Second Day of RG Babysitting Grandpa

May 25, 2008

When I arrived to pick up Random Granddaughter from her pre-school for my second day of rescue/babysitting (a week after the first) I was told that RG was having lunch. The teacher who admitted me invited me to join RG for lunch. “She will have to share her lunch with you,” she told me.In the classroom, RG was sitting at a small table with three other children. There were groups of children at several tables. I have no idea whether the children choose their own lunch groups or not or whether the groups represent different status groups or pecking orders (although the children seemed to be eating their lunches in a normal way rather than by pecking their food, even in an orderly way).

I sat on a very small chair, as did all the teachers having lunch with the children. RG was eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I asked her (using “please” politely) if I might have bite of her sandwich. RG immediately tore her sandwich in half and generously offered me an entire half.

I introduced myself to the children and asked their names. The boy in the group introduced himself as Leo. Leo asked me why I was taking RG away with me. I explained I needed her to babysit me.

The children accepted this explanation as reasonable. As I had taken RG away previously and let her return again the next week, the children seemed more relaxed about the situation.

Cassidy, one of the two other girls at the table, told me she wasn’t eating a sandwich. Indeed, she seemed to be eating small pieces of chicken out of a plastic bowl. “I am going to be a vegetarian, but my father thinks I need to eat some meat,” she explained.

Mira, the other girl at the table, told me that she didn’t eat peanut butter.

“Are you allergic to peanuts?” I asked.

“No, I just think some nuts are better than others,” she explained.

RG said, “Mia [her best friend who lives across the street] is allergic to peanut butter.” I looked around the room and saw Mia sitting at another table. It was a much larger table with many children sitting in long rows. Perhaps Mia was far enough away from RG to be safe from RG’s peanut butter.

The conversation seemed very adult to me.

As we walked home, RG and I didn’t talk much but we held hands in a companionable manner. After we got home, RG immediately handed me two birthday presents. One was for me; the other was for Grandma.

My daughter had forgotten to get us birthday presents back in January (mine) and Februrary (my wife’s). I had been a little surprised but didn’t say anything. Random Daughter has been very busy with getting ready for returning to graduate school and preparing to leave her job, so she had a lot on her mind. A week ago she had emailed me asking for suggestions for a present for her mother. “Don’t worry about your present; it’s taken care of,” she told me in the email.

In the barely extended family, we are not big on giving presents. We don’t exchange presents at Christmas. At birthdays, we typically ask each other what we want rather than trying to surprise each other. An anthropologist would no doubt conclude that our culture handles gift giving at an extremely primitive level, but we do the best we can in our rudimentary society.

I opened my present in front of RG. My daughter had remembered I had requested an “Arrogant Worms” album, but she had purchased two albums for me instead of just one, perhaps to make up for being late with the present. I explained to RG that I would save the other present so Grandma could open it herself.

(When Grandma later opened her present she found a Donovan album and an Ian and Sylvia album. She had these albums on phonograph records, but a) we put our turntable away and b) she had played these albums so many times the records were worn out. CDs wear out eventually, but I don’t know if they expire from the laser wearing out the CD as a phonograph needle wears out an LP. In any case, Grandma was very pleased with her presents. I was very pleased also as I had promised to buy these albums for her long ago, and now my daughter had done the task for me. We have a wonderful daughter.

RG decided to hear her story and take her nap immediately. I assumed we would go to the playground again after she woke from her nap.

After RG awoke a couple of hours later, she came downstairs. However, she didn’t seem quite awake yet. She lay down on the couch and covered herself with a blanket. She took turns putting the blanket over herself and putting it over me. Playing hide and seek and making people disappear and reappear continues to provide her with a great deal of amusement. For all I know, when she becomes an adult and marries she will play hide and seek with a spouse. Some games seem to have long-term entertainment value.

“I don’t want to go to the playground,” she said. As I was still operating on the principle that she was in charge as long as she didn’t do anything dangerous, I immediately agreed. The rings at the playground did not seem to be in any danger from her absence.

RG seemed a little bored. One of Mrs. Random’s worries is that RG will be bored when Mrs. Random takes care of her. I decided to let her be bored for a few minutes and see what happened. After a few minutes she began playing with a group of six small animal dolls quite intently, doing various tasks involving putting on clothes and taking off clothes. I asked her if she needed any help. “No,” she answered as she attended to the dolls.

I came to the conclusion that RG is at least as capable as the average adult of amusing herself and working out of being bored. I later told my wife, “Don’t worry so much about amusing or entertaining RG if she seems bored for a little bit. She has a considerable capacity for amusing herself if you leave her alone.”

