The doorbell rang early one Sunday morning just about two years ago. There stood our oldest daughter with her two boys, Scott and Jeff, who were 4 and 2.
“Can you watch the boys while we go to church?” she asked.
They were obviously ready to play, not pray, so we invited them in. We read a few books, but this didn’t last long. They wanted to go outside, so we headed for the back yard.
Scott, the older one, had grabbed the whiffle ball and bat and in true macho style tossed me the ball and posed with the bat. As I prepared to pitch, he yelled, “Wait!” He then backed up about 20 more feet and then said, “Okay, I’m ready.”
It had been awhile since I had pitched to a confident boy-child, so I yelled back, “Come closer.”
He crouched down in batter’s stance and ordered, “It’s okay, I can hit it from here!”
Thinking quickly I replied, “Yeah, but I can’t throw it that far.”
His shoulders slumped as he gave me the “girls can’t do anything look,” and he came closer muttering something about women. And he was only 4.
Scott and I took turns pitching and batting, hitting and missing while Jeff explored the back 40. When he tired of this, he decided to join our ballgame in true 2-year-old fashion. I missed the ball and Jeff got to it first, scooped it up and ran for the gate yelling, “Mine!”
Scott and I were in hot pursuit. Scott wanted the ball and Jeff’s hide in that order. I wanted to keep Jeff from running into the busy street out front. Scott got the ball and I got Jeff.
“Now you have to play on the porch,” I ordered as I shoved them in and locked the screen door.
“No! Outside!” Jeff wailed. He gave me “the look” — eyes stormy under straight brows and a lower lip pouted out enough to allow a bird to perch on it.
“Yes,” I answered as I returned his look.
Scott was already tearing into the outside toy box on the porch. He knows a lost battle when he sees one. Jeff was learning. He decided to harass Scott instead of tangling with me.
They began heaving the plastic play balls so they would ricochet around the porch. Thank heaven that didn’t last long.
They settled down to draw colored chalk pictures on the porch. My choice was between chasing them around right then or hosing off the porch later. I came inside and let them chalk.
I stopped by the door when I heard Scott talking to Jeff. “It’s your fault we gotta play all locked up,” he accused.
“Naa-uh,” Jeff replied in imitation of his older sisters.
“Uh-huh,” Scott stated, “When Grandma says ‘Play in the back,’ she means it!”
“Huh! Jeff snorted. Scott gave Jeff “the look.” Jeff backed down. Little ones learn fast.
A few weeks later, their mother dropped the two boys off again for a short visit. Two-year-old Jeff came in, smiled, and said happily, “We’re at your house.”
“Yes you are, and I’m so glad,” I replied.
He wandered off. A few minutes later I found him cuddled up on the loveseat, sound asleep. Apparently he had been in the middle of a nap when he came in, and he decided to finish it.
Shortly thereafter Scott found a noisy toy which woke Jeff up again. Jeff sat up, looked a little confused, saw me, and stood up with a big grin on his face. “We are at your house! Yay!”
Little boys surely do know how to warm a Grandma’s heart.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate on July 5, 2001.