Ever since our daughter Molly’s family moved from Virginia to Massachusetts, Hannah and I are living the grandparents’ dream. Just an hour away, the Family Rawding is our Tuesday destination. Many the afternoon, we take our grandsons, Owen (4.5) and Max (2.5) to Edwards Beach in warm weather or to the Loch Ness Fun Center in winter.
Then, after nighttime reading and tucking them in, we have an evening with Molly and Tip; first a glass of wine, then a sweet meal that Hannah prepares for us all as the good conversation flows.
But on occasion, we love us some 24 hours with just Owen and Max at our place on the coast of Maine. Molly and Tip get 24 hours to be “off” to do some house painting, set up dinner with friends, have an uninterrupted night’s sleep, wake when they want, and then go out for bagels.
We arrange for this first weekend of November to be such a 24 hours of Owen and Max. At noon this Saturday, I drive 30 miles to a mid-point Dunkin Donuts on I-495 where Molly meets me with Owen and Max buckled into their car seats. She takes our car while I drive north in theirs for “adventures” with the boys.
Now, Hannah and I aren’t as young as we used to be, but who is? Do I hear an Amen? But in the years since we have been Omi and Poppa, we have learned a thing or two about grandparenting. You see, in the past when we had the boys for 24 hours, Hannah and I would do everything together with them: Go to the library, go to the gym, go to the York Beach playground, and hang around the living room while the boys played. ALL TOGETHER. Individually, Hannah and I never had a chance to catch our breath.
Ah, but no more. Today, while Hannah is home having some peace and quiet, it is just I who picks up the boys and heads directly to the York Public Library. There, the boys play with the trains and trucks; Owen asks me to read him a story. Today, I read a trio of books, including one of my all-time favorites, Sheep in the Jeep!! If you have preschool kids or grandkids or know someone who does, run, don’t walk, to borrow Sheep in the Jeep from your local library!
From there I take them across the street to York Hospital. If you don’t know York Hospital, make a beeline for it as soon as you can (i.e., before you actually need it). In addition to preparing world class tuna paninis in their café open to all town residents and visitors, they have submarine and hot air balloon rides on site. You see, the elevators are decorated to look like the insides of these two rides.
In addition, fantastic aquariums in both the front and emergency room lobbies have “Nemo” fish, as Owen calls them. They each select a mini-muffin, that they willingly wait to eat until they are buckled into their booster car seats.
Three hours after picking up Owen and Max, I pass them off to Hannah. Rested, she is all in as the boys race the hot wheels on our driveway, swat and kick balls, fly kites from the deck, snack on honey dew melon. And then it’s the leaves!
While I am chilling inside, Hannah rakes a pile of brown oak leaves for splashing, jumping, and kicking about. After, Hannah pulls the boys in our grandkids’ wagon to see a neighbor’s free range chickens before the sun goes down.
Once inside, the boys scarf popcorn a la Poppa, then enter into imaginary worlds of trains and trucks in our living room. For dinner, they feast on tortellini, cold peas in yogurt, and meat balls – all the while, in the loving embrace of their Omi and Poppa.
You see, our goal is to have Owen And Max be so active throughout the day that they immediately fall asleep at bedtime. No naps for these guys when they are with us. You see, Hannah and I want/need to have a little evening time for ourselves to recuperate in front of our gas fireplace with a glass of wine. We are not superheroes. Twenty-four hours with Owen and Max is consuming. It’s 24/7, well, 24.
At bedtime, while I read the pop-up book, Beach Bugs in one room to Max, Hannah reads Owen’s favorite, Big Bird Brings Spring to Sesame Street. By 715P Max is snuggled in and sawing logs. Owen, too, soon crashes. Mission accomplished!
Tip for grandfathers everywhere. Don’t let grandmothers get away with changing all the diapers. For the first six months after Owen was born, I let Hannah change the diapers when we traveled to Virginia to be with the Family Rawding. But oh, was I ever the loser! We pops miss the full experience of our grandchildren if we don’t participate in the messiness of diaper changing. When we change diapers, we become card-carrying members of the Grandpas Union, not just potted plants. Kids see that we have some of the talents of their grandmothers.
And tonight having the diaper changing skill comes in handy when two-year old Max cries out in the darkness, a little past midnight. Slipping out of bed, I let Hannah sleep as I quickly change Max’s diaper and talk him back to sleep.
Mornings are mellow. Breakfast at Omi and Poppa’s continues to be the healthy fare that the boys are used to at home: cantaloupe and honey dew melon, then scrambled eggs. While sitting on his Omi’s lap, Max takes bites of her oatmeal while Owen and I share our love for complex carbohydrates, by sharing Hannah’s toasted homemade bread with a dab of honey.
Later it’s ping pong, then baths in the kitchen sink. By 1115A we are packing them up for the Dunkin Donuts, where we made the exchange 24 hours before. Owen falls asleep during the 35-minute car ride while Max listens to kids’ songs on the car CD player with me.
Indeed, we are living the dream. And then, when I get home, the boys now with their youthful parents, I take one sweet nap!
PS The Truth. Let’s give credit where credit is due. Hannah and I may be fine grandparents, but it’s the intentional and loving parenting of Molly and Tip that make Owen and Max delights to be around. The boys’ sweetness does not just happen by chance. At a very young age, the boys are learning to be responsible and empathetic with social skills that will serve them a lifetime. New parents, buy Molly and Tip coffee and bagels out and spend some quality time with them.