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  • Lori Carol Maloy

Good Grandma Goes Batty on a Five Night Babysitting Tour of Duty

My daughter and son-in-law decided to take a short trip to visit my son out west and I felt lucky to be chosen to hang at their house and watch my darling grandsons for five nights and six days. The two grand dogs were thrown in for a thrifty save, but I thought … why not? Isn’t that what good grandmas do? Save the parents money, never say no, and show the gang a good time?

Things started out great with grandma #2 helping out with the oldest for a few days, but he ended up coming back early and that’s when I started getting into the weeds.

Night number one was a sleep no-go with my youngest grandson mistakenly having too much sugar after (I’m only guessing here) 7-10 trips to the pantry for snacks. I didn’t have eyes on him the whole time, so I can’t go under oath on this statement. The six-year-old doesn’t do well on a snack high and demanded to sleep with me that first night. I’m a light sleeper and he dozed soundly while I read but by 12:30am I felt like I had time-warped to a cheap hotel in the late 60’s and had accidently dropped a bag full of quarters into the magic fingers bed vibrator machine because he started jerking, trembling, shaking and so it went the entire night. Needless to say, I was exhausted by 6:30am when he had to get up for an exhilarating day in kindergarten.

After a full day at work, I was exhausted and night number two was not much better, but I kept a closer eye on the pantry snack closet. By Thursday #2 grandson was bored and came home. My plans to get some writing done, finish watching an online counseling conference and a little reading were dashed because the nine-year-old was on Covid quarantine for two weeks and every second was accounted for. It was non-stop chaos from then on.

I realized when you add two dogs to two boys you really have four children. It was evident by day three that these dogs do not like using the bathroom outside on the grass; they much prefer a cool tile floor. Exhausting if you know what I mean.

I suddenly became a teacher and master of online education, coordinator of hiding the television remote control, and sanitation engineer of toxic substances. Anything and everything that could go wrong went wrong and I’m sure the teachers thought good grandma was mentally challenged and off her medication.

Things went from bad to worse as I slipped continually from my lofty high place as good grandma to bad, no-fun grandma: I took away the television, video games, and indoor hoverboard that beeped and squealed as the two kids drove them all through the house like expert racers with the balance and agility that would make the cirque de solei team ashamed and in need of more training.

Realizing I would have both children on Saturday and Sunday with nothing at all to do, (most places were still closed due to the virus) I sprang into action and found an exciting adventure. I shared my findings with the boys whose faces turned angelic with wide eyes of wonder and awe at the chance to go to Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee, Florida.

I had gone to this drive-thru safari when I was a kid and all the wild animals still danced through my memory. This trip would put me at the top for months to come (or so I thought). My mother agreed to take the 2 ½ drive along with us (Major tip–Never attempt such a long-distance trip alone with small children—it could be dangerous for your sanity). Hey, I needed back up and reinforcements. Safety first! One adult per child. So, I packed up some books, snacks, water, and had a couple story CD’s to keep the boys enthralled and off we went.

Dreams don’t play out in reality the way they do in the mind. Along with the sounds of the story CD, the back seat was rife with screaming, laughing, yelling, hitting, crying, and we had no choice but to make a few stops to shake off the stress. We hit a yard sale and bought up lots of 25 cent toys for the rest of the road trip.

Unfortunately, that sack of toys kept the back seat quiet for about twenty minutes. It was difficult to hear myself think over the back-seat ruckus along with my mother who kept talking through the entire chaos. She was just a bit louder than the boys. Apparently, she had lots to say.

Finally, we were there but they wanted six more dollars each for the entry fee because we hadn’t reserved our tickets online. After a quick bathroom break we were off on the adventure. Windows up, arms and legs inside the vehicle, let the safari begin.

We saw antelope, alpaca, lions, rhinoceros, water buffalo, giant tortoises, gorillas, chimps, zebras, giraffes, and giant ostrich that approached the vehicle and stared angrily through the glass. During the 90-minute drive-thru safari the boys remained enthralled and engaged. As the huge beasts peered into the car windows, I felt they understood my pain, as they had children and grandchildren of their own.

At the end of the tour we got out and walked to the gift shop and I bought the kids an ice cream, which soared me to the top of the good grandma barometer.

YES!They were tired. We’d stop and have a good meal then they would sleep all the way home.

NOT! After the meal—they ate quite well—and drank lots of sweet tea (never, never, never allow this).

They giggled and laughed then screamed and picked and probed and prodded each other and repeated those dreadful words (How Much Longer) until I pulled the vehicle over in Clewiston and had to get out for a breather before my head exploded and my hearing was lost forever.

My mother had lost her ability to speak and stared hypnotically at the road in front of us. I was sure she was dreaming of being home with her kittens and the quiet stillness that only she would be able to enjoy when the trip was over.

I had to keep counting the days because I’d lost all track of time by Sunday afternoon. We’d gone to church (thank God for children’s church and Sunday School). After church we’d taken the professional poopers on walks through the neighborhood, and in the meantime, I’d failed miserably on all the threats to call Dad and tell him everything. I submitted instead and watched Home Alone 1 and 2 and 3 (Do they offer a prize once you can lip sync the movie from start to finish?)

With sleep a distance memory, real food a dream, and the loss of quiet, which was now worth millions of dollars, I packed up all my things and anxiously awaited 7pm and snuggled in for the next viewing of Home Alone.

But then I got the call.

My kids missed their connection (actually they didn’t even have a connection from Chicago to Orlando—somehow that lag of the flight was never purchased) and now they wouldn’t be home until midnight.

My eyes were bulging out of my head. My hair was messier and grayer than when I’d taken on this gig. The six-year-old was maneuvering acrobatics in front of the television and around the living room in between rides on the beeping hoverboard as he sailed through the house, and the dogs wouldn’t stop yapping, but I knew it had to get dark and with darkness came bedtime.

After several stories, dogs back into their crates, house tidied up as though Thing 1 and Thing 2 had partied for 5 days, me … grandma (who cares at this point if I’m good or bad grandma), finally rested with a cup of tea on the couch and watched in complete silence as the minutes and hours ticked by. My only thoughts at this point swayed like a lullaby inside my tired brain and repeated over and over again.

They’ll be here soon

Just wait a while

Don’t fret or worry

And keep your smile

You’ve done well

It’s all still standing

When you get home

The bed is your landing

They’ll be here soon

Not long to go

Hold it together

And no one will know

At 11:40pm I saw the headlights pull into the driveway. Saturated by a feeling of pure joy, I re-pinned by hair bob, snatched up my remaining bags, and met them in the driveway with hugs and speedy messages of how wonderful the little darlings had been. In summary, never take a babysitting gig without taking months of vitamins beforehand. Make sure you’re able to walk long distances without giving out and know that you can bend and kneel without injury while cleaning up animal feces.

Take an online study course on how to home school children, cook Kraft macaroni and cheese, and learn to sit for hours while watching Home Alone, even if it’s not Christmas yet. Do all necessary tasks before the babysitting assignment because you’ll get nothing done and your brain will cease to function properly during the event. The nugget of truth in all this is that the memory snatcher will come and steal most of the negative aspects of these five days from me and I’ll be left with warm endearing moments of wonder for this time with the grandkids.

I will embrace these memories, idealize them, and magnify the fleeting moments of joy that we had. Then I’ll lie to myself about the ease and simplicity of babysitting at my age and I’ll promise to do it again, and again, and again … unless I read the good grandma blogs I’ve written and remind myself that it’s really a lot of work with very little praise.

Good luck to all you Good Grannies out there. I feel your pain, and your joy!

You’ve got this!

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