“I must confess” has been the beginning of each of my posts since I began my blog in 2018. Today’s confession centers on all the things I have learned since becoming a grandma – which, incidentally, is very different than being a mother. I am no longer captain of the ship, so to speak, and need to respect the parenting styles of my adult children. But, because some time has passed between being a mom of two babes to being a mom of two adult children, my mind has played a funny trick on me, and I had forgotten some of the truths about caring for littles. Until recently.
For the sake of the few who are not frequently in the company of small children, allow me to define the age groups this grandma used for her recent research. From the time a baby is a newborn to the walking stage I’ll refer to as babies, from walking until about age two – the label will be toddlers, from age two until kindergarten will be preschoolers, kindergarten age and beyond will be the big kids. Some may argue with my definitions, but, I think these describe my subjects perfectly. When these kiddos get beyond kindergarten I’m sure I’ll think up some clever new categories for the elementary school years.
Meet the research participants. My daughter and her husband have three kids and one on the way. My son and his wife have two children. These kiddos officially fill out all four categories mentioned above. Here’s the current tally of little people; one big kid, one preschooler, two toddlers (the bulk of my research), and one baby with another baby on the way. I’m the granny nanny for my son’s children during the work day (three days a week), and help with my daughter’s kids on any of the other days of the week, as the need arises .
Anyway, as I was saying, I have learned so much since becoming a grandma at the age of forty-nine. I keep thinking it might be helpful for other new grandmas to benefit from my past and current research. With more grandchildren added over the last six years my joy has increased and I’ve been reminded of a few truths from my days as a new mom.
Let’s begin with our youngest category – the babies. Are you expecting to be caring for a newborn anytime soon? Bring a change of clothes or make yourself a gigantic adult bib and wear it at every moment. These tiny, adorable babies have the wet burping power of an unemployed adult after drinking a six pack. Wet burping happens all over you within the first ten seconds of holding a just fed baby. And the wet burps have a way of seeping into every article of clothing. So, unless you like wearing regurgitated breast milk as an accessory, BE PREPARED.
Then, get ready to spend about thirty percent of your day chasing baby socks all over the house. Because they NEVER stay on. One falls off; it’s found; suddenly the other one goes missing – it’s an entire day of the never ending lost baby socks. If there’s a toddler AND a baby in the house, playing ‘find the sock’ is a fun game, but don’t dare think a preschooler or big kid will fall for that old trick.
Try to dress the baby with those pants that already have the feet attached. Or better yet, if mom doesn’t mind, keep baby in footed pjs all day. It will save you a lot of time in the long run.
You will be the most popular grandma in the world if you give your grandchildren yummy snacks. Snacks make all children happy (and most adults, too). What is it about a snack that rights all the wrongs of the moment? Small people are ALWAYS hungry. Seriously, snacks rule the day. Forget the fact that you just feed a bunch of them a nutritious and wholesome lunch; they are STILL HUNGRY. Maybe, like some dog breeds, little people are missing that nerve in their belly that tells them they are full?
Another point about food – kids want whatever it is you’re eating. They expect you to share your food with them GENEROUSLY. My toddler granddaughter has definite opinions about what she will eat and not eat. I’ve started fixing breakfast for her and pretended to be eating it myself, so she will want it, too, and VOILA! She’s eating scrambled eggs instead of snacks.
Eating styles of little children are truly outrageous.
Heaven forbid you cut a sandwich incorrectly (think squares vs. triangles) or dole out unequal amounts on the wrong spot on a plate. Be sure to place EXACTLY EVEN amounts on all the kids’ plates; this meal ritual is watched very carefully by preschoolers and big kids, so don’t mess that up. At some point toddlers who are almost preschoolers prefer to hold the whole sandwich rather than having it cut up into any shape. My granddaughter likes to eat straight up the middle of her PBJ sandwich, and when one side or the other breaks off the sandwich, tears are sometimes shed.