Eventually, she asked me to tie to strings together on a smock for a little fox doll. Perhaps she was worried Grandpa was bored, so she found something for me to do.

Earlier, I had asked RG if she wanted to work a jigsaw puzzle. I pulled a puzzle off a shelf. She did not seem interested in the puzzle, so I left it on a table. After playing with her dolls, she went into the library and returned with a different jigsaw puzzle and began putting it together on the floor. Although she was having some success putting some of the pieces together, she also seemed a little stuck.

I approached cautiously to see if I could help without annoying her. Generally, adults put puzzles together by attaching the outside pieces first. They identify the outside pieces by one side being straight. I noticed RG often tried to put pieces with a straight edge into the middle of the puzzle.

I tried to explain to her about putting the pieces with straight edges together, but she didn’t seem quite ready for this level of the “Theory of Putting Jigsaw puzzles together.” However, she eventually got the entire puzzle together with a little help from me. She didn’t seem to mind my participation.

As the afternoon passed, about every half hour she asked when Mommy (my daughter’s out of law partner and RG’s birth mother) would be home. However, she seemed relaxed on the topic when I said I didn’t know. She seemed satisfied just to remind herself (and me) that Mommy would be coming home.

Eventually, Mommy did arrive. After a bit she decided to call Mama, (my daughter, who rides the bus home from her job) on Mama’s cell phone to see when she was getting home. I had told Mommy that I was not staying for dinner, but would wait a little bit to see my daughter if it didn’t take her too long to arrive. As Mommy began to dial, Mama walked in the door. (I think this is called magic.)

I thanked Random Daughter for my birthday present, kissed RG goodbye, and headed for the ferry.


9 Responses to “Second Day of RG Babysitting Grandpa”

  1. Vicky Says:

    When does Random Grandma get the opportunity to take care of Random Grandddaughter?

    I agree that the children do fine entertaining themselves. My grandson comes to my place several days after school and after our greetings to one another, he is on the floor with his tractors and other equipment and plays quietly for a good 45 minutes. It’s a nice way for him to unwind from his busy day at school.

    Seems to me like you have a good handle on this babysitting Random!

  2. modestypress Says:

    Grandma gets a session with RG next week.

    Thank you for your approving comments on my grandparenting skills.I tend to fumble along and make it up as I go along, much as I did as a parent. I am glad my daughter still speaks to me.

    Grandma tells me I should shoot some rabbits this morning. She does not like the way they are eyeing the garden.

  3. Vanni B Says:

    Who knew that a wabbit-shootin’ Grandpa would be such a great babysitter… guess we all have good days and bad days. 🙂

  4. Vanni B Says:

    On second thought… yummy wabbit.

  5. truce Says:

    Can RG come over and baby-sit me? She sounds ideal. 🙂

    Also, having spent 10 years – off and on – as a nanny, I think adults often underestimate a) the powers of the average child to amuse themselves imaginatively and b) the need of the average child to amuse themselves imaginatively.

    Adults like to have a bit of peace sometimes, a little ‘me’ time. Why not kids?

    Endlessly hustling them from one organised entertainment or activity to the next can sometimes be counter-productive. But it sounds like RG has a lovely balance in her life, for which all her carers can be thanked. Good job Randoms!

  6. Ditto Truce. Kids need space in which to figure out what they want to do and/or need to do. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention, and down time is the father of imaginative recreation.

  7. modestypress Says:

    RG seems to have a healthy instinct toward grabbing space. Given the complexity and demands of their lives, her mommies seem to have healthy instincts for allowing her space. Although my instincts are not perfect in every respect, I try to go with her flow.

    I am glad my report seems to get the approval of an experienced grandmother, an experienced eccentric nanny, and an experienced eccentric person.

  8. Pauline Says:

    My kids did quite well entertaining themselves as toddlers and preschoolers. Once they started school, they were more likely to complain of being bored. I don’t know how much it has to do with getting used to group play rather than solitary play, a more advanced stage of development where pretend play has less appeal, or something else. (They’re over seven years apart in age, so there’s not a lot they like to do together except video games. And we’ve never lived in a neighborhood where they were surrounded by other kids their own age.)

  9. I just love the way you tells stories. One could practically turn this post into a charming picture book entitled “RG’s Day With Grandpa” with watercolors renditions of you tying the dress onto the fox doll, and RG eating a peanut butter sandwich.

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