Tuesday, July 29, 2008

LIFE IN THE KIDDIE FAST LANE

I really don't know how I managed to raise two kids for 18 straight years. I just finished taking care of my 3-year-old grandson Bradley for a little over 24 hours, and I'm so exhausted, I can hardly type.

When I agreed to this, it was months ago. I'll say yes to anything if it's not scheduled for today. My son, Matt, had planned a surprise Las Vegas getaway for his and Sue's anniversary. How hard could it be? All I had to do was put out some blocks to play with, feed him a nutritious microwaved mac-and-cheese dinner, turn on some educational TV such as "So You Think You Can Dance" and put him to bed at 6 p.m. By the time he woke up the next morning, his parents would be back with our thank-you gifts and whisk Bradley back home.

"Here's the list of instructions," Sue said, handing over a folder filled with information. "He has soccer at 10, so he needs to put on his blue jersey and shorts, and he has to wear tennis shoes, not Crocs, 'cause Crocs give him blisters if he runs in them..."

I nodded, half-listening, knowing full well as grandparents, we don't have to follow everything to the letter. That's what's so great about being a grandparent. We have a little wiggle room; we can play a little fast and loose with the parenting rules. After all, our job is only temporary.

We headed for Bradley's house for the early morning handoff, ready to start the adventure. He was already dressed for soccer — check that box off. All he needed was to finish his toast and brush his hair.

"I'm not hungry. At all!" Bradley said, turning up his nose at the toast.

Okay, we'd pack it in a Baggie and bring it along in case he did get hungry "at all."

"Let's brush your hair and then we're off to soccer."

"I don't want to brush my hair!"

And so it began. As grandparents, we'd never had to make him do anything he didn't want to do. That was the parents' ugly job. We got to do the fun stuff, with no consequences. This was going to be a bumpy ride.

Thinking we'd better keep this kid busy, we headed for the Exploratorium in San Francisco. We spent the trip listening to The Wiggles. If you don't own the CD, just repeat these words over and over in an Australian accent: "Fruit salad, yummy yummy!" Then you won't have to download it on your iPod. It will stay firmly planted in your brain for the rest of the week.

After an exhausting day, we negotiated dinner — "If you'll eat this burrito, you can play Dora on the computer" — then negotiated just about everything else the rest of the evening, including bedtime. Of course, bedtime is only a concept to a 3-year-old. Sleeping is another matter. First we had to read books, have a snack, go potty, arrange all the stuffed animals, tuck him in his special blanket and repeat this several more times before he finally nodded off after 11.

At the crack of dawn, I found Bradley in my bed, his feet in my rib cage. After a breakfast of pizza, I ran out to Target and bought enough toys to entertain him until Christmas. The minute his parents arrived, we dragged ourselves to bed for a nice long nap — too tired to even feed the cats.

We had a great time with our grandson, but like I said, I don't know how Sue and Matt do it, 24/7. I need a relaxing trip to Las Vegas just to recover.

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