I "AM" Going to Miss You...eventually
"Four Year Olds Can Talk"
Four days, ten hours, and approximately thirty minutes. That's really a very long time to have to do something you don't really want to do. That's really a very long time to play the gracious hostess to someone who is getting on your nerves. That's really a very long time to listen to someone whining, begging and who is most often in discontent. That's really a very long time to try to keep your patience and keep smiling when you really just want to scream or lock yourself away in a room for several hours. How do people do it? Am I weak? Am I getting old and crotchety? Am I trying too hard or not trying hard enough?
Four days, ten hours, and approximately thirty minutes ago, our eyes met as we located each other in a small sea of people on the move. She had just emerged from the airplane gangway and I stood behind the protective glass- both of us searching for each other amongst the kaleidescope of people. Finally, with discovery and recognition come the smiles born from love, instantly and simultaneously spreading across our faces. Thirty-seven pounds, three feet three inches small, naturally curly hair, four years old, with two stuffed animals in hand, comes running from the entrance of the gangway-straight to me! To describe how your heart swells with love and pride when your grandchild comes running to you, I can barely explain. I can only tell you that this child in her running toward you, tells you that you have, or are, doing something right. Children's emotions and actions don't lie and I love her for loving me. Her love lifts me up and bolsters my oftentimes battered ego. Her love makes me believe in me again instantaneously, where others much older than her have knowingly knocked me down, sometimes to the point of making me believe myself, that I deserve some knock-downs. But her four year old actions, smiles and emotions don't lie. She loves me. She helps me, love me.
Four days, ten hours, and approximately thirty minutes ago, we embarked on yet another of our too few visits together, her living in Baltimore and I in New Hampshire. Children are little bundles of energy that can go all day long and then crash hard when they do crash at the end of the evening. If you can get the child to nap in the middle of the day, you will have a small respite for yourself during that nap time, but be aware, while napping, they are recharging their heavy-duty alkaline batteries for the second go-round of the day. The alternative is "no nap", which will surely make the end of the day come sooner. Keep in mind though, although an earlier bedtime may sound sweet, a "no nap" day often comes with a price. You will most certainly pay in the form of a very cranky, sleep-deprived child who behaves like someone who needs an exorcism- fast! One good solution to having a more mellow child around is: the great outdoors! If you can get a child outside, they will stay outside for as long as you let them, playing with balls, bikes, sticks, water, and anything else they might find. The playing and the fresh air really runs down their batteries swiftly, but in a natural way, and you have the added plus of the child having had an enjoyable day! You can stay right in your own backyard all day long if you'd like, because kids will always find something to do and find something interesting to discover outdoors. Or, you could do something more elaborate, like going to a playground, having an outdoor picnic lunch or just taking a long walk. I find sidewalk chalk lots of fun, along with lawn sprinklers, and going to the ice cream stand. Paper airplanes, bubbles and remote control cars are also lots of fun. Even more fun, on a very warm day, is the free and newly built kid's waterpark, in town! The key to happy children (and happy adults), is the great outdoors! I truly believe that if a kid is not dirty by the end of the day, that kid did not have enough fun that day!
So you ask me, with all of my big ideas, why was I counting down days, hours and minutes? My story goes like this: The Setting: a New Hampshire Springtime in March. The Cast of Characters: one exuberant and slightly bossy four year old, one live-in relatively calm two year old, and finally two very frazzled grandparents just trying to do their best to keep it together. The Plot: to just get through the next four days, ten hours, and approximately thirty minutes with happy children contentedly playing and behaving, and with grandparents not losing their cool and actually enjoying the company and wonder of these two sweet lambs who are blood of their blood, flesh of their flesh. The Conflict: The weather forecast for the week: temps in the thirtys, with periodic Spring snow squalls off and on. Two children, both nursing their respective individual ailments. And lastly, having a four year old around who is surely going to tattle on you if you do not thoroughly make her visit a most pleasant one.
I colored and played cards. I played Barbie, and the Potato Heads and trains. I watched "101 Dalmatians" and "Cars" and "Toy Story I, II and III" so many times, that if Cruella DeVille, Lightening McQueen or Buzz Lightyear ever needed a stand-in, I most certainly knew all of their lines. I ate at McDonald's and played in Ronald's Playland. I danced with a 5' 6" Mouse at Chuck E. Cheese. I read stories and listened to stories that were read to me. I supervised bathtime fun, even answering the question, "Why is he different than me?" (That was a planned and loaded question posed with the purpose of setting me up, and I know it!) It took about forty minutes to bundle up two snotty kids in coats, jackets, hats and mittens for approximately thirty minutes of brief outdoor play. I wiped butts, noses, spills, high chair trays and tears. But it was never enough. I thought if I heard that little girl high pitched call of, "Nannny...come play with me," one more time that I might bust out crying. I made chicken nuggets and pizza meals that no one ate, except the dog; and I ungrudgingly filled their little baby arteries with cholesterol when only bacon, rather than Cheerios, would do for breakfast. I brushed hair gently and searched for lost toys. I twirled kids around in office chairs, and I dispensed medicine in the right doses to the right mouths. But it was never enough.
