It’s possible to overload on grandchildren

Sunday, September 19, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:16 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 3, 2008

As I walked slowly down the stairs this morning, I already had a topic for this week’s column. Then when I turned on the light in the kitchen and viewed the disaster area, I knew I had to change the theme. Every two feet my slippers stuck to some gooey concoction on the floor. The counters, table and island were loaded with half-empty cartons of food. I felt like I’d been run over by a two-ton truck and I barely had enough energy to make the coffee. When I let the dogs out, I gazed upon my deck. The table was greasy with fingerprints. There were paper cups on the ground and bottles sitting here and there. No, I didn’t have a wild party over the weekend; I baby-sat four of my grandchildren.

My youngest son and his wife had planned a weekend with friends sans children six months ago. Then at the last minute, the baby sitter had a family emergency and had to cancel. I had already asked another son, if Papa and I could have his two sons for the weekend, because we seldom get to see them. I figured I could handle the situation. The 10-year-old was no problem, the 5-year-old could “help,” and the two youngest, ages 3 and 2½ , could get to know each other.

Papa and I had the in-town grandkids on Friday night. These two see us all the time, but that evening they decided that the last thing they wanted to do was to stay all night with their grandparents. My son and his wife fled, with my blessing, while the two kids cried and begged them to stay. As a seasoned grandperson, I know this is a tactic used by kids to put a damper on their parents’ time away. My son hadn’t made it to the highway before the two kids were laughing and saying they wanted a snack. The evening went smoothly, and I felt pretty smug when I tucked the two into bed around 8 p.m.

The next day began at 6 a.m. Thank goodness I’m a morning person, because I was going to have to fly solo. When the little ones got up, Papa just grunted, turned over and fell back to sleep.

The other two arrived about 10 a.m. The youngest boys decided immediately that they didn’t have anything in common. The 3-year-old called the 2½ -year-old a baby; the younger one responded by trying to belt his cousin. My duties as referee had only just begun.

We went to a friend’s house to see her baby goats and horses. I thought that would take up some time. The kids glanced at the goats and then asked for a snack. My friend has six grandchildren of her own so she was prepared. Three popsicles and a yogurt later and we went to feed the horses, which scared all four of the children who decided en masse that they needed something to drink. The visit was over after only 30 minutes because the 3-year-old announced that he wanted lunch.

Usually little kids echo each other. However, the two youngest, who have definitely decided that that they don’t like each other, ordered different items from the menu. When their food arrived, the 3-year-old wanted what his younger cousin had, but no one was about to share. Then they had a public meltdown. Hurrying out to the car, I realized that it was nap time. By the time Papa drove into the driveway, the youngest was sound asleep — not sound enough to stay asleep when I picked him up. Apparently the 15-minute nap was all he needed to regain his energy. I spent the next hour fighting the two babies. The only one who really wanted a nap was me!

The afternoon consisted of mini meltdowns, mostly from the 2½ -year-old, who wasn’t used to this stranger taking Grammy and Papa’s attention. Dinner looked pretty much like lunch, except I was able to get them to eat cold green beans. My husband asked when I was going to fix his dinner, but it only took a look from me and he started nibbling on a nugget.

Bedtime, which I thought was going to be a nightmare, was the easiest part of the day. Maybe that was because Papa lay down with the boys to watch a cartoon video while I attempted to clean the kitchen pit. When I came in to check an hour later, all three of my boys were asleep. One lay at the foot of the bed, one lay crosswise on the pillows, and one burrowed in the covers. I won’t tell you which one was my husband.

There were tears in my husband’s eyes when we waved goodbye to the last family early Sunday evening. He turned and said, “Promise me that you’ll never do this again.”

And then he went to the bar and poured himself a stiff drink.

If you have comment or want to help me clean, please e-mail me at

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