Last week I got to be Mary Poppins. The 6-year-old grandson had to go to Children’s Hospital in Dayton to have tubes put into his ears, so I spent the day with 4- year-old Jeffrey.
When I arrived at their home just after six in the morning, their mother told me Jeff would probably sleep late because he had stayed up late the night before. As she was explaining, Jeff was walking toward us, rubbing his sleepy eyes.
They left, and Jeff settled down on the couch, not to sleep. I think he was just plotting his day.
He already knew we had a few errands to run, and that he would be allowed to buy himself and his brother a gift at the store which sells everything for a dollar. He had already expanded on my very generous offer and promised his sisters he would buy them a gift too.
We watched a show on television which seemed to revolve around four oddly shaped, named and brightly colored creatures. Then Mr. Rogers came on. I got sleepy. Miraculously so did Jeff. He actually went to sleep in a big chair, so I stretched out on the sofa to rest.
Thank heaven, something awakened me. Jeff was gone. I checked the kitchen thinking he was probably hungry for breakfast. It was empty. I moved down the hallway toward his parents’ room because the door was opened.
I hoped he was asleep on their bed. He wasn’t. I moved quietly to the bathroom doorway. Jeff was on the countertop, reaching into the opened medicine cabinet.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
He sat down on the counter, tried to look angelic, and said, “Nuffin.”
I walked on in and checked the cabinet. I breathed a sigh of relief. I thought my daughter had better sense than to leave medication where the kids could reach it, and she did. There was an empty soap wrapper stuffed on the shelf.
“Where’s the soap” I asked. He handed it to me, and I put it away. It wasn’t necessary to ask any more questions because 4-year-olds seldom know why they do anything.
“Get down,” I ordered. He did.
“Come with me.” He followed.
We sat down in the living room. Then I asked what he wanted for breakfast. He decided to have some grapes. Then he wanted a piece of cheese. He finished up with an orange and a cracker. It wasn’t what I would have allowed my children to eat for breakfast, but he had fruit, dairy and grains. That covered it as far as this grandma was concerned.
Then we were rolling a ball back and forth when he announced, “I gotta go!” and headed for the kid’s bathroom. I sat in the living room and waited — until I heard the bathroom door close.
I hurried down the hall, grabbed the door knob, and…nothing. The door was locked. Well, he’d learned something from our last encounter, too bad I didn’t.
“Doing what?” I asked, really worried about the answer.
“Going to the bathroom,” came the logical reply.
My turn. Should I order the door opened again? Should I challenge him with a punishment? What to do? Then the answer came. It was so simple.
“OK, I’m going outside. Let me know when you’re finished.”
The door opened immediately. He didn’t even take time to pull up his pants. “Wait for me!” he shouted.
I was relieved to know I hadn’t forgotten everything I knew about dealing with little kids. As long as I kept my eyes and my mind open, this day would be a piece of cake, but before the day was over I learned a whole lot more about dealing with kids in this century.
Author’s Note: This column was first published in the Daily Advocate Feb. 14, 2001.