Adventures in Babysitting

I had today all planned. I was going to take a couple of hours and do the required housecleaning and laundry, begin the process of preparing to do my income taxes and write a in depth piece on the meaning of respect and tolerance. It was going to be a most productive day. Then I remembered I had agreed to babysit the grandchildren.

Normally I keep them for a few hours to give Ashley some little kid free time to run some errands. Today, however, I was going to be keeping Isaiah most of the day, as Helene’ also had a doctor’s appointment in the mix. That meant if I wanted to get things done, I needed to start early. I figured I’d get to some more things done while he was napping. I got the kitchen floor mopped and a load in the laundry before I the arrival of the toy strewing toddler and her newly mobile minion.

It has been a long time since I have spent the day with a nine month old baby boy. If people tell you that there isn’t really a difference between boys and girls at that age, then they are dead wrong. My granddaughter could be quick when it came to getting into trouble, at that age, but she was not all that daring. She also wasn’t that adept at crawling, and pulling up was still several weeks away. Not so the little guy.

While Helene drew pictures or watched yet another episode of Scooby Doo on Netflix, Isaiah was examining the contents of my office trash can, playing peekaboo in the curtains, finding interesting bits of things on the floor to taste, attempting to grab a cat, any cat that would let him near, trying to grab my cell phone, discovering the Wii board had an on/off button. That was just the first hour.

The little guy is also going through one of those stages of development where he wants frequent human contact with the important people in his life. In layman’s term, that means that he will produce the most heartrending cries with real tears if you leave him alone for three minutes. I can’t stand to hear him cry, especially when there are tears in the mix. So he got picked up and played with a whole lot.

It wasn’t too long after the children arrived that I knew that Isaiah needed a nap. His mom tries to keep him on a good schedule, and I wanted to honor that. Only problem was, someone wasn’t willing to play along. I couldn’t just put him on a bed, he’d fall off. He’s proven more then once that he doesn’t consider heights to be much of factor when it comes to his reaching for something. Putting him on a pallet on the floor wasn’t the answer either. He can crawl anywhere there is floor space, where there is access to all sorts of things I don’t know is there. It is amazing the things a baby can find when their vantage points are only a foot off the carpet. He was fed, changed and several attempts were made to quiet him down long enough for him to go to sleep. He was having none of it.

I tried laying down with him. He tried to climb off the bed. I tried rocking him. He saw a passing cat and made a dive for her. I tried giving him toys and letting him wear himself out. He’d just get cranky and want me to pick him up again. Meanwhile his sister is drawing pictures of ladders, and playing quietly with her Aunt Megan’s piggy banks.

Finally, after several hours, he gave in. He put his tired, adorable little head on my shoulder and passed out. I gladly put him on my bed surrounded by pillows and tiptoed out. He slept like a rock. For thirty minutes. Then he was ready for a snack, and more of the prior routine.

Eventually it was time for him to go home. Helene had already been picked up by her mother for her doctor’s checkup. I had somehow managed to get dinner started, and Megan who was home by now helped finish. Once the baby was gone I breathed a sigh of relief. Trust me I adore my grand children. I think they are the best, sweetest, cutest children on the planet. I look forward to every moment I can spend with them. But I am sorely out of practice when it comes to caring for small children all day long, especially when they won’t nap.

Taking a day to care for two small children with no break has reminded me of how tough the task of being a mother really is. It has reaffirmed my deep respect for the art of parenting, and has made me even more proud of my daughter who has her hands very full with her two while her husband is still deployed. I now better understand why she is always tired and sometimes grumpy. Moms and Dads everywhere spend most of their days half asleep because much of their energy goes into looking after small people who are so dependent on help from the grown-ups around them. I was reminded today what that felt like.

So I will today applaud all you parents out there who slog through sippy cups, soggy diapers and mushy bananas. Cheers to those of you who dry countless tears, give all those baths and read hundreds of bedtime stories. Fantastic job for those of you who pack countless school lunches, help with so much math homework, and wash all those amazingly dirty socks. One day, before you know it, those kids will be all grown up and having kids of their own. That is when you will have graduated to where I am at. It is an amazing vantage point to witness parenting from a grandparent’s perspective. I do believe it is our reward for experiencing all those milestones our kids went through.

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