This article appeared in Grand Magazine, September 2019
Well, you said “yes” and now you have to entertain your grandchildren, ages two and four for a weekend, which can mean up to 72 hours but who’s counting? Whether you are called Grandma, or Abuela, or Nana, or in my case Savta (Hebrew for grandmother) you might be called upon to help out for an extended period of time. I have friends who absolutely refuse longer babysitting gigs and friends who do it all the time.
I have friends who absolutely refuse longer babysitting gigs…
I treasure being a grandparent, especially because I never knew my own grandparents; two were killed by the Nazis, the other two died soon after they came to America. Growing up I looked with longing at grandparents of friends whom they of course usually found annoying. I felt the loss of never having a grandparent at a milestone event, never baking cutout cookie with my grandmothers, or introducing them to my future husband. My mother, who was known as “Omi,” was a super grandmother and frequently watched our kids when we went away. My children were blessed with having their grandparents in their lives as are my seven grandchildren.
Here is a list of seven tips I have gleaned from past experience:
1) Bedtime: This can be the most challenging moment of the day. Some of my grandchildren go to sleep easily but one little stinker resists all my tricks until he practically collapses out of sheer exhaustion with me right behind him. Don’t forget their blankies, night nights, binkies or whatever they need to soothe. My one wise son-in-law sent along kitty and “back up kitty”. Reading books, telling stories and following the parents’ suggested nighttime routine is useful. You need tons of patience and be prepared to get up in the middle of the night as needed for cuddles, bad dreams, growing pains or whatever.
2) Eating: This can also be challenging. Some of my grandchildren are great eaters; others not so much and are very picky. Again check with parents to see what they like even if it means pasta twice a day or scrambled eggs for breakfast and dinner. All of my children are sticklers in trying to avoid sugar and junk food and perish the thought of fast-food French fries. However, once in a great while grandparents can indulge their junk food starved, kale eating little ones and the world will not come to an end. And don’t forget snacks for the car. Who cares if your backseat now looks like a school cafeteria. Apple slices, little cups of pretzel sticks (providing they are old enough to handle those), goldfish in a bag; juice boxes, water, whatever it takes to get from point A to point B.
3) Just in case: Pray you’ll never need it… permission to get medical treatment. You should also have baby Tylenol or what parents use for unexpected fevers. Here is a link to a grandparent’s medical consent form.
4) Car seats: These can be a pain but eventually you will learn how to properly secure your little ones which is of course very important, though it can be backbreaking. If you have mastered how to attach a car seat to your backseat you have graduated to an elite rank of grandparenthood!
5) Planning outings: It really helps to get the children away from the TV which parents hate (even though many shows for kids are very clever and educational and can be a lifesaver when trying to get dinner ready.) Get to know what is available in your community, whether it be wonderful parks, beaches, zoos, children’s museums, or playgrounds.
6) Playspace: if you have a designated area in your home, it is great to corral the children and keep toys from landing everywhere. We have a “playroom” normally our favorite TV watching area, but it is also the repository of their toys kept in bins as well as art supplies like crayons and playdough. Even though I try to engage them in helping to pick up, I’m still invariably picking up the next day after they leave. I love toys where they can use their imagination; a tent for example. When the weather gets warm, a hose or a tot pool is always a big hit. I also love when they take a pile of pillows and make a fort or play train with old boxes. A kitchen cabinet with spoons and pots the little ones can bang is a big hit too.
7) Bath time: have towels, jammies, and diapers ready for when they come out. Keep a bin for their bath toys and special soaps. Also, have a designated diaper-changing area with wipes, bags, and cream.
Ahhh… parents on their way. They’ll be here in 36 minutes but who’s counting? Little ones leave, all in one piece, with lots of kisses and promise to come back again soon. Whew…I survived until the next time.