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Growing pains for Grammy

Sunday, April 18, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:48 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

I just had my horde of grandchildren over for Easter brunch and our annual egg hunt. I’ve got quite a spectrum of sizes, shapes and personalities. But sadly, only two of the 14 are still considered babies, and both are teetering on the brink of childhood. I love being a grammy to babies. I love rocking them and making them coo. I also love the fact that they are not mobile — and they sleep a lot. But once they take those first few steps, infancy is pretty much over. Within days, they’ve gone from tentative to racing through the house. And from what I’ve seen of the 12 older kids, they don’t slow down until they hit their teens. Then they become slugs.

My youngest grandchildren were born six months apart. The two boys are 2 and 2 ½ . Both mothers are doing their darnedest to keep them in babyhood. Both are still in diapers, but I watched as the 2 ½ -year-old snuck behind a couch and grunted. His little face turned red as he strained in concentration. Then he walked up to his mother and said, “I pooped in my pants, Mommy. Change my diaper.”

The other is a binky baby. He has a whole passel of pacifiers stashed in his clothing. When I take one out of his mouth, he reaches into his jacket and pulls out another. I grab that one and he pats his pants trying to figure out which pocket is concealing the third pacifier. He can talk with his binky in his mouth. He just scoots it over to the side like a cigar. I recently picked him up at the day-care center and asked if they had trouble removing his binky. Oh no, they said, he never uses the pacifier while he’s here. He even goes down for a nap without one. But as soon as he spotted me, he raced over, arms extended, chanting “B!B!” — his word for the rubber sucker. And if I don’t give him not one, but the three or four in his little bin, he throws himself to the ground and has a full-blown temper tantrum.

My grandchildren were born in waves. I call my next oldest group the triplets. I have three granddaughters, who, when they are together, seem joined at the hip. Two of the girls are sisters but the third, their cousin, could certainly pass for a sibling. I love watching the three as they form a small circle and decide which activity they are going to pursue. Playing dress-up with my old clothes has been their latest endeavor.

Next come the three stooges: three boys ages 8 and 9. I like to call them Moe, Larry and Curly (not to their faces) because at this age they are all legs and no coordination. They have very little to do with Grammy right now; they’re too busy trying to out-run, out-jump or just plain out-do each other.

Then I have two 11- and two 12-year-olds. That was a banner year for babies. The three girls are so close they finish each other’s sentences. They go to the store and buy matching clothing, and when they have to part, there is a flood of tears and a half-hour of hugging.

My 11-year-old grandson is the odd man out, but he tries to blend with the younger boys and his 14-year-old cousin.

Last on my list are the two oldest grandchildren. I have a granddaughter who’s almost 13, but emotionally she is nearing 20. I call her my “sigh queen.” If there was a market for sighing, she’d get the job.

“Darling,” I ask sweetly. “Could you help me set the table?”

Sigh. “I suppose so.”

“How is school going?” I ask.

Sigh. “I guess it’s OK.” Another sigh for emphasis. “But I hate math.”

“I thought you hated science,” I respond.

Sigh. “That was last semester, Grammy.”

My oldest grandson poses the biggest challenge. My firstborn was the smallest infant of the lot. Weighing in at 3 pounds, 3 ounces and nine weeks early, he was very fragile. But you’d never know it now. He towers over me, and I can tell his voice is changing by the way he begins the sentence as a soprano and slips to baritone toward the end. I suppose he’s a handsome young man, although I haven’t seen his face for almost a year because he always wears a baseball cap pushed down to his chin.

He’s also lost the ability to talk in full sentences.

“How’s school.”

“Kay.” (Translation: “OK.”)

“What are you studying?”

“Lots.”

“What’s your favorite subject?”

“Dunno.”

It’s my turn to sigh.

The scary part of being a grammy is knowing what comes next. The oldest will be able to drive in July (what stupid legislator decided that?) Within five years, I will have nine teenagers. God help us all!

If you have a comment or know of a way to circumvent the teen years, please e-mail me at jdh@socket.net.


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