Experiencing life through the eyes of a four and six-year-old can be exhausting. Not to mention the ever present sleep deprivation, a couple of rare meltdowns, normal I want’s and a wide assortment of ‘Nana this’ and ‘Papa that.’ It was Brennan and Charlotte’s excellent adventure and they had been looking forward to it all summer.
My daughter Melanie and her husband Scott were off to Europe for two weeks. Forty years after living there myself, Melanie and Scott were to land in Copenhagen and then drop down to Portugal for wining and dining and cruising the coast in search of the perfect beach as per Conde Nast.
We got the kids in their absence.
Now to be honest, my wife and I weren’t total novices in this modern-day version of parenting boot camp. We’ve had the kids over for enough sleep-overs and weekends to know what to expect from the little munchkins. Besides, we had done a ten-day stretch in Colorado a couple of years earlier. That was a wonderful experience with those three grandchildren so we had no reason to believe this adventure would be any different.
But caring for grandchildren should always come with a warning label. It’s like being in the middle of a marathon. You can’t quit and you can’t turn back. All you can do is forge ahead, ignoring the pain and exhaustion and know that at the end it will be an exhilarating experience for everyone involved.
With the right mindset intact, it’s all about seeing the world through the eyes of children instead of through your own sometimes jaded glasses. Two weeks of taking care of someone else besides just yourself. Two weeks of thinking about the care and happiness of others instead of just you.
Little kids are like sponges soaking up all of the rich life experiences around them. No TV watching or video games as per Mom. So Nana and Papa became foot soldiers in search for daily adventures wherever we might find them. But that quest is seldom easy.
|There goes my office for two weeks...|
For me it meant two weeks of putting my own life on hold. No writing, no exercise - except of course chasing after them. No long distance bike rides, except flying in circles in the cul de sac and around cones for our obstacle course. No reading until after their bedtime if I wasn’t too exhausted by then. No quiet time in the morning unless I could sneak out of bed before they did..not likely.
|Enough hardware to last an afternoon|
|Starbucks Restaurant - Now Open!|
It was more running, jumping, climbing, golfing, swimming, game-playing and high-flying than I’ve done in a very long time. It became in every sense of the word a mental as well as a physical challenge. Sleep deprivation is a real and serious threat to new parents and oldsters alike. Even an oldster’s familiar refrain of “I’m too old for this s___ (stuff.) doesn’t cut it with these kids. Frankly they don’t care. For them any lap is an invitation to play or read a book or tell a story or cuddle or wrestle with their favorite stuffed animals.
Of course, Nana the teacher was in her full glory. I swear we had a basement warehouse full of games, books and toys in anticipation of the urchin’s visit. Amazon Fulfillment had nothing on us. Not to mention sight word games, grammar games and AP (advance placement) quizzes for preschool and first grade.
|Railroad on the Porch|
One time it rained all day and we found an indoor playground to visit. Watching the kids at play I realized it was all about learning problem solving, critical thinking, sharing, getting along with pushy siblings, being creative, diplomacy, rationing and political maneuvering. We also set up a soccer field on the porch as well as a railroad yard.
|Visiting Great Grandma|
Every road trip was a game. I could never convince them that cows sing so we had to slow down each time we saw a pasture on the way to Great-Grandma’s nursing home. We never did hear those cows udder a word. B and C also never believed me when I told them that dancing horses only come from Spain. On the way down we listened to a menagerie of sound: The Monkees, Beatles, Turtles, Eagles and ‘In-a-gadda-davida’ as homage to my novel “Love in the A Shau.”
It all came down to enjoying their enjoyment, relishing their excitement and trying to grab on to their youthful exuberance for life without the complications of adulthood.
|Papa the Hair Stylist|
|Learning to snorkel in less than five minutes|
|Garage sale swordsmith & princess|
|Minnesota Science Museum|
|Splash Pad Playground|
|Releasing a butterfly with Aunt Marla|
|Nana's Birthday Pudding|
|Evening Reading Session|
Yet in the end if Brennan and Charlotte remember anything about their great adventure with Nana and Papa it’ll probably be some insignificant innocuous event that neither one of us recognized as important. Little kids are like that. They’ll remember the most obscure experience and it becomes a defining moment of their young lives.
What the Colorado kids learned the year before is that there are always assumptions and expectations from Nana and Papa. And it goes beyond the fact that we will always be there for them. No doubt, we spoiled and pampered them. But we also wouldn’t allow them to cut corners.
|Hanging with the Prairie Dogs|
B and C picked up very quickly on those assumptions and expectations. It’s an expectation of hard work and practice, education and a love of books, of not giving up and always trying.
The assumptions are unspoken, unwritten and not talked about that often. Their Mom and Uncle B got it and they did too. Its family…our family…and it will last our lifetime…and if we’ve done anything right then Brennan and Charlotte will pass it on to their own children in time.
Could Nana and Papa ask for anything more?
I think not.