I received a second education on young children as two of our four grandchildren stayed with us for six weeks this summer. They otherwise live in Tulsa, Okla.

I kept asking myself how I missed so much – how I was so oblivious — during the 70s and 80s when we raised our two children. So much of this I JUST don’t remember. It seemed easier as parents, even though we were amateurs at child-rearing then.

I don’t remember our own kids being so verbal, so intense, so reactive, so bold.  I don’t remember them always being so hungry.  Xavier was incessantly opening the refrigerator and reconnoitering the contents. “Grandpa, I need food,” the 3-year-old lad announced 200 times.  Minutes after going through peaches and juice, he announced, “I need a hot dog.”

Every subsequent request was for something different.  Typically only part of whatever got eaten, and Grandpa finished up whatever it was – yogurt, peaches in their juice, chicken nuggets, etc.

 His sister, Marissa, opened the refrigerator at 11:10 a.m and declared I want something to eat. I suggested cheese sticks or raw strawberries or yogurt or raspberries or bananas… “I don’t want any of that,” she whined.  But Xavier was pacified with a cheese stick. Finally, Marissa, stared at the cupboard shelves and announces “Cheez-Its” would serve her immediate need.

 I don’t remember so much unloosed screaming and sobs after being told, “No!” and “Not yet?” or “Because I’m the adult and you’re the 5-year-old child.”

They had a love-hate relationship with our in-their-faces Chihauhua, named Chloe, who vacuumed their crumbs and licked their faces, legs and hands. If they weren’t tormenting her, they were trying to get her to do something new and undoglike.

 I pitched the tent in the back yard. The two kids saw it as a delightful daytime novelty like a playhouse, but would not camp in it at night.

  From the toys to the TV, from the DVDs to CDs, from the trips to the stores to the walks to the park, they had more stimuli than anything kids had 30 years ago. There have been tea parties, slumber parties, pizza parties and a day when both grandkids got their fingernails/toenails painted.  Xavier put the same puzzles together 50 times, although several pieces left on the floor were chewed to a pulp by Chloe

 Patty and I had to keep reminding myself that Marissa, 5, and Xavier, 3, are not our children. They were literally on loan. I am more than pleasantly surprised by the nurturing they are getting in far-off Oklahoma.  The receptors in their brains pick up and process everything in their environment – from examining leaves on backyard bushes to separating stones by their colors.  They came seeking fly swatters, made hourly raids on the refrigerator and went through boxes of with colored markers, chalk and stickers.  Amid potty-training for Xavier and indulging Marissa’s joy in playing Taylor Swift’s CD, there are a lot of old and new experiences for them.

Marissa spent hours on the computer playing Disney and Noggin games – protesting whenever an unintended key stroke got her onto something else and not being able to negotiate her return back.

We were wonderfully pleased by what the City of Tempe had to offer: A world-class children’s section in the Tempe Public Library with the delightful preschool storytime; the Tempe Museum with its fake horse, old-fashioned toys and curious displays; wonderful parks with long paths, swings and ducks to feed; a great water splashpad area at Tempe Beach Park and fun, smaller splashpads at places like Hudson and Jaycee parks; and the new aquarium at Arizona Mills Mall. Tempe, you helped us keep the kids occupied.   Along the way, they also tripped to the Phoenix Zoo.            

 It was six weeks of looking after two grandkids who liked to be on the go. They needed to get out of the house to restaurants, stores, malls, and beyond. They thrived in vacation Bible school, relished fireworks, quickly got over their spills and scratches and learned some manners along the way. We can’t count the rolls of paper towels spent on wipe-ups and messes.

 You can indulge them with toys, kids’ meals and the things they impulsively spot in stores.  They gave workouts to our clothes washer, microwave and TV. Our evenings orbited around bath time and calming them down at night to sleep. We lost one of Xavier’s sandal early on, tore the house apart, but never found it. We bought new ones.

I spent those same formative years in a four-room farmhouse down a long driveway, so far from anything so stirring or exciting. We got our first TV when I was nearly 6. I never went to a movie until I was 8. These kids, however, have been zapped by millions more stimuli than I experienced in my sheltered world. It shows up in their intelligence sentences, awareness and spontaneity.

 Patty and I are considering this as an annual undertaking, this hosting grandkids from Oklahoma – if we have enough in our tanks a year from now.

 We also have a granddaughter and grandson in Litchfield Park whom we see regularly.  They are about the same age as their Oklahoma cousins.  Somehow they seem to come from a different tribe. Or maybe we just get them in smaller doses.

We love all of them and marvel at how different each is. We wonder what we can impart in a 42-day stint of influence, adventures, discipline and crazy joy.

Hanging next to the oven in our kitchen are three various decorative plaques. One says, “Grandkids make the world a little softer, a little kinder, a little warmer.” Another says, “God couldn’t be everywhere so he made grandmas.” The last says, “Grandma’s House: Where Memories are Made.”

 

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