Tuesday, January 19, 2021

All at once

We babysat both granddaughters for a couple of hours the other day. We routinely watch our older granddaughter ("Frog"), but the two month old ("Bird") is nursing and needs to stay pretty close to her Mama. This was only the second time when we have watched both children. Two of us, two of them, for two hours maybe? This will be a breeze! Sure, we'd be delighted!

It is one of the greatest blessings that we are able to spend time with these children during this pandemic.

Mama nursed Bird just before they left our house, making our task all the easier - we wouldn't even have to feed her, we'd have a morning of holding and cuddling. 

We had so much fun! Frog and I got out the playdough, making pretend meals together while Poppa held Bird...and then we switched off, I with Bird, Poppa with Frog. (Thus, the photo!) Time flew by, reading books, playing with dolls, watching Bird stretch and squirm, chuckling at her absorption with the ceiling fan, cuddling with both children. We had a good rhythm together, my husband and I, both of us well aware that neither of us had a moment "off duty." After all these years of working with young children, I still find it strange how small beings can be so demanding of one's time and focus - and this is also their gift, right? There's no room for the noise of the outside world, if you are present with the young.

The parents had been gone about two hours when Tony realized that Bird's clothing was soaked. He starts to change her, and is amused to find that she somehow managed to keep the inside of her diaper dry, while wetting the outfit and the exterior of the diaper - kids these days! Ha! Perhaps less amusing, he realizes this is the first time he has changed this grandchild's diaper. (I, too, have only changed her once. Her parents are the professionals with this task.) The diaper-changing is slow and inefficient - not a critique of my dear husband, just the facts: this is a skill we no longer need and we have lost.

Truly, the movie version of this small tale would have suspenseful music right now, foreshadowing. We didn't even realize we were about to be in over our heads, until we were!

Bird is not impressed. 

As Tony changes her, she moves through many stages of emotions - calm and smiley, furrowed brow and frown, fretful mews, exasperated cry, and finally to a very real and loud wail. 

I leave Frog and try to assist - handing him wipes, a new outfit . . . it's "all hands on deck."

Frog is not impressed.

Frog had been playing so peacefully, so engaged, so focused, but now there are some very specific demands that must be met, and I find myself enmeshed with her, too, negotiating. She wants to play with the breakable doll, wants to climb up on this much-too-high bench, wants, wants, wants . . . . Much to her surprise, I say "No, you can't do that right now, wait just a bit and I will help you. We are trying to help your sister." 

Finally, Bird is changed, though she continues to wail, and Tony is holding her, comforting. I go back to playing with Frog, but her little sister's crying has affected her and she is no longer focused, somewhat scattered, as am I, and Tony. 

Bird is full on screaming wail cry. 

"Wait - I think Bird usually gets fed after a diaper change, I wonder if she's crying because we aren't following that pattern. What if we make her a bottle?" 

This next frenetic chapter ensues - it was such a wild scene. Tony and I, trying to get two year old Frog to stay in one place, don't move, wait, and also racing to help with comforting the baby, figuring out how to prep the nursing milk, wait, how do we warm this up? A pouch of milk? The bottle is where? What's the routine? How did we forget this in two short years? I glance at the time - goodness, shouldn't they be home by now?!!! How are we supposed to concentrate when 

Bird is FULL ON TERRIFIED ANGER, as if screaming

the door flies open, the beloved parents burst in, home from their adventure, 
absolutely astounded to hear their baby in such distress, and
Mama scoops up Bird and nurses her back into sweet blissful harmony.


(Intellectually, in reflection, Bird could not have been that hungry or desperate, because she had eaten just a couple hours previous, but try telling her that! Babies win every argument.) 

"When do you need us to babysit again? Oh, three days from now? We should be recovered by then."


I wrote this post for Slice of Life.  All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, on Tuesdays. Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!


  1. I laughed and panicked right along w/ you. Babies are so adorable until the crying starts. Yes, they do “win every argument.” Poor Tony. I bet you both needed a nap and a glass of wine after this adventure.

    1. It was wild, truly. We both basked in the silence of our empty house, afterwards!

  2. You tell a story so well. I saw what was happening and felt the emotions thanks to your vivid writing. I agree that you are lucky, and so are the grandkids, that you get to babysit them.

    1. We know we are blessed. Surprisingly rusty, but willing to re-learn!

  3. Ha ha! Pride in your smooth grandparenting skills goeth before ... total chaos! Well told, with a good sense of humor. I love the nicknames and the "...was not impressed"line repeated. and also the poetic spacing as it all falls apart. Fun piece.

    1. Thank you! We both have had many chuckles about what happened that morning.

  4. Love the things they were unimpressed by! (Often my kids are unimpressed by so much of what happens around here. Ha!)

    I love the tales of your grandkids. Keep 'em coming!

    1. Thank you! They are my greatest joy, these days!

  5. Frog and Bird--what lovely names that tell so much about your affection for them. Your pacing was great in this piece, starting out so calm and well-oiled-machine and then picking up dramatically as the urgency of the situation evolved. So fun to read!

    1. Thank you! I figured I had to write about it, because Tony and I keep laughing about it.

  6. This brought back so many memories, mostly of how an infant can be okay one minute and totally fall apart the next. Your all caps lines did such a good job at capturing the angst. We too babysit our two grandsons and we love it, but are ready for the parents' arrival to release us to our own time to recoup.

    1. As much fun as it is to babysit, there is a lot of serenity to be found in those first few minutes after the grandkids leave!

  7. Maureen, your posts are always a delight! I was with you every step of the way, as I have experienced both sides of the crying baby story--as the mama who could relieve the panic AND as the panicking one waiting for mom's return. I love all the all-caps shouting Bird was doing. That is exactly how they sound! Haha. I'm so glad they returned when they did for everyone's sake.

    1. Thanks, Denise! It is very stressful to not be able to meet a baby's needs.