Every time I think I have really mastered this “watching and nurturing kids” thing, something happens that forces me to be totally humble.
As in, “This is way more than I could even begin to handle in any world I have ever envisioned.”
Yesterday I was Nonni in charge of my three year old granddaughter, her four year old friend and our one year old grandson. It was challenging but wonderful. The two girls laughed, played, shared toys, argued, snacked and were generally the epitome of young children learning to cooperate.
It was great.
I put out snacks, I mediated a few arguments, I made lunch. Mostly, though, I was a cheerleader.
“You guys shared those toys so well! I’m so proud of you!”
“You are so good at taking turns!!!”
I thought that the fabulous day was due to my wonderful Nonni-ness. I went to bed last night patting myself on the back for my superior child management skills.
Then today dawned. If you have a secret universe where there are rainbows, unicorns and little tiny children who cooperate without effort……..Well.
Then you are completely delusional. And you have never met an actual child.
I know this because I woke up this morning feeling relaxed. “Oh, I only have my own to grandchildren”, I thought. “It’s like a day off.”
This one short day of child care, which Nonni started with a feeling of smug confidence, turned out to be one huge exercise in keeping Nonni humble.
Holy chaos, Batman.
I won’t go into every detail, but let it be said that Nonni has had her commupance.
I thought it would be a good idea to quickly throw together a little nightstand that I had ordered online. What I didn’t know was that the maker of said little nightstand failed the “Impossible-to-follow-Ikea-test”.
I tried. And tried. And covered the entire kitchen table with said random pieces of nightstand.
I attempted to follow the “oh-so-simple” directions which are provided for free without ONE SINGLE word of explanation in any language.
Today it was roughly 900 degrees outside, so we had our AC running as well as it could. We had fans running. Skylights were closed.So it was only about 85 degrees in the dining room where I was fighting to the death with the nightstand directions. I was a big, fat, old lady sweat ball by the time I had connected the first two pieces.
By this time, I have to brag, I had already fed breakfast to both kids, cleaned the kitchen, thrown in a load of laundry, and set up a glo-in-the-dark racetrack.
But I spent my morning trying to build the world’s tiniest and most useless nightstand. I was determined to get it done.
In the meantime, I had set the timer for potty training and taken the toddler to the potty three times , made breakfast for two, served that breakfast, cleaned up said breakfast, washed two faces, pulled out a bag of toys and cleaned the kitchen.
The day went on with pretty much the same rhythm. Hammer in stupid pointless nail number 43, change a poopie diaper. Hammer in stupid pointless nail number 52, serve some goldfish snacks. Put the dog out. Let the dog in. Wash faces. Repeat.
I hammered, hugged, sweated, served, screwed in useless screws, mediated fights over crayons, changed diapers, took Ellie to the potty, let the dog out.
For a while, I thought I was OK. I thought it was working out.
Then Ellie asked for a new snack. Yet another snack. A wicked messy snack.
“Nonni,” she asked with her big innocent eyes fixed on mine. “Can I have some yogurt?”
I mean, really? Healthy, wholesome yogurt? Of course I said yes. I said yes even though I knew that Johnny would want to do exactly the same thing that his big sister was doing.
I gave Ellie her vanilla yogurt cup and a spoon and set her at the dining room table. I took off ALL of Johnny’s clothes, put on a big, set him up in his highchair with its big tray. I put the yogurt and a spoon in front of him.
I went back to nailing in useless nails and gluing useless connections. I let the kids eat.
Then I looked up.
“I’m all done!” chirped Miss Ellie with her nice clean yogurt cup and her clean spoon in front of her.
“MMMMMMMMMM” said Johnny, with vanilla yogurt on his cheeks, his ears, up his nose and into his hair. “MMMMMMAHHHHH!”
I dropped the useless hammer and the pointless nails, ran into the bathroom and turned on the tap in the tub. Back to Ellie and Johnny, grabbing spoons and yogurt cups and hustling both of them into the bathroom.
I thought I was pretty cool. Mostly exhausted, but still pretty much on top of things. I had (mostly) made the stupid waste of money nightstand. I had fed the kids and entertained them and kept us all mostly cool in the desperate jungle heat.
Now I dropped the yogurt covered baby into the tub, and helped his big sister climb in with him. I scrubbed, I shampooed, I scraped dairy products off of key body parts.
It was only noon, but I had already had a long day. I was silently patting myself on the back as I sat back to watch my grandchildren playing. “Nice,” I told myself, “I have helped them to share, to learn from each other, to appreciate the special relationship that only siblings can understand.”
“What’s that?” asked Ellie, pointing into the tub full of bubbles, toys and …..meatballs.
“OH.” I said. “Um. I think Johnny pooped in the tub.”
In a feat of athleticism rarely seen outside of an Olympic stadium, Ellie hurled herself out of the tub with a bloodcurdling shriek.
I was left with the fallout.
So. Now the kids have gone home. The tub has been cleaned, the toys are put away. The sink is filled with hot water, bath toys and white vinegar.
I have a martini in my hand.
Every time I think I have it all figured out, the kids find a way to keep me humble.