Almost all the grandparents I know contradict themselves when they talk about their grandchildren. They love them dearly, of course, and say they don’t see them enough. But, almost as reliably, they complain to anyone who will listen about how absolutely the kids wear them out.
I am lucky that three of my grandchildren live here and that I get to see them often. Nevertheless, I still always catch myself carping that I only get to see that bunch on the run, not long enough for what is supposed to be quality time. I have two more sets of grandchildren who don’t live in town, and I don’t see them as much as I would like — period.
So imagine my delight when all of them converged at my house on a recent Saturday in overlapping waves.
Being with the kids reminded me of the Riddle of the Sphinx. You know: What is born with four legs, grows up with two, and ends up with three? I might not have grown that third leg (a cane) quite yet, but on Saturday — marshaling my platoon of emphatically two-legged, hyperkinetic grandchildren — I probably could have used one.
The 2-year-olds are the easiest to be with, as well as the most difficult. They are easy to be with because they play charmingly for hours with whatever toys are around. They are difficult because they never run out of energy, even if it is supposed to be nap time.
I was thrilled when Ellis, one of the two 2-year-olds, got bored with the wooden train tracks and sat down to let my husband read him a book. I was thrilled when Teddy, also 2, kept himself amused for ages trying to make every single one of the many, noisy talking and music-making plastic gismos in the playroom work. He busied himself so thoroughly, in fact, that I had time to put all the old dollhouse furniture — which some of the others had piled in a heap — back in place in all the tiny rooms.
How ironic: Most of the time when the grandchildren are around, I am frantically racing after them trying to put my own house back in order! But I have to also admit that it isn’t easy for me to keep up with these little boys, especially Teddy, who just loves running along as fast as he can while pushing anything on wheels.
The house was ringing and shouting with grandkids, and, yes, I was delighted to watch my 9-year-old and almost-8-year-old granddaughters grooving on let’s-pretend games And, yes, it was great to watch them play big sister to their 4-year-old cousin, who lives in faraway Nova Scotia. But even when the girls were fully engaged in make-believe, I wasn’t off the hook. At some point, a grown-up always is required to take on a supporting role in the action.
You know what? This isn’t always as much jolly good fun as you might think. How long would you, yourself, really relish standing at duty in a doorway as keeper of the imaginary hotel? Or crouching to play jungle hideout?
For me, the rather grueling part of grandparenting is not the level of energy necessary for keeping up, but the decibel levels the kids generate. And, then, if you decide to quiet things down by letting them sit in front of the boob tube, you are subjected to the nerve-wracking din of Put Down the Ducky or Go, Diego, Go! (I don’t like Dora, either.)
It’s been said that being a grandparent is bliss because you have all the joy that children can bring but none of the responsibility. The problem is that as a grandparent you are running on half-empty — if not on three legs.