Tobi and I got to babysit Jennie and Brock's kids for four days while they were vacationing in Cancun, Mexico. We went to their house on February 2nd and were there until yesterday, February 6th. Jennie and Brock come home today.
It isn't often that we get to spend a lot of time with our grandkids, usually it's just a couple of hours when there are lots of people around and so the personal time is limited. On occasions like this, however, the time is personal, intense, and long. And we absolutely love it.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that this is a one-time experience. Oh, I'm sure that we will have the chance to take care of them and our other grandkids again in the future, but it will not be the "same" grandkids. I'll explain:
Because all of our grandkids are still so young (at this writing they range from 2 to 10 years of age) they are all changing so rapidly. They are learning and growing and changing literally every single day. So even if we were to care for the same four kids 6 months from now, they won't be the "same four kids." This was like a snapshot of their lives at this particular moment in time.
Jace is nine years old. He is such a sweet boy. He loves his mom and dad and his two brothers and his sister so much. He has fun with them all. He loves his granny and grandpa too, although he is getting to an age now when he doesn't want to be too overt about it. This young man is brilliant too. I know, probably all grandpas say this about all their grandkids, but Jace truly is.
The memory that I will cherish about this past week was on our last night at their house. Jace sleeps in a bedroom downstairs, all by himself and he is the only one that sleeps in the basement. On this particcular night, when it was bedtime, Jace sort of timidly asked me if I would go down to his bedroom with him. It is dark down there and due to the positioning of the light switches, it requires passing through a dark room before the next light can be switched on, and he just wanted a little company through the dark parts. At least I guess that was the reason, he didn't say so. But he was fine once we got the far light turned on. I only feel bad that the other three nights, I didn't think to accompany him, and he didn't ask. I love this boy a lot.
Nixon is six. He'll be seven later this month, but, in miniscule ways by then he will be a different boy. Nixon is quite small for his age. At school his friends call him "Tiny Man." He makes up for his diminutive size with energy, bravado, and a sense of inner bigness. He loves his big brother and wants to do everything that Jace does. This often leads to competition and fights, but hurt feelings and mementos of battle are soon forgotten.
Because Nixon often displays his tough side, it is sometimes easy to forget that he's just a little boy and that his heart is filled with love, especially for his brothers and sister and for his mom and dad. At Jace's basketball game the other night I was watching Nixon and Leila playing on the other side of the court with a couple of other little kids. One of them started pushing Leila and Nixon was there in a flash. He put on his tough-guy face, inserted himself between them, facing the little boy, and, although I couldn't hear the exchange, he said something that changed the boy's mind about messing with Leila. After a few minutes I saw Leila and this little boy having the time of their lives together. Such is the nature of contention among small children.
I think it was that same night at bedtime, after prayers, when his grandpa asked him to go to bed, that Nixon said, "I want you to hold me." I knew, from watching him with his mom and dad, that this meant that he wanted me to carry him (the 20 or so steps) into his bedroom and lay him in his bed. I was so happy to do that, with his head on my shoulder.
Leila is four. She is such a cute little girl and, unlike her big brothers, makes no pretense about how much she loves you. She is very sensitive however, and doesn't want to be embarrassed. I took her to her ballet class and when we arrived she realized that we had left her ballet slippers at home. When it was time to start the class, her teacher came to get her and I explained that she didn't have her slippers. The teacher said that it wouldn't be a problem and said that most of the kids take them off during class anyway. But Leila didn't want to go into the class without them. She was embarrassed. Seeing this, I told her that I would go home and get them and would be back in 15 minutes. When I returned, she was happily involved in the class, and when I held out her slippers to her, she shook her head. She didn't want them now and neither I nor her teacher could get her to put them on. Ahh, little girls.
Every night at bedtime, as referenced above, we had prayer. Each of the kids took a turn to pray. One night during Leila's turn at prayer, after praying for her mom and dad and brothers, she said, "...and bless us that we won't get dehydrated." Tobi and I looked at each other and stifled our laughter, as did her big brothers. When we asked Jennie by phone if this was a usual occurrance, she said, "Nope, that's a first." I guess it just became important to her that night to maintain proper hydration at all times.
Each night, she asked either granny or myself to lie down on the floor next to her bed and talk to her for awhile. We discussed how many days until mommy and daddy came home, the fact that bear-bear had lost his tail, her toy unicorn's name, and other weighty matters. When she told me that she was concerned about monsters being in her closet, I made sure to carefully check every corner before announcing that her closet was, once again, monster free.
Talon is two years old. and he is learning to talk. So far, there are few things that he says with the same pronunciation that the rest of us use and so you need to spend some time with him before you can pick up the nuances of his particular form of the language. He's pretty good with Leila "Leela" and Jace, but Nixon is a little tougher. He calls me PaPa, or more closely "BaBa," and Granny "Nanny." One of my favorites is "Otay," for okay. He will put together a string of syllables with a rise at the end indicating a question, and then say "otay," and proceed with doing whatever it was he was asking about.
Talon is about the happiest little boy I think I have ever encountered. 90% of the time he has a smile on his face. If he's not actively playing with one of his siblings, he is fine making up his own sort of fun. All by himself he will yell out triumphantly and raise his arm in victory, or start growling and making faces. This boy is a huge fan of Mickey Mouse and at night, he won't go to bed without his two Mickey stuffed toys, and even then he thinks he should stay up a little longer. Typically, if he's not happy about going to bed, he will throw all of his blankets and toys out of his crib and stand there and cry. "Baba........ Nanny" until one or the other of us goes in and replaces his things. (I must admit to folding on more than one occasion and taking him out for a little more play time.) I discovered that if I would just lay him down and rub his head with my fingers for a couple of minutes, that was enough to put him into a sleepy trance and I could leave him there.
He loves to have books read to him, especially Mickey Mouse books, and loves to make the sounds that the different animals and cars and trains make. When watching the "Mickey Mouse" show in the Disney channel I learned to call out "Oh Toodles" while cupping my hands around my mouth like Talon does as he calls out "Ah Toodoo." (You have to be a Mickey Mouse insider to understand this.)
I loved watching these beautiful kids this week. I'm sure that the next time will be just as special, but these kids, the kids of February 2015, will never be the same again. They will grow and learn and gain experience, and change as they do so. That's life, and it has always been so. I guess granny and I will change too. And that's............ otay.