My two-year-old grandson has named me “dude”. That’s me. My wife and I (a.k.a. Mimi and Dude) have spent the past two weeks taking care of him and his two-month-old baby sister while his parents were away.
These past two weeks have been the hardest I have worked in a long time. In fact, one day I logged in over 9,000 steps and didn’t even leave the house. It was also an incredible experience in spite of how tired I am physically as I write this.
I have never had children of my own. When I met my wife, her three kids were already grown so I became an extra person in their lives. I am very blessed that they have all accepted me as part of their lives.
When the offer was made for us to babysit the grandkids, we both jumped at the chance. I didn’t think twice about taking the time off from work to do this. Now, for the first time, I have had the opportunity to help take care of the grand kids. I admit that I was scared. I only hoped I was up for the task. People that know me know that I am a planner and cautious so this babysitting adventure was a test for my comfort zones.
For the first time in my life, I have changed diapers, burped a baby and fed a toddler. All of this was new to me. I was a rookie going into this adventure in babysitting. I will be honest and tell you that I didn’t exactly know what I was getting into but my wife was experienced so I knew she would guide me through it. Through this experience I got a little insight of how I would have been as a father.
I will tell you that I have never been one to look down upon anyone who was a stay-at-home parent. I will defy anyone to say that it is not “real” work. I think it is the most important work a person could do. After these two weeks, I have even more respect for the parents. I don’t see how they do it. It is a whole different experience taking care of them versus coming up here for a visit.
I also saw my wife in “mommy mode”. She was in this mode from the moment we took over. We lost a lot of sleep and we were constantly on the move. She told me what to do and I did it. That’s what you do with you have two kids to take care of. There’s no time for romance or being sensitive. You just do it. You take care of things. If a toddler wants a fruit snack you do it. If the infant is crying you feed her. It’s teamwork.
I have been totally in awe of my wife during this time. I saw her even change diapers in the dark. Are you kidding me? I need every light on, lots of wipes and everything ready when I do it. This woman I married can change a diaper in the dark with NASCAR pit crew precision. Amazing. I have never seen anything like it. She’s good.
Speaking of changing diapers….I have to admit that I was a bit mortified when I came into this job. Okay, I was scared. It’s not something I want to be “good” at either. You know what I mean by that right? People like to tell you that you are “good” at chores that are unpleasant. Well, let me tell you that I am not “good” at changing diapers but I have done it and not afraid to do it after two weeks. I won’t be graphic about it but I can tell you I am not a fan of changing the messy diaper. I wanted those changes to be over as soon as possible. You just get it done. The quicker the better.
My wife has been really good at teaching me. I was a rookie going into this venture. She hasn’t laughed at my silly questions regarding child care either. Some of the questions I have posed to her were:
- How many times a day do you have to change diapers?
- Why do they have to take naps?
- Why does an infant have to sleep so much?
- How does a parent potty train a child?
- What does it mean when an infant is crying?
Over the past two weeks, I have learned the answers to these questions. I now know why a toddler needs a nap. Believe me, I have come face-to-face on that reason. If you have never seen the effect of what happens when a toddler doesn’t have a nap, you really need to experience it first-hand to truly understand. And I thought dealing with my co-workers was traumatic.
Every day was something new. I never knew what role I was going to play or what I needed to do to entertain them. One day I was building a bridge, the next day I was chasing the toddler from one room to another. The toddler even says the cutest things. One day he said, “Dude needs a coffee.” I’m still laughing at that one.
I have also learned the skill of negotiating with a toddler. It much like a hostage negotiation.
“Okay, if you take one toy will you go downstairs?”
I have also never fed a child until now. They don’t simply sit down and eat. You have to remind them that they are eating. They have the attention span of a butterfly flittering here and there and then back to their plate. You also have to blow on their food to make sure it isn’t too hot. Yes, there’s a lot of little things you learn to do.
My primary duty has been to run errands, get supplies or pick up food for us. I have called my job “Hooper Eats”. It has been a daily task. I have to say that Target has some serious security when it comes to baby formula. When the parents put in an order, it was like getting past airport security to pick up the order. Be proud that your Target store has such tight national security on similac.
Over the past two weeks I have been exposed to children’s entertainment such as Bubble Guppies, PJ Mask and this dude named Blippi. I really don’t know exactly how to describe Blippi. He’s really beyond description. I’m sure I will have flashbacks for weeks to come in some form of PTSD of babysitting. Look him up. He’s a YouTube sensation. You won’t believe it.
As a rookie, I made a rookie mistake in getting too confident. Just when I thought to myself that “I got this” I quickly learned that I didn’t. After a few successful nights of putting the toddler to bed, one night I didn’t do so well. All of my negotiating techniques failed and I was having no success encouraging the little guy to go to bed. I had to call in my wife to be the closing. I felt like a starting pitcher who had been sent to the showers. It was a sharp reminder that I didn’t need to get over confident.
In the end, this was a very rewarding experience for me. Although I am physically exhausted, I am glad to have helped out. I don’t think I am a rookie at this now. Maybe I have even moved up to the Class A level but certainly not the Major Leagues.
These past two weeks have been a lot of work but it has also been very rewarding in bonding with the grandkids. I have learned a lot and have learned to appreciate what it takes to care for an infant and a toddler.