parenting duties. I have learned much about looking after my grandbabies over these years, but it is based on lessons learned during those first few occasions I was charged with their caregiving. My very first foray into having grandbabies “sleep over” at Grandma’s humbled and challenged me in ways I never imagined.
My daughter dropped off my two angel babies early in the morning. #1 Grandson and #2 Granddaughter aged five and two respectively then, burst through the door excitedly and helped their mother to unload a trunk load of supplies into my entranceway. Suitcases filled with “jammies”, toys, several changes of clothing, toiletries, food and snacks were dumped unceremoniously on the floor. I was slightly taken aback by the mass quantity of stuff she had packed for an overnight visit. “Do you really think they’ll need all this?” I asked. #2 was already opening up her suitcase to show me all the toys she had brought with her. My daughter rolled her eyes and thrust a long handwritten note into my hands. It looked like a minute by minute schedule for me to follow to assist me in the care of the children. I was slightly offended. It was like she didn’t even comprehend that I had raised her and her two siblings quite competently. “I think I can handle this.” She just rolled her eyes again when I barely looked at the piece of paper. She gave each child a hug and kiss and pointed at the list in my hand. “Just follow the instructions on my list and you’ll be okay,” she said. I waved at her but tossed the paper aside the moment she left.
The first hour of the kid’s visit was filled with childish laughter and them contentedly playing with me and all the toys they had brought along as well as all the toys I had amassed over the past few years in a downstairs room that my husband and I had converted from guest bedroom to children’s playroom. We figured it would be a great designated space for the grandchildren to play in whenever they visited. A bunk bed was set up on one wall and shelves and bins would keep the toys and subsequent mess confined to one area. Within ten minutes, there was not one inch of floor not covered by toys, and to garner more area they spread out into the kitchen and family room. As the spread of toys grew to encompass more living space, I was starting to feel a little claustrophobic.
My grandson stopped in mid play and announced quite adamantly that he was thirsty and demanded green juice. “We ALWAYS have green juice in the morning,” he declared. I didn’t even know what that was, but I rummaged through the grocery bag his mom had left and found to his delight a bottle of green vegetable juice. No sooner had I poured the juice into a cup, he accidentally spilled the entire contents down himself and all over one of my cushioned stools at the breakfast bar. I searched in his suitcase for a change of clothes but discovered that all he had packed were some swim trunks. I suppose his mother never thought that HE would need a change of clothes. I stuck him in his swim shorts while I mopped the floor, blotted the green mess out of the cushion, and did the first load of laundry.
My granddaughter had been faithfully going “pee in the potty” until we were seated nicely for green juice at the breakfast bar. She sheepishly announced that she felt wet. It was an understatement! The tidal pool on and under my other cushioned stool indicated that this child had a bladder bigger than any other two year old on the face of the earth.
So after changing her, I mopped the floor yet again, scrubbed another seat cushion and put in the second load of laundry. No sooner had I started the washer than #2 declared she had to use the potty. Noticing skid marks in the Disney princess panties I had just put on her, I decided to do a preventative strike by putting her in Paw Patrol pull-ups. It was a good call! Five minutes later my family room smelled like a barn because #2 had gone #2! A quick change back to Princess and she was ready to play…
For five minutes and then she declared she was still pooping and peeing…
I sighed and piled up a third load of laundry.
When my son, their uncle, dropped in unexpectedly, he took one look at the state of my house as well as my frazzled expression and took pity on me. Grabbing their coats and shoes, he took his niece and nephew to the playground so Grandma could fold the first two loads of laundry and prepare grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch.
When they returned, not the least bit tired from their fun at the park, my son smiled apologetically and then abandoned me so he could go to work. I sent the two cherubs to wash the playground dirt from their faces and hands, only to walk in two minutes later to a full scale water fight going on in the guest bathroom. My guest towels were now covered with small, black, hand prints and the mirror and walls were dripping. I shrugged in defeat and threw the towels in the laundry basket and scooted the grandbabies out to have their lunch.
My granddaughter took one look at her sandwich and started to cry. I was mortified. What had caused this sudden burst of tears? “She won’t eat that!” #1 Grandson bluntly said. “She only eats fruit and yoghurt for lunch.” I immediately removed the offensive sandwich from her sight. Thankfully her Mama had packed the necessary food for her and while they happily ate their lunches, I pulled out the long note that my daughter had written and I read it carefully. Upon first review, I learned that I could have saved myself a couple of loads of laundry had I followed my daughter’s instructions by using the sippy cups with lids she had provided for green juice. I rolled my eyes as I read her suggestion to put my granddaughter into pull-ups before she drank any liquids. Lesson learned.
After perusing the note in more minute detail, my original plan of making macaroni and cheese for dinner that night fell by the wayside. That had been a staple dinner for my kids when they were little, but my grandchildren obviously did not share their parent’s culinary likes and dislikes. #2 did not like pasta and #1 would eat pasta but wasn’t fussy about the cheese. I dug again into the bottomless grocery bag my daughter had meticulously put together, and I silently praised my well-prepared daughter for the abundance of provisions that would ultimately satisfy their hunger.
After lunch, following my daughter’s wise timeline, the kids played quietly for forty-five minutes. Then, in accordance to her daily schedule, we sang the “clean-up” song, the words and music provided to me by my daughter; we tidied up the toys that had been strewn about the house. I plugged in their favorite cartoon DVD she had packed for them to watch during “quiet time”, and then I stationed myself comfortably on the couch between my two grandbabies. Putting my arms around them both, I hugged them to my sides. Within minutes #1 was asleep, his head heavy on my lap, and #2 was curled up in a ball on the other side of me sighing her perfect, angelic, princess sighs.
For that brief period of perfect bliss, I willingly immersed myself in the overwhelming joy of affection I feel for those precious children. I was transported to the time my house was filled with my own three children’s childish laughter and the countless times they were curled up like this beside me after a full day of playtime. It seemed so long ago, I had all but forgotten what it was like to care for young children but now it was starting to flood back to me. I sighed with contentment and cherished this quiet reprieve before the action would start up again. I wish I could say that it was smooth sailing from then on until their mother picked them up the next morning, but I knew even as I held them close that I’d be consulting that long note several more times before the day was out. I was a realist after all.
They did eventually awaken and proceeded to spread their toys in even more wild abandon around the house. When Grandpa came home from work, he distracted them with hugs and tickles while I made supper. The rough-housing continued with even more gusto after they had eaten. When #2 threatened to upchuck supper because she had laughed too hard, I called a halt to Grandpa’s play that was supposed to tire them out but only succeeded in riling them up. It was Grandpa’s turn to have quiet cuddles with his grandbabies until I was finally able to convince them all that it was time for bed. Way past the time they normally went to bed, the children yawned, sleepily going limp as I wrestled them into their jammies. Still, once they were dressed for bed it took time for them to settle in for the night. There was one more trip to the potty and several more storybooks read. After persistent begging on their part, and promises they would fall right to sleep if I acquiesced to their demands, I allowed one last glass of green juice for both of them before they were at last contentedly snuggled under their blankies, with their teeth brushed, and prayers said.
I tip-toed from their room, and the house seemed remarkably silent at last. I was totally exhausted but decided to re-read my daughter’s note one final time. Somehow I had missed “Don’t let them drink anything after 7 p.m.”
Lesson learned when in the middle of the night #1 went #1 in his bed.