Manual for grandchild care comes with many instructions

September 29, 2003

I love my role of being a grandmother, and my husband thinks there's nothing like the grandbabies. When they speak our name, our emotional roller coaster hits the highest point of its peak.

But when we have been camping out with them for a few days or more, at our house, I search the 100 channels I have on my TV, looking for the Calgon commercial, so something can "take me away," like the ad promises. That's when I've noticed that this emotional roller coaster has taken a nose dive and hit the bottom of the tracks.

As a grandparent you get to pick and choose when you want to babysit. At least we get to think that's true, and for the most part it is. But now I know why, after becoming a grandma, God gave us children while we were young instead of at our delicate ages now. It's because our minds and bodies couldn't handle it now on a daily basis.


Our adult children claim we spoil the grandkids and that they can't do anything with them for a week after they've been here. Funny how they forget that when they need a sitter. My husband always instructs the boys, when they are leaving to go back home, "Be good now and obey your parents when you get home, so they'll let you come back soon."

My grandson must have forgotten papa's advice, because the next time they were being reprimanded about something, he remarked to his parents, "Papa says at his house, I'm the boss."

"Bad, bad move baby boy, cause at this house we are the boss," his parents reminded him.

When I go and purchase a new item of some kind, it'll come with all these instructions about how to use the product or get the best performance out of it. Well, so do the grandkids. Their parents will tell us: No junk food; no late-night TV watching; no back-talking to us; must brush teeth before going to bed; give or apply medicine five times a day; help them with their report; etc.; etc.; etc.

And if it's the boys' weekend, we must not forget to include their toilet exercises. That's the pull up, push down of the toilet seat when they get done so the next customer doesn't have to sit on their leftovers. I want to tell them, "Did I just buy some newfangled gadget or something that I need all these instructions with?"

My daughter has told me for years now, "Mom, you need to read the instructions about this or that."

I say to her, "At my age, you need to just go with the flow. Kick back and enjoy the ride while you can."

When my kids where little, I thought I had a pretty tight rein on them by being the one in control, who called all the shots. But now, I wonder if I lost that control somewhere down the road, after this grandparenting thing. My adult children somehow got a hold of those reins and they are calling as many of the shots nowadays as we are. Only they do it with enough respect that our dignity stays intact. I guess the grandparents now score one brownie point for teaching respect.

But after cutting through all this bull jive I've just spit out, I love it when I've had a hard day at work and I know my grandson will be there to affectionately rub my feet or give me a back rub, and tell me how much he loves his granny! Then, when we have the time to be alone, he tells me about some relationship he's having with this girl at school and she moves away. Oh, please, give me a break, son, you're only 10.

But I let him spill his guts without laughing and when I see his relief, it comforts me that I held my emotions and just let him talk. Listening - that's an area I could work on. My husband is always telling me so.

Then my granddaughters take me back to my girlhood when we have pretend tea parties. I pull out the hats and gloves and fancy china, and we sit around the coffee table sipping tea (or something) and having long talks. That's when my granddaughter decides she wants to be a nurse and pulls off her fancy hat, puts on one of my white shirts and convinces me that I can be her first patient. Now I'm beginning to see why Santa Claus always leaves a doctor's kit under the tree every year.

Trouble is that papa always makes sure that one of our grandkids breaks the doctor's kit in on him first. It wouldn't surprise us a bit if one of them turns out to be in the medical field. And when they pretend to play beauty shop, I get to have first rights.

I could go on and on about the joys of my position as a grandparent, but time and space won't allow it. Does any of this stuff register in your job description for grandparenting?

Faye Shumaker lives in Lancaster.|9/28/03***

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