LET INGA TELL YOU:
We are truly headed into what I think of as the Golden Years of Grandparentdom — all five grandkids are now officially potty-trained, most of them dress and bathe themselves, all of them seem delightfully curious and expressive about the world around them, and none of them are yet sullenly glued to an electronic device. We intend to enjoy every minute of this.
We had three of these grandchildren and their parents for the Thanksgiving weekend. I realize more and more, however, that they are leaving even my engineer husband ("Baba" to them) in the technological dust. At one point, the kids, anticipating a Wild Animal Park excursion later in the weekend, were debating whether lions could eat a giraffe.
The three-year-old, a giraffe devotee, was horrified. "Lions 'non't eat 'raffes!" he insisted. So his eight-year-old sister says, "Let's look it up." I hadn't taken two steps toward my computer before she picked up her iPad and said to it: "Do lions eat giraffes?" and it replied: "The only animal that would eat a giraffe is a lion." I mean, typing is so last decade!
While we've acquired plenty of new toys over the years for the grandkids, I'm always struck that the ones they play with most are the toys leftover from when their father and uncle were kids — the big basket of maple blocks; the Lincoln Logs; the Fisher-Price doctor kit that has diagnosed and treated hundreds of human, doll and dog afflictions in its 38-year history; and the 4x6 floor mat printed with roads and stores suitable for Matchbox cars. These are all still growing strong. The stuff with batteries just seems to have a lifespan of a week.
While we may see this as the Golden Era of Grandparenting, the grandkids' parents are seeing this as the Golden Age of Babysitting. Henry's two older kids have spent the night alone at our house but the three-year-old wasn't ready. But we decided we'd try it out on the last night they were here, letting their parents go to La Valencia for some rare time alone.
On Saturday night, we all watched a football game on TV (the parents' alma mater was playing) and basically cleaned out the refrigerator onto a coffee table buffet: turkey sandwiches, all manner of hors d'oeuvres, leftover Mexican food, apple and pumpkin pie and ice cream. We just let everyone graze, including the kids.
After a resounding defeat of their school's opponent, Henry and my daughter-in-law left while we put the kids to bed. I was just taking our dog Lily out to the front yard for a final bathroom break when my granddaughter came streaking out the front door in total hysterics. There was a moth in her room, she sobbed.
This young lady does not like bugs. There was nothing to be done but that Olof the Arthropod Slayer had to wield a fly swatter and vigorously whack the walls in her room with appropriate verbal accompaniment (we never actually saw a moth) while she waited in the hall. A teaching moment was had with the phrase "like a moth to a flame," or in her case, if she turned off her reading light, the moth would lose interest.
Olof and I were fast asleep when the six-year-old tapped me awake at midnight saying he felt like he was going to throw up. And a micro-second later, that was a reality — all over me, our blankets, the sheets, the bedroom carpet, even soaking through to the mattress pad. Definitely got to revisit that entire buffet.
While I was loading the washer (fortunately right outside our bedroom door) I noticed that the reading-glasses-eschewing Olof was vigorously scrubbing the sky-blue carpet with a spray bottle of mildew cleaner for bathroom grout. Fortunately, it was a brand without chlorine bleach.
More disconcerting, however, was that Lily was up on the bed eating chunks of regurgitated Mexican food off our comforter. (Do we not feed this dog enough?)
So we made up the bed again, putting a towel down over the wet mattress pad. We put our grandson in bed with us hoping he would fall back asleep. We really didn't want to call our son and daughter-in-law.
But it's hard to be six, and sick away from both home and mom. We ultimately called the parents and they came back.
Fortunately, the six-year-old seemed totally fine in the morning and the trip to the Wild Animal Park was back on. My daughter-in-law sent me a photo of my moth-fearing granddaughter fearlessly staring down a tiger through the glass. I guess everyone has their own definition of wild animals.
As it always does in the first few hours after they leave, the silence seemed deafening. But this time we had the pretty much non-stop hum of the washer and dryer in the background.
— Inga's lighthearted looks at life appear regularly in La Jolla Light. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org