Iused to think the hardest aspect of babysitting for grandchildren was the school drop-off and pick-up. Those procedures are understood only by those who do it daily and are watched over by serious-faced teachers or, the scariest of all, an older student in a yellow vest.

Thank goodness for neighbors who feel sorry for the visiting grandma and offer to do the drop-off and pick-up. Besides their future reward in heaven, they usually get a plate of cookies from a grateful me.

Recently the neighbor of my 6-year-old twin grandchildren, Rachel and Dean, did the morning school run for me — and was sweetly rewarded — which gave me enough time to manage the water bottles.

Oh my goodness! When I was a child in the searing Kansas sun, I either ran inside for a glass of water from the sink or drank from the hose. We had no idea dehydration was a possibility, or apparently an impending national emergency that must be attended 24/7 and at all costs.

As a fifth grader in an Army school in Germany I even had to stay after school one day for getting a drink of water out of the water fountain after recess. I still can hear my teacher yell “Dean!!” at my infraction. I still don’t know where he came from — I had looked both ways before venturing an unscheduled drink.

But these days the management of water bottles in a family calls forth the best in a parent or babysitting grandparent.

Here were my instructions: “The kids’ water bottles are in the [very large] bottom drawer and the grown-up ones are in the [very large] second drawer up. The kids need two water bottles the day they pack their lunch but only one on the days they don’t. They put them in their backpacks and are responsible to get them out after school.”

Sounded easy. But after a whole week of school, I know I should have followed my son and daughter-in-law out to the car as they drove off asking such questions as: “Is it OK if the Avengers top goes on the Disney Princesses bottles? Do they take ice or it is just plain water? What’s the emergency number if I forgot to send the second water bottle on the day I pack a lunch?

“Will the kids dehydrate into a mere shell of a first grader if I don’t fill it to the top? Where do I look if all the tops disappear from the dishwasher? Why does the ice dispenser spit all the ice over the floor when I try to fill a bottle?”

Most importantly of all, I would have asked, “How do I put together the one that has the flip-top and the plastic guard that goes over it and the cap that goes over that and the suction tube down to the bottom of the actual bottle?”

I did pretty well the first day, which was a one-bottle day. I got ice and water all over the floor, but I called it mopping. (I actually can operate my own water and ice dispenser at home, truth be told.)

Then Dean came home without his water bottle. He insisted it was in his backpack, but I couldn’t find it. He couldn’t either. We were down one bottle on the first day, and it didn’t have his name on it.

I knew there was a lost and found at the school full of sad jackets and, you guessed it, water bottles. But Dean’s never showed up there. It wasn’t even a Spider-Man one, just a plain plastic one.

The next day I left Rachel’s on top of the stair post and had to drive to school. I waited to avoid the drop-off crowd, but still turned down the wrong street. In a moment of self-confidence, I prematurely turned down Brave Lane.

When she came from the class to get it, she smiled and said, “Silly grandma. I didn’t need this.”

I still don’t understand why she didn’t need it. It was a one-bottle day.

I made it through the week of water bottle vigilance. I cleaned water bottles out of the family van, the floor of the garage and found a couple in the family room.

I had begun the week as a water bottle crisis waiting to happen, and ended up the week with all the tops matched with the bottles with the twins’ help and had added six water bottles to the inventory.

When the parental units returned, I delivered the water bottles, minus the lost (plain) one, and two happy children who showed no signs of dehydration.

I almost bought a fancy water bottle with my birthday money, but I’m scared to take a step onto that path. I think we might have a West Virginia University one someplace without a top.

Elzey is a freelance writer for the Register & Bee. She can be reached at susanelzey@yahoo.com or (434) 791-7991.

Elzey is a freelance writer for the Register & Bee. She can be reached at susanelzey@yahoo.com or (434) 791-7991.

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