After three days, seven hours, and approximately twenty minutes, they broke me! I cracked under the pressure of a combined mentality of six short years. My status of "Nanny of the Year" was in jeopardy and even though deep down I knew that, I just could not find that last bit of stamina or the will to fight for it. The bacon was sizzling in the pan and we were right smack in the middle of one of the many daily medicine dispensing routines, when the four year old decided she would revolt. I couldn't have that! To dispense the medicine correctly was at the core of my four day, ten hour, and thirty minute responsibility, and I took that seriously! "Look! I'm making you bacon! Come back!" "We're almost done!" I pleaded. But this little three foot three inch, four-year old bundle of energy had her own agenda and she was going to put her Nanny to a test...a pop quiz if you will. She ran off with curly hair bobbing, and hysterically laughing all while dodging chairs, a dog, my reach. As my voice grew sterner her whining grew whinier in telling me that first she had to pee, and then she had to eat first, and then she needed a drink first....anything but finish the medicine routine. We were this close to having it done...this close! So Nanny's stern voice got louder, something that today's kids are not used to, and that made her break. She ran off into another room crying hysterically saying, "You're rude! I want my Mommy! You're not s'pose to be rude to me!" OMG! I knew I was in trouble now. Four year olds can talk! Not that I was wrong, wrong necessarily, but I certainly knew that I was losing my patience in wanting to correctly take care of my charge, by taking charge of who I was caring for. To me, that meant dispensing meds on time and not allowing a four year old to set up deals with me such as, "I'll take my medicine after I pee, watch this TV show, eat my breakfast, and any other task she might conjure up that was worthy of preceding her medicine intake ..." I didn't want to allow a four year old to turn this into a game of "chase and catch me first", or worse yet, play the annoying whiiiiine card. Cut from the same cloth literally, in our stubborness, neither one of us won the game. Nanny wasn't going to drag her back to the table, and both were sad at how Nanny raised her voice; as I had been sternly reprimanded that, "Nanny's aren't s'pose to do that, be rude to children!"
Eventually, the medicine went down and all that Nanny had to do was to remember the words of the great Mary Poppins, when she sweetly sang, "Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, the medicine go down, the medicine go down. Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down - in a most delightful way..." Nanny also learned her lesson when later that day, while this sweet lamb played with her baby dolls, Nanny overheard the little one say, "Baby, you have to take your Allegra, your Singulair and your vitamins." What child when playing make-believe dispenses medicine by name? This babe with the asthma and constant colds, who just a recently as last year had her tonsils and adnoids removed in hopes of the operation resulting in fewer emergency trips to the hospital; certainly knows about how she must constantly take medicine. She knows how she too often is stopped in the middle of playtime to have breathing treatments. She's experienced the emabarrasment of Daddy leaving work at lunch time to go to pre-school where her little classmates had stared in wonder as Madison's Daddy administered her breathing treatment . So shame on you Nanny if every once in a blue moon, this little babe wants to revolt and have it her way in regards to putting off the meds or breathing treatment for a half an hour. No big deal Nanny, unless you make it one.
Nanny also got exasperated when this seemingly sweet four-year old would get "caught" bopping a green balloon on her two-year old cousin's head over and over and over again until it made him cry and run. And then she would chase him until he ran, bottle in hand screaming, "I scared!" Again Nanny was exasperated when she would take her cousin's favorite talking "Woody the Cowboy" doll, from the movie "Toy Story", and bash it on the table over and over again for no reason other than to be naughty. Nanny got exasperated when she saw this babe stretch her foot out into the side of a resting old Golden Retriever, who gently and too politely put up with these children's harrassment. But even these actions have explanations and deserve immediate "discussion of the action" rather than a quick reaction of an instantly loud reprimand. Nanny learned one night as her grandbabe crawled into bed with her, that by "listening" to this talking, thinking, feeling, little person; that even this improper behavior had it's source. As we lay there winding down our evening with intermittant yawning from both, Madison told Nanny all about...... Marin Fischer. There's always one bully in school, and it sounded as though Madison's "Mean Girl" was Marin Fischer. According to Miss Madison, "Marin Fischer calls me a baby!" "Marin Fischer said I don't sing good." "Marin Fischer always gets to be lunch helper and I never get to be lunch helper. All the kids say 'Madison's too little to be lunch helper', and I wanna be." "Marin Fishcer said I don't color good cuz I don't color in the lines". So having recently moved up to the four-year old classroom, from the three year old classroom has not been an easy transition. Kids in this class are developing their personalities and their pecking order. I would imagine, as wrong as it is, if I was being picked on in school (or felt that I was), that it would only stand to reason, when you at age four are suddenly matched up against your baby cousin aged two, I might also puff up my muscles and try abusing my new found Marin Fischer-like superiority (when no one's looking of course). So when caring enough and having the patience enough to take the time to decipher and understand the offending behavior, a good Nanny, as worn out and exasperated as she is, should be able to deal with any situation that comes up with a four-year old, rather than behave like a four-year old herself.
True to her word, when Mommy returned from her week of work in Rhode Island to retrieve her little package before heading back home to Baltimore, my sweet grandbaby ratted me out, threw me under the bus. Squeeled like a jailbird snitch she did! Yes, she told on me, but even though Mommy had returned, this child still insisted on sleeping in Nanny's bed on her last night here in New Hampshire. So on this trip, the weather was bad, Nanny was bad, children were ill, and Nanny's "Best Nanny" title disappeared in a Cloud of Dust....for now. In the meantime, this Nanny knows that on our next visit, I will be challenged again, and even if I don't win back the title of "Best Nanny Ever", I can still strive for the "Most Improved Nanny" title.
As she set her little sneakers with the lights in the heels, and her two stuffed animals, up on the airport x-ray machine table, she looked back at Nanny and Grampa, waving, crying and blowing sweet baby girl kisses our way. And I must admit, as she cried, we smiled...just a little. We did need a break, before we really lost it. We did need to recharge our old batteries, because we no longer have the rechargeable batteries that kids have. "Bye bye Baby!" we waved. "Nana and Grampa love you!" .....and we will miss you......eventually.
Postscript: One day, twelve hours, and thirty-five minutes after that airplane taxied down the runway for take-off enroute to Baltimore (BWI).....We miss you baby!!!