I did it. I’m glad I did it. I’m completely exhausted. It was challenging and the work was hard, but it was worth it. And now I’m in recovery.
Three other women, strangers to me, who saw me doing it, came over to tell me that they also had done it and also had been drained by the experience. Part-time grandparenting can be hard work when children are very young. But a full-time, five-day stint of baby-sitting toddlers has left my husband and me wondering how our daughter and son-in-law have any energy at all at the end of a work and mommy/daddy day.
To celebrate our children’s eighth wedding anniversary Oscar and I agreed to take care of Jayden, 4, and Zoe, 2, so that their parents could go on a five-day cruise. We stayed at their house because that’s where all the toys and bicycles are. We even brought a small inflatable swimming pool to entertain them — but more about that later.
Our daughter had carefully taken care of business, making sure she had given us notarized permission for all possibilities that might arise, including medical decisions. And she had typed up a two-page itinerary.
It included day-care addresses, what the girls eat for breakfast, what to pack for lunches, what vitamins to give them and when, bedtime and bath rituals — all the minutia of everyday life for young ones. After we got them dressed, prepared their breakfasts and drove them to school, Oscar and I were busy resting and planning for the remainder of the day.
But recreation with youngsters can be difficult when it’s hard to rise from a sitting position on the floor. Most of their playing takes place there. And trying to run after them at the playground is frustrating because both of them can outrun us. The pool part was fantastic because we blew it up, filled it with about 3 inches of water, gave each of them an 8-ounce plastic cup and watched them delight in spilling water all over the driveway and sidewalk to see what dark portraits they could paint.
I guess I must have looked really tired toward the end of the last day because that’s when another grandmother who was visiting in the neighborhood approached me and said, “What you’re doing is really exhausting. I’ve done it for one day and was worn out.”
One night another set of grandparents who saw us at a restaurant having dinner with the kids, leaned across the aisle to share that they knew very well the challenges of baby-sitting grandchildren and that it was both draining and delightful for them as well.
When Mommy and Daddy got home and we packed up and said our goodbyes, Oscar and I agreed that both the time and energy we spent those five days were well worth it. When a little one hugs your legs, looks up and says, “I love you Memaw and Poppa,” the sun shines even in a hurricane.
But it also felt good to know that we had company in our fatigue. In a cost-benefit analysis, all the grandparents we spoke with agreed the expense of time and energy are truly worth it. But recovery also feels good.
Freelance writer Judy Kramer can be reached by email at [email protected] She is author of “Changing Places: A Journey with My Parents into Their Old Age.”