It’s nice to know that I’ve still got it…kind of. My daughter and her husband decided to finally take their first “alone” vacation without the kids. With a wedding to attend across the country in Oregon, they decided to add another week to visit her brother in California. Beachside, nestled in the Redwoods, the perfect couple vacation.
My daughter, Sarah, knowing I raised five amazing kids ( three of my own, two step children) asked me right away if Jack and Molly could stay with us during their vacation. Of course, we very happily accepted! Although It’s been a while since I’ve had full responsibility of children, no problem, I’ve got this. When they come visit, or we visit them, it’s always with mom and dad close by. So as Nana and Grandpa, we didn’t have to worry so much about the “details”. We get to love, snuggle, play, read and just be grandparents.
I thought it was a little silly as my daughter gave the run down on “how to care for children”. It was cute, I laughed a little at the whole scenario of daughter telling mom what to do with the kids. I’ve raised a lot of kids. They’re pretty much the same, right?
No. Things change. All children are very different, (that part I knew). Even though I have been around Jack and Molly since birth, I know them well. It’s the details. The little (big) stuff that mom and dad handle on a daily basis that we, as grandparents don’t really “notice” or maybe not remember quite clearly when we were raising our children.
The first couple of days, we tried to set the stage and get ready. We bought them bikes so we could go on daily bike rides. Being a child of the 1970’s bike riding was quite different in those days. You just hopped on the banana seat bike with long handlebars and went riding!! Bare feet pedaling and hair blowing in the breeze! Now it’s full-on riding gear. Helmets, elbow pads, knee pads, tennis shoes with laces tucked in, front flashing light, rear flashing light….everything short of wrapping them in bubble wrap! The bike rides were great, the first 10 minutes. I have to say, Jack loved it! He’s a very athletic 10 year old boy and could trail ride all day if we let him! Molly on the other hand, not so much. She’s perfectly well and good for a nice 10 minute ride. She was so proud of herself to accomplish new things, like riding downhill fast, without having to walk the bike! Then it got hot. It’s still pretty warm here in Charlotte in September. After 10 minutes with Molly, it was a water break every 5 minutes. Walk the bike a while, ride the bike a while. Trail riding was not so great, she didn’t care for the gravel (which she ended up wiping out on once). So the next few days of bike rides, Grandpa would ride fast with Jack, while Nana and Molly “meandered” along. Hey, we were outside getting fresh air and exercising instead of playing video games. That was a win.
Speaking of video games. I am, as I’m sure a lot of you are, from an era of little, to no “gaming”. It was new, it was fun, but it was just something you did on a rainy day if your were lucky enough to have an Atari with “Pong” on it. Maybe it was something you did while at the arcade or skating rink in the 1970’s and 1980’s. We were too busy building treehouses, riding bikes and playing outside with our friends. It wasn’t this whole “sub-culture” thing that it is today.
James and I consider ourselves quite modern grandparents. We have a playstation 4, we know the latest games and enjoy playing them from time to time. The one game we aren’t so familiar with is Minecraft. Jack and Molly love playing Minecraft, but for ten days, they took a break from it. Instead, we have “Don’t Starve Together”. A great video game. Two players working together to survive, and build a campground. Great teaching opportunity for teamwork, right? Wrong. Let the arguments begin. I thought letting them play some video games would allow me to get some of the laundry, cooking, housecleaning and preparing for their next homeschool lesson done. Nope. Referee Nana and Grandpa to the rescue! I don’t really know how many times I said “stop”. It just kind of became part of my sentences. The grandkids had very different ideas on what it meant to “survive” together. One thought kicking a bees nest in the game was a good idea, while the other forgot to eat. (sigh) So Grandpa stayed up late each night, sometimes until 1or 2 am, to create a “world” they could play in that wouldn’t require many survival skills. It worked, thankfully.
Of course, then there’s feeding them. Well, presenting food at least. They’re eight and ten, they feed themselves, but it’s the when and the what. They always made opposite choices of food from the other, had different times they were hungry. Jack needs a full breakfast and snacks (my purse was full of granola bars the whole time) . Molly needs full meals more frequently, with snacks at night. One loves orange juice the other, milk. I remember when I was raising my children I was little more stern. When I put dinner on the table, that was the only choice. I made them eat it. It’s quite different with my grandchildren. I wanted them to be happy, well fed, have everything their heart desires, maybe even be a little spoiled. So during the ten day stay I became a short order cook. I learned their favorites and I made it happen, no matter what.
We had one night out at a “fancy” restaurant. Their manners were “on point”. No arguing or fighting. Just perfect little angel babies. You could tell mom and dad put a lot of effort into teaching them proper manners and behavior. It was an absolute joy to show the world that at 8 and 10 years old, they could fine-dine with the rest of us! Kudos to Mom and Dad!
Then there was bath time, toothbrushing and bedtime. Sounds easy, right? Sure, sort of. Jack being ten, could completely bathe by himself, no problem. Molly on the other hand, being younger, having beautiful, long, thick hair like her momma, needed a little help with the hair washing. If you’ve ever tried to “help” someone wash and condition their hair while standing outside the shower, you know I should have lined the floor with towels and wore my bathing suit. Night after night I learned a little more and prepared myself with towels and of course, lots of dry washcloths for the eyes…no soap in the eyes, grandparents! A very important rule!
Toothbrushing was a lot of silliness. Maybe that’s my fault for providing toothbrushes with suction cups on the bottom of them. (those suckers can literally stick ANYWHERE!)
Bedtime. That was a whole other routine. I have two perfectly good guest bedrooms upstairs with beds and nice bedding already on them. Without mom and dad upstairs with them, that was a no-go. So I pulled the back cushions off the couch, put bedding on, lots of soft pillows and blankets so they could be downstairs close to Nana and Grandpa. They needed the right amount of stuffed animals and of course, Molly needed her snack. Then there was the choice of which movie to fall asleep to. Jack wanted to be grown up and watch action adventure, but Nana decided Disney movies would probably be best. Nightlights on, Disney movie playing, lots of goodnight kisses and tucking in. It was finally time for a little sleep. The reason I say a little is not because of the children, they fell fast asleep. It’s Nana. That overwhelming feeling of responsibly and protection that never leaves you once you have your first child. I was up about 3 times a night just to check on them. Pull the blankets back up on Molly, pull the pillows away from Jack’s face. Just to make sure they were okay on my watch. For the past 31 years, I’ve slept a few hours here and there… It actually does get a little better when your children are grown adults living their own very productive lives, but you still worry about them, that’s just how it is.
Ten days flew by in a flash, believe it or not. I wanted more time, I didn’t want to take them back to mom and dad yet! We were just getting into our “groove”. I loved that my grandkids were so comfortable in our home. I loved that they were “themselves”. None of this “be on your best behavior for Nana and Grandpa”. It was just real. It was just awesome. We learned the “details” about each child. Jack is a great helper and loves to clean. Molly is a great help in the kitchen and loves video games. Molly is very curious about learning and reading, Jack picks things up quickly and wants to be productive. Yes, Grandpa and I were exhausted, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!
Nana and Grandpa’s lives are very quiet on a daily basis. I thought being the mother of three (five), I knew it all and could handle any child. Things have changed, times have changed, I have changed. Although I’m a young and energetic Nana, I don’t have the energy I once had when I was raising my children. I have my routines. My soft jazz and wine. My two cats. My garden. My yoga and meditation. I now also have a greater appreciation for my daughter and son-in-law. They are raising two amazing little people! I couldn’t ask for more wonderful grandchildren! I also appreciate them for taking care of all the “details” while we are all together so that Grandpa and I can just be grandparents. You know, the fun stuff!