Baby-sitting when you’re over 70 ain’t for sissies
Want to know about any Marvel Comics superhero? Ask me.
Want to know about any of two dozen iPad video games? Ask me.
Want to know how to change a rambunctious 2-year-old’s diaper? Ask Kathy.
We just finished our five-day child care stint with our Jefferson grandchildren, 6-year-old Will and 2-year-old Norah. Their parents, Dave and Erin, were on a trip with our daughter Molly and son-in-law Brad, and we took on the welcome and delightful assignment of baby-sitting the kids.
A few things we learned:
• Prolonged child care when you’re over 70 is a different game from when you’re 40.
It’s harder to keep up when they run, especially when they’re running to get away from you. Particularly for the 2-year-old, a sturdy leash would have been a good idea: a tetherball comes to mind.
• Repetition seems to be the rule, no matter what the activity.
Why play one round of “Spy Alley” when eight are better? Why stop with one reading of “Baby Animals” (“Again, Papa!”)?
And be sure to count all 12 stairsteps with her every time you go upstairs or downstairs, holding her hand, even if she occasionally gets a little confused around number eight or nine.
• Dining preferences can vary greatly.
For Will, homemade brownies and pink lemonade would be the perfect breakfast, with mac and cheese for lunch, and a “hangabur” (translation: hamburger) for dinner. For Norah the Omnivore, heap the plate full of whatever, and “more, please” (she always says “please” and “thank you,” and so does Will). A walk (I use the term loosely) to the ice cream shop after dinner is always in order.
• Time for bed is negotiable.
A 6-year-old has bargaining skills that John Kerry could use in Ukraine or the Middle East, and with us he used them with more success.
We generally opened the discussion about 8:30 p.m., and finished it about 9:45 or later. He can read for himself, but seems to enjoy hearing a story told or read instead when he’s snuggled down under the covers.
• Time to get up is not negotiable, at least for a 2-year-old.
It’s whenever she wakes up, and that can be two or three times a night. Rocking in the rocking chair is usually the antidote, maybe accompanied by another read of “Baby Animals.” She dotes on dolls, of whom she has five or six, and takes them to bed with her, carefully covering them with doll blankets and cuddling them.
• I don’t have much information to impart about getting dressed or getting a bath — those necessities were handled by Kathy.
I’d look in to offer encouragement now and then; it seemed like the gentlemanly thing to do, although it didn’t seem to be overly appreciated.
• Planned activities help.
One day we went to Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines and all four of us had a ball watching the animals; the highlight was when the male lion roared at us as we passed by the big cat exhibit while riding the little train through the grounds.
• A lost binky (passer, pacifier) is a crisis until it’s found.
Kathy strategically keeps several on hand, so if the binky of the first part can’t be located, the binky of the second part is called on. Norah knows they’re kept in a cut glass bowl in the china cabinet, and will head there and point up to the bowl if necessary.
• Cousins are great.
On Saturday we attended a wedding in Ames, and son Dan and Ann’s young’uns, Jeff (21), Laura (17) and Katie (13), took on the care of Will and Norah for us. They know just what to do, and Will and Norah were sorry to see us show up at the house after the wedding and reception.
On Monday, after five days, our job was done, at least for now. It’s peaceful once again here at home.
But Monday night, Kathy said, “I miss them,” and I agreed.
We’ll be ready for another go at it when the occasion presents itself.