In over our heads

We have two children. It was a good number for our family. I sometimes say that we were in over our heads and outnumbered with one child, so two just intensified that sense of being a bit out of control. We used to call our style “tag team parenting.” One would be caring for the children while the other was working professionally. Then we’d switch roles. We both worked professionally during the time we had our children, but the distribution of work was different at different phases of our lives. From time to time I would wonder how my parents managed with seven children. We are speed out so there were never more than five at home at the same time, but still, five is a definite hand full and having them spread over the years makes the job of being a parent an endurance event. Even my wife’s parents, with three children, must have had their hands full.

Two was a good number for us. We had time to be attentive to the needs of each child, while at the same time maintaining our professional lives.

From time to time we would have activities or events that demanded that we both be working at the same time. We had a few babysitters that were trusted who helped us when we needed to be otherwise engaged. I can remember a few short trips or events we attended when we left the children in the care of church members or their grandparents. It always seemed to work out and our children seemed to enjoy the special attention of being with other adults.

My memories of going to such events is so positive that it is something that we have longed to be able to do for our children as they raise their families. Living far away from them, however, affords us few opportunities. But we have the chance yesterday and today.

Our son is attending a state librarian’s meeting and his wife is able to go with him because we are visiting and can take care of the children for a day and a half. So far, we’ve done well. They left in the morning yesterday. We got lunch and dinner into the children, went for walks, flew kites, played in the yard, had naps, read stories, sang songs and got the children into bed for the night. Today we will be the primary caregivers until after dinner when the parents will return in time for bedtime routines with the kids.

Here’s where that number two comes into play. We are caring for three grandchildren. Three is definitely a step up in terms of workload from two. We’re still using the tag team method, however. One of us will say to the other, “I’m going to go do this and that, you’ve got the kids.” Then for a little while the other has to keep track of all three children. It works for us at the park or in their home for short periods of time. Yesterday, after having the two oldest grandchildren staying over night at our camper and feeding them breakfast, we managed to both get showered and dressed for the day without leaving the children unattended.

Adding the third kept us busy. Here is the deal. We aren’t working professionally at the moment. We’re on vacation, so we have full time to have both of us engaged in caring for our grandchildren. Our son and daughter-in-law are both professionals and they don’t have that luxury. Their tag team means that when one of them is “it,” that person has full responsibility for three kids. It is a handful. It is enough to give me a deep appreciation for their everyday lifestyle.

I fell asleep almost as soon as the oldest of the children was asleep. I was tired. We commented to each other that perhaps we would have the three sleep in their own home tonight after their parents return just so that we could have a little break after having responsibility for children two nights in a row. That’s not very much compared with the everyday lives of our son and his wife.

For millennia human societies have raised children in communal settings. Multiple generations engage in the tasks of caring for children. Relatives help to provide care. People work together. Our society, with its increased levels of isolation, means that there are fewer additional adults to provide assistance with the tasks of caring for children. When we get a taste of it, however, we like the process of participating in family life.

There is really nothing like having a two-year-old cuddle up next to you and pat your back and tell you that you’re a good grandpa. There is no joy greater than getting down on the floor and playing with one’s grandchildren. Our eight year old grandson is a great one for silly jokes and puns. He keeps us laughing and thinking. Being with them is a delight that is good for us. And having meaningful work such as caring for children gives our lives a deep sense of purpose. It reminds us of the simple fact that we are not attracted by the possibilities of living in senior citizen housing - at least not unless they have plenty of children around. We’ve noticed that there are a few neighborhoods out here that advertise a community of people over 50. Those neighborhoods don’t appeal to us. I’d much rather spend the day with my grandchildren than check out the activities at the senior citizens center. I’ve never picked up the games of golf, pool or pickle ball.

Even though I am a bit tired, it is a good feeling. I remember the long days and short nights when our children were tiny and we felt tired all of the time. There are many things in life worse than being tired.

All of this is simply to say that yes, we were in over our heads and outnumbered with a single child, and we were in over our heads and outnumbered with two children, and we’re in over our heads and outnumbered with three grandchildren. Still, we have another grandchild. May be we could find an event for both sets of parents to go off on an adventure together so we could try our hands with four.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!