Iam going to take on the role of an advice columnist and give advice to grandmothers who find themselves babysitting while Mom and Dad go away for a few days.
I recently found myself in South Jordan, Utah, minding the little ones of my daughter, Mary Susan, and her husband, Tim, for four days. They were 9-year-old Ali, 6-year-old Parker, 4-year-old Charlotte, 3-year-old Emma and 18-month-old Bennett.
Although I didn’t break any toes this time of babysitting, it was hard. I knew it would be and tapped another granddaughter, Hayden, who is 11, to come and help me.
Mary Susan said before she left her very low expectation for the time period was that everyone survive. And they — make that “we” — did!
I thought I lost Ali at one point, but apparently I hadn’t heard her say she was going over to a friend’s house. In my defense, it was pretty noisy in the house.
So here is some advice for grandmothers who are babysitting for a bunch of children:
1. Do not go shopping. I spent about 15 minutes in a Walmart with all of them and that was enough. It ended up with my throwing peanut butter cups over a shopping cart down to the young cashier. “You’ve got them all out today, don’t you?” he said. He was really thinking, “What was this old woman thinking?” In my defense, no one fell out of the shopping cart, tipped over the shopping cart or stole candy from the counter, which had been my experience as a mother.
2. If you do go to Walmart with six little children, bribe them with peanut butter cups to be good.
3. Do not take them to get haircuts by yourself. I already had been with Mary Susan to get the two little girls haircuts and wound up with a shelf of beauty supplies on the floor, a broken lava lamp, and, of course, glitter everywhere. In our defense, it wasn’t our fault. The shelf wasn’t anchored correctly. The stylist admitted as much when she said, “Don’t worry. That happens all the time.” So fix it.
4. Know where the extra refrigerator is. Mary Susan had told me there was more milk in the extra refrigerator. I looked everywhere for that refrigerator. I’ve visited there multiple times in the past but just couldn’t remember. I even looked in the spare bathroom in one weak moment. I had to break down and ask Ali where it was. She looked at me like I was crazy and took me to the garage, where I’d looked. But it was hidden by cardboard recycling on the top and couldn’t be seen from my vantage point. In my defense, the cardboard could have been recycled the day before.
5. Talk a good talk. Every night one of the children has “special time” with Dad after the exhausting day, cleaning up the kitchen, reading scriptures, praying, baths and bedtime. After all that routine one night, Charlotte said, “Now it’s my special time.” I could barely put one foot in front of the other and had to do some fast talking about special time being with Dad and he would do it when he got home. I talked and talked and then said, “So it’s bedtime.” She replied, “But it’s my special time.” I talked some more. Maybe I promised candy. She’s got a serious sweet tooth. In my defense, I was exhausted.
In fact, I came downstairs after tucking everyone in and Hayden said, “Now what do you want to do, Grandma?” I said, “Sleep.” We wound up watching Food Truck Rodeo, a dream of hers, so that made it special. In my defense, we ate cookies too.
6. Make a big poster for the homecoming. It takes up lots of time and the parents like it. Plus, it can be funny. Little Emma drew a complicated diagram and I asked her what it was. She replied in her sweet little voice, “It’s a fantasyland. It’s a trap.” Sort of sounded like parenthood. In my defense, I realize that is pretty negative, but funny.
7. In conclusion: Use paper plates, have Mom put meals in the freezer beforehand, take a bag of Dove dark chocolates for desperate moments, get up before the children do, finish the laundry every day and give everyone lots of hugs and kisses. In my defense, I did all of those.
Oh yeah, be your own good defense attorney.
Elzey is a freelance writer for the Register & Bee. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (434) 791-7991.