Two Tykes Keep Grandma On Her Toes


I have a cold. I have this cold because last week I left the perfect winter weather of Florida for Kansas City, where it is 30-something degrees and a light dusting of snow covers everything.

It’s a nice place to visit. No, really. Where my hometown of Milwaukee has a bar on every corner and Palm Beach County has a bank on every corner, Kansas City has a restaurant on every corner. The steaks and barbeque are to die for. I could sypend the next two years munching my way through town and never eat at the same place twice…. and I may do just that.

When my daughter was about 8 years old, she told me that she wanted kids but had no patience with babies. I blithely promised to watch them until they were old enough for daycare. I never thought she’d take me up on it.

But now there are two children — a 3-month-old and a 2-year-old — and Jen goes happily off to work each day while the kids and I battle it out in the trenches. It was a little easier when there was just one. Skippy would wake up, eat breakfast, play with his toys, take his nap, we’d go on some little outing and then Jen would be home. He was happy.

Then this baby showed up, and sometimes I give her some attention. That is not OK in Skippy’s book. I’ll be cuddling little Tess and Skippy will throw himself on her, giving her a hug that gets tighter, tighter, tighter…

“Stop!” I yell. “Too much!”

So then Skippy will back off, gently taking her hand, kissing it, holding it tighter, tighter, tighter…

“Stop!” and I have to take Tess away.

I have no doubt that, deep down, he loves his little sister… just as I have no doubt that, deep down, he likes to make her squeal and cry. After all, it’s what big brothers do.

But Skippy had better watch out. Where he is an energetic little matchstick of a kid, Tess is going to be a bruiser. Her days consist of 1) eating and 2) smiling at you for feeding her. She is packing on the pounds to the point that the two kids are already wearing the same size diapers.

Someday soon, Skippy is going to give her hand a squeeze, and Tess is going to haul off and wallop him.

But, as I said, I’m only the referee. I’m the one who just happened to volunteer to keep an eye on my DNA.

I enjoyed raising my own kids so much that I figured I’d just do more of the same. But Jen has rules, whereas I was more of a “if they’re not playing in the street, they’re probably OK” kind of mom.

Jen’s rules are heavy on “no.” The kids get no screen time (TV, computer or cell phone videos). They get no fast food (just organically farmed, free range, non-engineered stuff). And everything they destroy has to be recycled, or at least put on the compost heap.

While she was home on maternity leave, Jen arranged the spice cabinet and tacked up a chart where everything goes. I inadvertently threw out an empty bottle and had to go dig it out of recycling to take its rightful place on the shelf. Empty.

So a lot of my time is spent sneaking the remote away from Skippy, grinding up vegetables in a processor (with 12 moving parts that need to be cleaned afterward) and washing the same dishes over and over because the detergent she buys is really great for saving the planet but really crummy at cleaning the dishes.

I try to tell myself I’m just like a hip, young mother, but what I really am is exhausted… and perplexed. Why is it more important to save the planet than your own mother?

Fortunately, Skippy and Tess make it all worth it. The refereeing, the housework, the germs — all the negatives fade away with one smile from Tess or one innocent “fun day” pronouncement from Skippy. Because that’s why I’m here — to make sure they have “fun days” every day. After all, they’ll be in preschool soon.