I saw a statistic the other day that filled me with a mixture of awe, admiration, and a how the hell do they do it kind of wonder. It also filled me with an overwhelming glad it’s not me wave of relief.
What statistic could have evoked such a tsunami of emotions?
Simply this: Approximately 2.9 million grandparents are now “custodial grandparents” to their grandchildren. In other words, the grandparents are taking care of their kids’ kids. All the time!
Don’t get me wrong. I love my grandchildren. All ten of them. That’s right! Ten! My Millennials have been busy!
But take care of them full time? Just lock me up now.
We’ve had them for brief stints; enough to bond, to feel blessed, and to understand the full significance of the statement many grandparents made before I became one: Glad to see the come. Glad to see them go.
One of my sons and his wife and kids lived with us for a month while their house was being finished. The month was a mixed bag: tremendous joy and expensive disaster.
Having them with us was a joy because we all got along, I love my grandkids, my son, a gourmet cook, made dinner several times, and my daughter-in-law cleaned out my pantry. She was horrified that I still had aspirin from 1989 and proceeded to show me an article about a grandmother who inadvertently poisoned her family by giving them hot chocolate made with 40-year-old cocoa.
The month was an expensive disaster because when they moved out we discovered crayon drawings on the walls of the basement, ballpoint pen marks etched into the center of our big screen TV and a toilet in need of a plumber after three Barbie dolls met the gruesome fate of being flushed down by one unrepentant baby brother.
More recently, we kept our daughter’s three-year-old for a weekend so she and her husband could have some time alone. The first night, our granddaughter woke at three in the morning wanting chocolate milk. I gave her some, although my daughter doesn’t let her drink it.
“She doesn’t need the sugar. Plain milk and water are fine. No dessert either, unless she eats all her dinner,” my daughter had instructed. I started to remind her that her youngest brother had existed primarily on Pop Tarts for the first seven years of his life because we couldn’t get anything else down him no matter how hard we tried, and that he had grown into a healthy, strapping young man. But I held my tongue.
We entertained our granddaughter the next day by taking her to the park in hopes of exhausting her enough for us to all take a nap. It didn’t work. She returned from the park hyped, invigorated, and demanding more chocolate milk. I gave her some, then invited a couple of my other grandchildren over to play with her and spend the night, figuring this would be easier than entertaining her myself.
My husband had by this time locked himself in a room somewhere to nap, or maybe he had gone out to the car. I couldn’t keep up with both him and the three-year-old.
Around midnight one of the grandchildren got homesick, but I cajoled her out of it by putting her back to bed with her iPad, the TV on, and the room lit up like Christmas, which woke the grandchild who prefers to sleep in the dark. I read them all a story, gave them some chocolate milk, then crawled wearily back to bed.
The next day my daughter arrived four hours later than expected to pick up the three-year-old, and by that time the others had already gone home.
“Sorry I’m late,” she began when the three-year-old threw up. “Mom, did you give her chocolate milk? I told you not to!”
But it wasn’t the chocolate milk that made her throw up, because later that night my husband and I both came down with a stomach virus that could sink a cruise ship. And we hadn’t drunk any chocolate milk. As you probably know, children are regular Petri dishes. They’re always either coming down with something or carriers of something you’ll come down with.
We soon recovered, from both the stomach virus and the weekend, and believe it or not, we’re ready to see the grandkids again.
My daughter told me as soon as the three-year-old got home she was asking to go to Grandma Bebe’s and Grandad’s again. That’s endearing, even if you know it could just be the chocolate milk.
Once when my eleven-year-old grandchild spent the night she discovered a book I had self-published and SHE READ IT! I don’t believe anyone else, not even my own children, have read that book. There are 300 copies stacked in the basement. But my adorable, precious grandchild not only read my book. She loved it!
“I’m going to tell my teacher my grandma’s a writer,” she said. “And I want to be one, too.” She immediately became my favorite.
What Grandma wouldn’t be glad to see them come?
And glad to see them go!