It’s difficult to explain to a toddler the physics of why that happens, but when it happens day after day you’d think the child would come to expect it. Nope. Am I in a scene from the movie Ground Hog Day?
Reading is one of my favorite things to do with my grandchildren, but they need to be nursed on books before they actually enjoy reading. When children are young you are mostly in damage control during reading time. Babies just want to eat books. Toddlers just want to destroy them. Preschoolers actually sit and listen, but ask waaaay too many questions. Big kids love being read to and they actually listen to the story, and when they start reading books to you ~ it’s the most wonderful feeling EVER.
It’s a long process from consuming books to engaging appropriately with them, but oh the joy that awaits when reading is fun for both the reader and listener.
Potty training is more about me figuring out ways to use the bathroom alone without a toddler wanting to follow behind me, and less about getting a toddler to go on the potty instead of using a diaper. And while we’re on potty talk, a fresh diaper on any toddler will guarantee a huge poopy one within ten minutes of changed. Happens nearly every time. It’s their way of getting back at you for tricking them into eating good food instead of snacks or looking for missing socks.
Coloring with a toddler is an adventure, but be mindful of the fact that you will never color with the crayon you want – toddlers always want YOUR crayon. And the minute they see the tiniest tear in the crayon wrapper, it becomes their entire focus as they peel back the crayon wrapper. one. tiny. piece. at. a. time.
I’ve learned that distraction is the key for most potential melt-downs, but when they do occur – a freezie pop will dissipate most tears (see SNACKS above).
Sleeping children are exponentially heavier than awake ones. Their sleep state processes all the snacks from earlier in the day and turns them into twenty pound rocks in their tiny tummies. Don’t believe me? Try carrying a toddler to her bed while asleep. With an infant in your other arm. Up a flight of stairs. Both ways (just kidding). Who needs a gym membership?
Eye glasses are a source of great curiosity, and a frequent throwing projectile of babies and toddlers. Better get good vision wear insurance.
I’ve been exposed to hours of children’s television programming over my lifetime, but none more than in the last five years. I will willingly enter into a debate with anyone who thinks cable kids’ programming is better than public television children’s programming. Curious George and Super Why rule my world. If I have to watch another Paw Patrol episode with paid commercial breaks for crummy toys – I will cry. I admit to liking a few episodes of cable kids’ programming such as Bubble Guppies and Stinky and Dirty, but at the end of the day give me my Sesame Street as I sing to you The Letter of the Day song.
Games? Big kids are the best for game playing, but before they are good at games they go through a very distracted stage that can be considered torture for the less patient grannies out there. Click on my Candy Land Experience to learn more.
If you do not write down the cute things these little people say, you will regret it. For example, my three year old preschool grandson was recently patting the pregnant belly of his mommy when the baby inside gave a good kick right where his hand was. With eyes wide he insisted, “Mommy, open up your skin and let that baby walk out!” Kids are hysterical if you truly listen to what they are saying and I’ve enjoyed the best conversations with them.
The last hour of any long babysitting gig is frequently the longest. It expands to last four hours, but in reality it is only one hour on the clock. Why? Because you are hungry for some adult company (and also just plain hungry because the little people ate all the snacks), AND you need to clean up all the mess before the parents get home (crayon wrappers and play dough crumbs are my arch enemies), AND you are dying to go to the bathroom by yourself, AND need to run the brush through your disheveled hair while you fix your glasses. However, you are proud of yourself when the day is complete ~ all of the little people in your care are still alive and relatively happy.
My heart melts when, after a long day of togetherness with all the coloring, snacking, reading, and sock relocating that one of the grandkids will inevitably beg me to stay longer even when my baby-sitting time is over and the mommies and the daddies return to have a chance to have all the fun. Who can resist a toddler asking you to chase her ONE MORE TIME? As I go for final lap around the living room, I feel so blessed to have this precious time with these awesome grandchildren. I’m looking forward to seeing what grandchild #6 will teach me.