Mary Beth Writes

We drove to Chicago to help care for our 2-year old granddaughter. There is a lot going on in their family as is true of any family with a toddler, a new infant, and two working parents. Such as; my daughter went back to work the same week their daycare center closed for a 10-day break. A perfect storm of domestic hoopla. 

We only watched her from 7:30AM until 4PM on Monday and Tuesday. When our son-in-law came home from work, he took over. Other relatives are watching her the next few days. 

Here are three things I noticed about taking care of a toddler.

1. Gurus tell us to “Be Here Now” and “Be in this Moment”.  A toddler is always and only in the moment they are in. Luckily, we had nothing to accomplish other than her, so her spiritual acuteness was not a problem.

But we did notice it.  Sometimes it even worked on our behalf. Monday it rained all the time it didn’t pour and thus our Brookfield Zoo plans were kaput. We punted. 

First we took her to McDonalds where she ate pancakes in this manner.  She would pick up one piece of pancake with her fingers, then dip it in syrup with those same fingers, and finally she would slowly and happily bring the one drenched bite of pancake to her mouth where she would get most of into her mouth. She hadn’t wanted to take her raincoat off which ended up being handy. When we hosed her down later we didn’t get her clothes wet.  Funny how a kid who won’t wear a bib doesn’t mind wearing a zipped-up coat for an entire meal. She also stood on the seat while doing this.  Len and I adored watching her although we were wary about touching her.

Then we put her in the car and drove to Library Story Hour.  After carrying around books for 45 minutes (she was too stimulated to actually want anyone to read to her), I noticed the sign that said story hour would resume in September. 

She didn’t noticed we went to the library for no reason. 

We thought we’d hop on over the Garfield Park Conservatory. Well, we only lived in Chicago 20 years each which equates to 40 years of negotiating Chicago streets and neighborhoods. You’d think we could have done this easily since the library is 4 miles from the conservatory. 

Nope. Took us nearly an hour. Yet somehow our punkin’ sat contently in the backseat car seat looking for and exclaiming over garbage trucks while eating goldfish crackers one at a time. There were a lot of rounds of “The Wheels on the Bus ….”

The Garfield Park Conservatory has big gorgeous spaces in which to run, which is her  fav thing to do. This is adorable because she holds her little arms up to help keep her balance.  So basically, we drove an hour to a place where she could run over there and then run back here.

 We finally got back to her house about 12:30. We meant to feed her lunch except in the four minutes it took to microwave her chicken nuggets, she laid down on the kitchen floor and stuck her thumb in her mouth. So Len carried her to her crib where she slept two hours.  I won’t tell you how long we slept.

Because she lives in the moment, she doesn’t realize what an incredibly lame morning we gave her. 

2. Tuesday was a beautiful morning for a zoo. When we asked which animal she wanted to see first, she responded ‘Hippomopomus’.  So that’s where we went.  I held her in my arms so she could see over the fence; she stared at that hippo who was noisily chewing grass.  She watched silently and with intense little-kid concentration.   

She would be chatty all morning except for the moments we would point out the real exotic, awesome animals.  That pygmy hippo. A polar bear. Camels, wallabies, an eagle eyeing fresh fish draped over a log.  A tiger plus some snoozing lions. At those moments she would stare so hard she got a crease in her forehead (like mine).

My daughter says that the kids recently “studied” zoos at daycare.  I think this means someone read zoo animal books to them and maybe they made animals with play clay and who knows what else.  But she is an intentional kid who listens very hard. I bet the word hippopotamus came up several times and she remembered the tickle of its alliteration and so she wanted to know what went with that delicious word.   

Seeing the animals while hearing the words used to name them was where her intellect met her experience. I thought of the Genesis story of Adam and Eve. For 3000 years, Hebrew and Christian theologians have grabbed that story as some kind of justification to insist women should submit to men and that Mr. God created the universe in six days.

But very few have claimed the far more intriguing part of that antique story of how humans got up and going - which is that Eve and Adam’s first job was to “name the animals”.  I think this is what makes us uniquely human; our instinct and determination to say what we see, to understand what we say. 

Learning how words connect to the experience of our senses; this is exciting, surprising, and exhausting work. She slept two hours that afternoon, too.

3. What was the activity she seemed to love most of all?  After her nap we took her to the park that is two blocks from her house. There are a few “mountains” built into the playground area.  And by mountains I mean gently sloped humps that are about 2 ½ feet tall.  She spent forty minutes mostly walking up and down one of those “mountains”.  She would start her trek with her hands down, like big kids do. By the top of the hill she had her little arms back up in the air, keeping her balance, keeping her footing. She’d look up from her careful trek, and we’d cheer and she’d grin. And then walk back down her mountain.  All of this was practicing leaning into an incline, while walking, while not falling. Effortless balance is a hard skill to master. Sometimes she would stand at the summit to watch other kids playing. 

It was so much fun to be with her.  She was connecting things she had heard about to things she could see and experience. She was practicing what she already knew how to do in order to be able to do it better. She was climbing. She was watching others. She was constantly turning to us to tell us small things and to receive the effortless gladness of our Grandma-Grandpa love.

Len and I are leaving on a big road trip to eastern Canada in the next few days for the next few weeks. I hope we can do it as well as a toddler.

Comments

Heart. Heart.

Great granma and granpaing. And have a great trip!

I just loved reading this! Very descriptive- felt as if I was there. When I had a little one, life was busy and hard. I feel like I missed a lot and was too tired and stressed to observe and enjoy it! My grandsons are growing up in Florida. So...thank you!

I don’t know who is luckier, little Gracie or big grandparents who know how to enjoy her every move and learn from her how to enjoy the mountain tops! The story, as you told it, Mary Beth is a treasure for her to enjoy all her life! Now enjoy your grownup adventure with Gracie’s tips for best enjoyment of each moment.

Oh the wondrous joys we experience through the eyes of “the littles”! As they learn about the world, we are reminded of the importance of loving in the moment.

You hit the nail on the head! (We were also hanging out with our grandson this week.)

Thanks All of You!

I was also in Chicago this past weekend to visit my nephew and his partners... I was also able to get some time in with my great niece Stella who is the same age as Gracie and discovering the same things.. Saturday my Ex SIL, Ms. Maya and I met David, Jessie & Ms. Stella for ice cream along with most of Chicago... While we waited for Jessie to get our orders Stella entertained us with her cake dance ( no one knows were it came from ) but it's the same every time and by counting the cars going by Jessie was full of the same energy at that age so watching Stella brought back happy memories of my niece... Getting & eating the ice cream took almost two hours ( we were on Stella time ) Sunday morning Jessie texted me to see if I wanted to join them for breakfast at their favorite coffee shop & then some shopping...I left my SIL so she could spend time with her son's family... It's amazing how fast these little ones grow so two days with three of my favorite people?? Who could say no to that... Not Guncle Franc

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