I have been a grandmother (my two grandsons call me Gaga) for four years. Here are the lessons I have learned thus far.
Lesson 1: Dietary concerns are for the parents to worry about, not me. My 4-year-old grandson Leo is a picky eater and fails to understand the nutritional importance of cleaning his dinner plate. My husband and I recently watched the grandboys while my daughter and her husband attended a weekend wedding. When my daughter left Friday evening, she said, “Leo doesn’t get any more food because he didn’t finish his supper.”
Fifteen minutes after they left Leo looked at me with his sad eyes and announced he was hungry. Could he have a granola bar? “Sure!!!” I reply. As the grandmother, I get to distribute granola bars, juice packs and yogurt pouches on demand. I mean it’s not like they are eating cookies and chocolate.
Lesson 2: Strollers are now the size and weight of washing machines. They also have more knobs, levers and options than my car. My husband has a degree in mechanical engineering, and he could not figure out how to collapse the stroller after we took the boys to the park.
We approached a young family and asked for help. They were even perplexed but cleverly went to their cell phones and looked up the stroller specs. Voila! One push of a magic button and the stroller collapsed. It became smaller than a washing machine but still weighed the same.
Lesson 3: At my advanced age, watching toddlers is physically and mentally demanding. I did some crayon work with my grandsons at their little tot table. They jumped up after 10 minutes. There is no jumping up from a toddler sized chair for someone my age. I had to roll off the chair onto the rug and haul myself up from a kneeling position.
Later that evening my daughter, her husband and my husband were deeply involved in rewiring an overhead light. I was in charge of the boys. Finally at 8:30, wearing my plastic fireman hat and holding an armful of stuffed animals the boys and I successfully rescued from a pretend forest fire, I suggested to my daughter, “I think its bedtime.”
“It OK,” she replied, “the boys can stay up later.”
“I’m talking about my bedtime,” I explained.
Lesson 4: Blippi is the new man in my life. My grandkids love Blippi, a young man who started making videos to entertain his 2-year-old nephew. Now he rakes in $24 million a year.
Blippi is like a human Big Bird—sweet, funny and engaging. His videos feature firetrucks, police cars, helicopters, strawberry farms, science centers and road construction equipment. Thanks to my grandsons, I have watched many of these videos multiple times. I am now conversant in the mechanics of skid loaders and excavators.
Leo and Will are allowed to watch Blippi over breakfast so this enables me to linger over a cup of coffee. “Can we watch one more?” they always ask. “Sure!” I reply. “How about another juice pack?”
After a weekend of caring for my toddler grandsons, my mind and body are tapped out. As I go home to recover, I think of my new heroes: the 2.3 million grandparents in our country raising their grandchildren. I watch my grandkids one weekend at a time, but these grandparents are on duty 24/7.
Grandchildren are indeed the reward of a long life. I just hope my creaky knees, declining stamina and faulty memory let me enjoy them to the fullest.