As a young mother, I took things in my stride. I rarely pondered over what could happen, I just dealt with things as they did happen. Now, with the awareness that comes with the passage of time, I have developed cautious and anticipatory behavior. How and when did this sensible person enter my once carefree body? The answer is the day I became a grandmother! Now, the expression “not on my watch” resonates within my entire being whenever I am babysitting my granddaughters.
Last week, after her last day at school, I brought May down to the Cape to spend two full days and nights alone with her grammy. What fun we were going to have! May and I planned our entire time together. We would go to Stone L’oven for her favorite pepperoni pizza. We’d eat at Peking Palace where she could have sesame noodles and wontons. And for a real treat, we’d go to Ben and Bill’s for ice cream and one of their delicious chocolate lollypops. As far as activities, we’d garden, make paper bag puppets, go on a scavenger hunt, read books… The list was seemingly endless. All I needed was the energy to sustain our many plans.
It rained the entire drive from Boston to Cape Cod and while May slept in her car seat, I found myself thinking about what a tremendous responsibility it was to be driving such precious cargo, my granddaughter, who brings me immeasurable happiness. As a person who is known to sometimes have a heavy foot on the gas pedal, I slowed down to the “annoying speed” that I have often disdained in other drivers during my many trips to and from the Cape. Normally music fuels my soul while I drive. Now however, with May as passenger, I turned off the radio so as to have no distractions. It’s as though suddenly, I had developed a tremendous awareness of the potential dangers of driving in the rain.
After about thirty hours of our special time together, we had fulfilled most of our plans and the rain put a damper on any beach plans. I could tell that May had reached a saturation point with doing indoor projects. Her four-year-old mind had enough stimulation. Now her four-year-old body was crying out for some physical exercise. In the morning, May had heard children talking and laughing as they ran to the bus stop near our home and she wanted to meet the kids behind the sounds. So the next morning, with May in hand, we walked to the bus stop where we met Luke, a soon to be four-year-old, whirling dervish. Luke and May immediately hit it off and chased each other as they waited for the bus to take Luke’s older sister to school.
Then it happened! My anticipatory antennae must have been asleep for I had not sensed what was to come next. Luke asked Kate, his mother if May could come to his house for a play-date! What to do? I knew Kate, but did I really know Kate? She seemed responsible, but would she watch May like I would watch May? I had never been to her house. Was the backyard childproofed? Was the house? I hesitated for an instant before answering the question, but then I looked at May’s face, a face that seemed so filled with hope that her grammy would say, “Yes.” So, before I could think any further, the word she longed for slipped off my tongue. We agreed that May could visit for one hour.
It was 9:00 when I walked into my house. I sat down at the dining room table and thought about what I would do with the full hour alone. I decided to call my daughter and tell her about May’s play-date. Although she seemed confident about my decision, was I? It was now 9:10. Time was crawling by. How would I last another 50 minutes? Was May O.K.? What was she doing? After one more phone call to my friends Margie and Dan, grandparents to six grandchildren, I decided to walk down to Kate’s house and be honest about how difficult it is for me to release May from my care.
Upon approaching Kate’s house, I could hear, stemming from her backyard, the sounds of children happily interacting. Relief flooded over me as I saw how much fun they were having feeding goldfish that swam in a small man-made pool, playing tag, and running into a house of tree branches made by Luke’s dad. Kate seemed a bit surprised to see me, but as I explained how I worry when May is in my care, she totally understood and with a smile on her face replied, “I am sure that my mother would react the same way.”
Not wanting to spoil May and Luke’s fun, I suggested that they continue their play at my house to which Kate gladly agreed. So May and Luke ran down the road (two houses away) and continued their play at my house, a solution that appealed to everybody.
It is understandable why grandparents tend to be overly protective of their grandchildren. It only takes one careless mistake for an accident to occur when young children are at play. Their bodies are often not in tune with the feats they attempt to undertake. Young parents are so busy with the daily routine of raising children that they are thankfully less inclined to worry about what might happen. As grandparents, we now have the luxury of time and awareness of the world to reflect on a myriad of life’s potential dangers. Perhaps we have too much time. Hmm…