I got my first dry run of grandmothering yesterday. It was sobering.
My close friend asked me to help her watch her daughter’s two baby girls, one 2 years, one 6 months. The parents decided to leave the kids for the first time to fly to San Francisco for a 30th birthday dinner. Out by noon, home by midnight.
Once the door closed, my friend and I became a tag team worthy of a WWE belt buckle. My friend, the true grandma, had two complex schedules memorized. The infant only sleeps for 40 minutes at a pop. When she wakes up, things can go south in a very big hurry. She is going through that stage that pushes mothers to the brink.
For reasons ever unknowable, once they start to shriek in misery, they do not waver. I had forgotten that sound, and yet one never forgets it. It makes you feel like the most powerless, inept creature on the planet, and you marvel that your neighbors ever forgive you. I broke out my best rock-and-bob move, which worked briefly and sporadically, but this young lady seemed to know that her mom was not nearby and this was not acceptable.
Meanwhile, the 2-year-old seemed like a piece of cake. A very energetic, whimsical, mercurial piece of cake. But having someone to tend to her every whim went a long way toward keeping her content. We fed them, strapped them in and headed for the biggest pumpkin patch/fair we could find. While the car was moving, all was bliss. We looked for horses and the babe slept. We were prepared to drive for 10 more hours, if necessary. Putting the infant in the stroller was trickier, but my friend took on that challenge, while the 2-year-old and I got our sillies out. We climbed pumpkins, we ran around pumpkins, we bought Halloween toys, we saw goats, sheep, cows, llamas, emus and, yes, horses.
The petting zoo was the big winner. Feeding the goats was awesome but the big score of the day was when a beleaguered, fluffy chicken climbed up next to her and received several kid-hugs for its trouble. The toddler’s claim to fame, for some time to come, will be, “I hugged a chicken today!”
Once home, I was reminded how long a 2-year-old will sit still for a movie and how much they love jumping on the bed. But by the time mom and dad rolled in, everyone was content and smiling. We felt like we had won the Nobel Peace Prize. In fact, mothers everywhere deserve one, every darn day.
Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who loved rediscovering the world through a toddler’s eyes. Contact her at [email protected].