Living in town with four of my seven grandchildren makes it easy for me to be more in their lives. My daughters do not take advantage of using my services as a babysitter even though I am more than happy to spend time with these precious little people.
A while back, my daughter who lives in Charlotte asked me to stay with their three while they attended a wedding in Boston. They would be gone for four days. In the past, I would have my husband come with me as three young ones was a lot to handle on my own. His schedule prevented him from coming this time. I was a bit apprehensive wondering if I could keep up with them. They are respectful and well-behaved, but two boys ages four and seven are quite active, and I am not quite as agile as I used to be. I soon found I had nothing to worry about. I knew my 10-year-old granddaughter would be easy enough. She loves to read, spend time with friends, work on crafts, and have conversations about any and all things. All of them had LEGO projects, summer workbooks, and new games we could all play. These were very helpful as the rain was an almost daily occurrence. They have limited amounts of screen time, so movie night is something they look forward to. Of course, agreeing on which movie was a different story. I finally wrote down each of their movie choices and drew one out of a bowl. The groans of the losers soon subsided, and popcorn made the loss forgettable. Taking them out to lunch with frozen custard to follow was also a hit.
My biggest realization in all of this was that I can do it alone. They are no longer toddlers who have to be watched like a hawk. They are fun and funny, helpful and polite, and spending time alone with them gave me a chance to learn more about each of them. Spending days, instead of hours, gave me an insight that comes with keeping up with aspects of their routine. It is fine to fudge a little, but it is a disservice to their parents and, ultimately, to the children to allow them to run the show.
I learned quickly not to be a short order cook. Instead of asking what they would like for dinner, and getting three different answers, I started fixing what my daughter had left on a meal plan list. It was items they were known to like and, though it might not have been their first choice, it was something they would eat.
I found that my late night habits had to be reined in when staying overnight with the grands. Unlike me, sleeping late and moving slower in the morning does not work for them. I surprised my daughter by rallying early, getting all three up and dressed, breakfast eaten, and to school on time with everything they needed for the day. I will admit to not missing the alarm going off at 6:30am when I got back home.
The good news about spending time with your grandchildren, besides the obvious ones, came in an article I recently read about a study done by researchers from the Women’s Health Aging Project in Australia. It showed a correlation between postmenopausal women who spent one day a week caring for their grandchildren and a lower risk of developing cognitive disorders and Alzheimer’s. The thought behind it is that caring for the little ones may help prevent social isolation that can lead to depression. The study suggests that the bond formed has benefits for both seniors and children. However, this applies to mental function – several days as caregivers may take a toll on your physical abilities, so everything in moderation.
Another study conducted by the University of Reading found that drinking three glasses of champagne per week can protect your brain from dementia and memory loss. This is one study I can get behind! However, not on the days I am babysitting.
The bottom line is enjoy your time with these little people. Hearing their happy voices greeting you and getting the best hugs is great, but that loving bond you form with them will last a lifetime. They won’t stay little for long, so make the most of this special relationship.