I love being a grandma. And I am always willing to babysit my grandchildren. But I’ve always said I can handle either a couple of my grandkids for a long period of time or all of them for a short time (like an hour, tops).
So why, in a moment of insanity, I agreed to take all nine kids for eight hours while their parents attended a day-long stress management conference, is beyond me.
After today, I will be the one in need of stress therapy. And a box of Nice ‘N Easy to cover the gray.
“Are you sure you can do this, Mom?” My daughter, Tricia, calls over her shoulder as she hurries out the door.
What am I supposed to say? No? Kiss the hundred bucks you shelled out for the conference goodbye because granny can’t cut it?
“Of course I’m sure. I raised four of you, didn’t I?”
Four vs. nine. Okay...slight difference. But, hey - I am now older, wiser and more mature. Well, older, anyway. The fact that nine little people are swarming around my feet, crawling into my cupboards and removing all the DVD’s from the shelf make me question the wisdom thing. And because I am tempted to stick my fingers in my ears and say, “la la la la la la la la la...” and shut myself off from this day completely...well, the maturity thing could be debated, too.
I quickly redirect the small but damaging tornados to a swirl of activities instead. We make cookies. Read stories. Play games – like “see who can hop on one foot the longest.” For some reason, they weren’t interested in the game I suggested: See who can sit still the longest.
Soon, they get tired of organized activities and move to the spontaneous (read: restless) mode.
“Wanna see my cartwheel, Grandma?” (“Awesome, Kaylee!”)
“Watch me blow a bubble, Grandma!” (“I don’t even want to know where you found that gum, Hanna.”)
“Guess what I drawed, Grandma.” (“Uh... why don’t you tell me what it is, Evan?”)
“Timmy farted, Grandma!” (“What did you want him to do? Hold it in?”)
“Why do bees always sting your butt, Grandma?” (huh?)
By hour seven, I am exhausted. Actually, I was exhausted by hour number two, but sheer will-power and lots of prayer have gotten me through. At the moment, “Pinocchio” is playing and, for now, all nine children are engrossed. Thank goodness for DVD’s.
The moms stroll in, fourteen minutes late - but who’s keeping track? They are laughing, completely peaceful and de-stressed.
“How was the conference?” I ask.
Lisa answers. “Oh. Actually, the conference was cancelled at the last minute because the instructor got sick. We got a refund and spent the day at the mall. A day of shopping is the best stress reliever anyway. We desperately needed a day out without the kids. Thanks so much, Mom. You’re a lifesaver.”
Because my daughters are so thankful, and knowing how much they did, indeed, need time for themselves, I smile.
Well, and because they are taking the kids home with them.
“I’ll miss you, Grandma,” Timmy says.
“I wanna stay here with you,” cries Hanna, attaching herself to my leg.
My head snaps in her mother’s direction. For a second, I worry that she will ask me to keep the kids overnight. But she gives me a knowing smile and peels Hanna off my pants.
“I’m sad to go.” Kaylee appears in front of me, lip trembling. She looks up at me with her big, brown eyes. “Are you sad too, Grandma?”
Lord? I know it’s wrong to lie. But I don’t want to hurt my grand-daughter’s feelings. You’ll forgive me, just this once. Right, Lord?
“I am sad, Kaylee.” I reach up and touch my nose, expecting it to grow beneath my fingers.
Kaylee continues. “I’m so sad I could cry a million teardrops. How sad are you?” She’s a dramatic little thing, isn’t she?
“I’m so sad I'll cry until the next time you visit me.” My fingers are still on my nose, holding it back from poking Kaylee in the eye.
“Why are you holding your nose, Grandma? Did Timmy fart again?” She giggles and runs out the door, her sadness replaced by disgusting humor.
The house finally to myself, I sit back in my recliner and look at the mess surrounding me. I smile weakly and realize I really am sad they're gone.
I touch my nose. Sad like Pinocchio.
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