Several years ago someone gave me a coffee mug that said Ms. Grandma. The picture showed a lady sitting in a comfortable chair reading to one child while handing a treat to another child standing by the chair. I liked that mug. It pictured my kind of grand mothering.
Over the years I have never been a regular babysitter for our grandchildren. By the time the first ones were born, our younger children were ready, willing, and able to babysit for them. As our children grew up, were married and produced more grandchildren for us, they learned the magic of sharing babysitting duties with each other.
We were always available for emergency situations and times when the kids just wanted to stay overnight at grandma and grandpa’s, and we always have a supply of goodies on hand that their parents refuse to buy for them, so our house is a fairly popular stopover for our grandkids.
Then, last month I found myself in charge of two grandsons, age 8 and 10, for the weekend. No problem I thought. Their older sisters were available if I needed help with accepted policies and procedures.
The first day we went to a cousin’s graduation party. The older sister jumped in the front seat of our Jeep. While we were partying, the youngest one asked me quietly if he could ride in front on the way home. That seemed fair to me, so I said yes.
When it was time to go, he ran ahead and jumped into the front passenger seat. His brother said, “He’s not allowed to ride in front.”
“I told him he could,” I answered.
“But Mom and Dad said he can’t ride up front until he’s 12.”
“Well, that’s probably in the van,” I reasoned. “We’re in my Jeep. Besides he acted like a grownup at the party, so I’m treating him like a grownup.”
“Yeah,” little brother piped up, “I act like an adult, so Grandma treats me like an adult.”
He beamed all the way home, and I silently congratulated myself on my great child psychology.
When we parked at the house, big brother pointed to the sun visor above the front seat.
“That says he has to be 12.” He was right; it did.
Lucky for me little brother continued to act like a grownup and did not ask to ride up front again.
Early one evening last week we came home to find a message on our answering machine from the same younger grandson asking me to please come to their house to get them because the babysitter was being mean to them.
I knew that the babysitter was their big sister, and I also knew that their dad was at work and their mom was doing some volunteer work that night. It has been my experience that little brothers always think big sisters are mean, so I figured a quick phone call would resolve the problem.
I called and he answered in a hushed tone of voice.
“What do you mean she’s being mean?” I asked.
“Well, she’s just mean,” he whispered, “besides it’s boring here. I want to come to your house. You could bring us back home before 10 o’clock,” He then reeled off a litany of all the fun things they could do here, some of which had been branded as boring at various times in the past.
In the middle of this recital Grandpa yelled, “The candy is all gone!”
“What does he mean the candy’s all gone?” the grandson asked.
Talk about child psychology! I realized I was really in the midst of it between the two of them.
The solution was simple enough. I went after them, and we told their mom to pick them up at our house when she was done at 10 o’clock. That grandson didn’t get any treats until he apologized to his sister for saying she was being mean.
The sister read her book in peace and quiet at their home, and the grandsons entertained each other at our home and never once complained about being bored.
I’m glad we live in this Grandma and Grandpa’s house, and I’m really glad that the grandkids drop in frequently for whatever reason.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate June 29, 2005.