Last week The Doc and I spent several days in Nanny and Grandpa mode. This is what happens when our granddaughters come to visit. Especially when they come to visit without their parents. Parents can put a real damper on Nanny and Grandpa mode because kids act totally different when their parents are around. There is too much drama and button pushing and manipulation when parents are present. These are things that make me struggle to, and often fail to, bite my tongue. None of these things occur when they visit on their own. This is normal. Other grandparents have told me similar stories. It has nothing to do with good or bad parenting, it is just kids being kids. Or at least kids, now days, being kids.
The fact that I go into nanny mode at all would be considered very funny to many who know me. I am not, and have never been, a kid person. This may have something to do with having to make dinners and take care of my younger siblings at the age of 12 when my mother worked. It may have even more to do with having to put up with two older brothers that would undermine any authority I had with my younger siblings. Circumstances that made my life difficult. The life of a skinny, scrawny twelve-year-old girl who looked, and preferred to act, like a ten year old girl. I didn’t want to take care of kids. I wanted to be a kid.
Oh sure, I like my kid. I love my kid. JT is one of the best things that ever happened to me. And I love my step sons. They are the reason that JT exists. He really should thank them for that. That being said, don’t ask me to hold any babies or supervise any birthday parties. I did it for my kid, I have no desire to do it for anyone else’s.
Nanny mode requires preparation. There are certain things that must be done before our granddaughters arrive:
1. The La Z Boy sofa is unplugged. The attached controls are tucked into the space behind the seat cushions and the entire thing is covered with a large blanket. The Doc and I then resolve to sit upright for the duration of their visit.
2. A vinyl tablecloth is placed over the wooden table. This is a new addition to our preparations as placemats just couldn’t and wouldn’t stay in place. Exactly the same way that granddaughters just couldn’t and wouldn’t stay in place.
3. Their bedroom is scouted for dead creatures–wood bugs, earwigs, funny little half-inch worms and sometimes centipedes–that choose to die on the floor when the room is vacant. Oh yes, and night lights are plugged into wall sockets.
4. Specific foods are purchased with hopes that the girls still like and or dislike the same edibles as their last visit. The right kid food is very important for a successful visit. Luckily we have a lot of experience with kids who were particular about their food as two out of three of our boys fell into this category when they were younger.
5. Activities are planned, by far the most important part of the preparation process. Kids these days have the attention span of mosquitoes; they get bored easy and often. It seems like the more toys they have the more they get bored. Fortunately for us, we live on a lake and have JT’s trampoline that can be assembled with an hour’s notice. Indoor activities are another matter. The girls usually bring some of their own toys, and we held on to some of JT’s old toys. The Fisher Price cannons and the dinky car mat appear to be the most popular of those, more popular if Grandpa or Nanny plays too. But the novelty can wear off quickly, so making sure baking ingredients are in stock is key because all kids love to bake and then eat treats.
When it comes to being a grandmother, I learned from the best. The Doc’s mom, who I still fondly call Grandma along with all of her grandchildren and great grandchildren. Grandma T’s technique was to be firm but fun. Something I try to aspire to. She had, and voiced, very strong opinions regarding the upbringing of children, but she was a big kid at heart. A real get down, get dirty grandmother who would crawl around on the floor to play with her grandchildren while threatening to box their ears if they gave her any guff.
Favourite meals and treats were always prepared in advance when Grandma knew her grandchildren were coming. Then again, my favourite foods were prepared when she knew I was coming. I enjoyed this grandkid treatment just as much as her own children and grandchildren did.
After The Doc, JT and I moved to Nova Scotia, Grandma came to visit twice a year for the next eleven years. She would stay a couple of weeks, and we would plan interesting things to do and treat her like she was special, exactly the way she always treated us.
She was eighty-four the last time she hopped a plane and arrived to attend JT’s high school graduation. That was ten years ago. These days, Grandma struggles to recognize me; and although she is not the same person she once was, I will always remember the way she treated me and all of her grandchildren.
When it comes to being nanny, I will never be as good at the job as Grandma T, but I try my best. And I must be doing something right because Hannah, out of the blue when we were at the lake last week, looked up at me and said, “I love you nanny.” All I can say is, thanks Grandma.