Six days after a rigorously physical weekend, the recovery has been uneven. My back still creaks, my right shoulder aches and I’ve got a wicked cold a little girl generously shared with me in the form of wet sneezes. I need a tune up, mostly to the joints and muscles that no longer work as they once did. Watching my middle’s sons kids over a long weekend reminded me how exhausting, how demanding, little tikes can be.
This is why we have children when we’re young.
Don’t get me wrong. Asked to babysit again, I would not hesitate, not for a second. I loved every minute of their extended visit. I loved their little hands in mine, their sleepy heads on my shoulders, their sticky faces after a breakfast of pancakes, their happy exclamations over the simplest pleasures. Yes, I even treasured the time spent assuring the eldest about the safety of an unfamiliar toilet.
But there’s no two ways about it. By the end we were exhausted. Bushed. Spent. Drained of every drop of energy. Foggy with lack of sleep. Sore from jumping, reaching, carrying, grabbing, bending. From moving, moving, moving.
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What grandparent hasn’t expressed similar feelings after minding little ones?
If you live near grandchildren — and sometimes even if you don’t — it is likely that you will be called upon to pinch hit for the parents. Some of my friends do it every day, during work hours or after school. Others, like The Hubby and me, do it as needed. Babysitting, after all, is part of a grandparent’s job description, along with spoiling, reading funny books aloud, offering cookies and providing enough hugs and smooches to cover a small village.
Because our babysitting arrangements tend to be temporary, because we return the kids after working them up to a frenzy, because we rarely worry now about the things that used to keep us awake 30 years ago, The Hubby and I are hugely popular with my granddaughters. For good reason.
We own a red wagon. A motorized Barbie jeep. A scooter. Two tricycles. A playhouse. A shopping cart full of plastic fruit. A cleaning cart with a child-sized mop and a broom. A fire-engine with a bell that rings. We also supervise a closet full of stuff, including a real bird’s nest, a strip of lizard skin, a desiccated frog, crayons and coloring books, dominoes, blocks, balls, tops, puppets, and a plastic container full of dress-up clothes.
You get the picture. We are fun. Our house is where rules are stretched, boundaries pushed and memories made: definitely worth a sore back and a few days of fatigue.
When my son and daughter-in-law came for their girls last week, I gloated at the way the 2-year-old clung to my neck and how the 1-year-old buried her face in The Hubby’s chest, gestures that needed no words, no explanations. Yes, yes, yes! They are now members of what I call the Mutual Adoration Society. We adore them, they adore us.
As we watched the family drive away in their SUV, however, The Hubby and I looked at each other pointedly.
“This is why people have children when they’re young,’’ The Hubby said with a groan and a smile. Then, leaning on each other, we staggered back inside, to a house where silence echoed forlornly. We were ready for a nap. Or a glass of red wine. Probably both.
Love sure can be grueling.
Follow Ana on Twitter @AnaVeciana.