Extreme Grandparenting: It's Not For The Weak Of Heart
An hour with your grandchildren can make you feel young again. Anything longer than that, and you start to age quickly. ~Gene Perret
If You Give A Grandparent a Kid ...
What do grandparents want? A grandchild. And if you give a grandparent a grandchild, chances are they are going to want another one.
My sister and her husband love children and miss their own who have all flown the nest quite some time ago. Recently, they had the privilege of watching not just one of their grandchildren but four while their daughter was away on a personal trip. They were overjoyed to have these little ones under their roof and looking forward to spending some quality time together. The children, ages eighteen months to five years old, were also looking forward to enjoying some fun times with their grandpa and nana.
I will be the first to admit that I love having my grandchildren visit in my home on any day of the week. We always have a great time together and all too soon it comes to an end. However, the more grandkids you have in the home, the greater the escapade. And, chances are it will just keep going on and on.
Here is the true story of that wonderful undertaking in their lives.
The Adventure Begins!
10:00 am: Nana asks, Amber, the five year old, to put the toys away. The task was easy enough for any preschooler, she simply had to dump them into the large cardboard box in the kitchen. Twenty minutes later, Nana wonders, "what is taking the child so long?" She wanders into the kitchen to see Amber "arranging" them within the box by size, color and type. Oh, for heavens sake!
11:00 am: As the family heads out for a ride, Grandpa asks Colby, who is four, to help baby brother into the car while he helps the girls with their seat belts. He hears laughter and squealing behind him in the yard. He glances quickly to see what is happening and catches Colby rolling the baby like a sausage to the van. Grandpa, who is perturbed, asks, "What on earth are you doing?" Colby responds, "Helping him. It's faster this way and look ... he likes it!"
2:00 pm: Grandma makes a big bowl of mashed potatoes for the children to use as a sensory experience. She sits them down outside at the picnic table, gives them each a mound of fluff on a baking pan and tells them to make animal sculptures. She sits down on a lawn chair and just watches, thankful for the forty minutes of peace. (Of course, the next time they are served mashed potatoes at home, their mom may wonder why the kids are flinging it around the dinner table.)
4:00 pm: Grandma decides to teach them to appreciate God's creation: trees are meant to be loved. She shows them how she hugs trees and talks to them. The neighbors wonder what in the world is going on when they see her and all the kids hugging the trees in the backyard, and in the front yard, and then on down the street. It's such a spiritual thing!
7:00 pm: Note: If you tell a four year old to go use the bathroom, make sure they know how to unlock the door first. Trying to describe words like "counterclockwise" doesn't really click with them. Also, after you talk them out of the bathroom, make sure the door is unlocked before they shut it. Taking the door off its hinges is another hour's work. (And, getting a turn in the one bathroom available when you have four extra little visitors is rare!)
The Final Adventure
The next morning they planned a trip to the park. The grandparents thought it was a great way to pass the time and the grandkids loved being outdoors. When they pulled up to the park, the kids were ready to roll. The older girls, Amber and Chloe, along with their brother, Colby, were unloaded and told to go play on the swings. Grandpa turned to get the picnic basket while Grandma unbuckled the baby. Now, it takes them just a minute to do this. What could happen? Let's count the kids: one, two... where is three?
Thus begins the frantic scan of the play area for, Chloe, number three. Nothing in sight. They begin to ask people if they've seen her. With the other kids in tow, and six other people, they begin to search the area, The posse grows as they comb the playground. Finally, someone spies her about 100 yards in the distance walking across a grassy area.
As they explained to Chloe how worried they were about her being lost, she told them that she didn't even realize she was! She was looking for trees to hug. (Mom forgot to mention that Chloe had a tendency to wander off.) Thus, the makeshift, rope harness was designed. The rest of the day as they walked, the kids lined up as follows: Colby first, Amber next, baby Toby held in Grandpa's arms, and Chloe last, harnessed to Nana.
The following day, neighbors and friends read in the news about a drunken couple who was arrested at a local liquor store. The police were called to intervene because they had harnessed the four kids to the roof of the car. They told the officers, "we just thought the kids would enjoy the ride and it was quicker this way."
My sister and her huband received calls from concerned neighbors and friends wondering if all was OK at home with them. They mentioned the news article and were just making sure that the grandkids had not driven them to drinking... to tell you the truth, even I had a moment when I thought the same! Nah, couldn't be. Could it? We had a lot of laughs on that one!
Bringing up a family should be an adventure, not an anxious discipline in which everybody is constantly graded for performance.
- Milton R Sapirstein
Grandparenting is a special privilege and so enjoyable. Most of the time we will be in control and spend many hours playing with our grandchildren and teaching them interesting facts about life. When your grandchildren announce that they will be coming to spend some time with you, here's how you can prepare for the visit. It will ensure a happy, safe time for everyone:
- Have a previsit with kids in your home; This is a good time to give them a tour of the house and yard. Show them where they will be staying.
- Read a book with them, or tell a story. Have them enjoy a light snack or meal with you so they get a feel for what is expected at the table.
- Ask parents about kids' behaviour, and anything you should be aware of such as allergies, medicine, food preferences and discipline procedures.
- Establish a routine early on: bedtime, playtime, and meals
- Make sure you are provided the basic equipment that will ensure the children's safety such as car seats, high chairs, play pens and cribs.
- Enlist other family members or good friends to assist if needed in preparing meals, playing with children and running errands.
"Extreme Grandparenting" can prove to be worthwhile, but it does require a strong heart, good mindset and a sense of humor. I think my sister and her husband had some interesting challenges by taking on four grandchildren at one time, but in the end it all came out well. It will be one adventure that will be discussed at family reunions for years to come!