What is so simple to easy to operate that a child can do it? The answer is, a Grandparent. Like many of my fellow baby boomers, my initiation into the world of Grand parenting began seven years ago with the birth of my Daughter’s first born Son. His name is Jonas. Then came my Daughter’s second born Son. His name is Deacon. Then came my Son’s first born daughter. Her name is Buckley. Three little human dynamo’s who transformed me and my little world. I went from being a big time Radio Personality and Nationally known and heralded Humorist and Motivational speaker to simply Grand-Daddy and Ya Ya.
My grand sons live in Southeast Asia with their parents and for some reason they began calling me Ya Ya which is a moniker given to older people in that area of the world whose children have spawned children. My grand daughter lives in Spain with her parents and she calls me by the traditional name, Grand Daddy. A typical definition of a grandparent is this; “a grandparent is a person who comes to your house, spoils your children and then goes home.” Suffice to say, my situation is a little different because both my adult children live overseas and I don’t get to go to their homes very often. The way it works in my hood, is that my Children bring their families home to the States for extended stays of up to two, three, four, or five month’s at a time. They are always welcome at my home and when they come to visit they stay awhile and all their “stuff” is at my home and set out for them to play with and enjoy.
When my grand’s are at my home for an extended stay it usually falls to me to be the chief cook, bottle washer, taxi, and entertainment director for my three little buddies. I relish the opportunity to be involved with their care and feeding and to have fun times with them and to generally referee the inevitable spats that happen between siblings and cousins during this developmental period in their young lives. Each one has a unique point of view and special personality and each one has to be treated as a terrific little person with care, love and understanding. Grand daddy-Ya Ya has turned into quite the psychologist via extended exposure to their individualistic wants, needs, and desires. The following are some of my Grand daddy-Ya Ya secrets of tending to the grand’s.
Buckley, my grand daughter usually gets up early at my house. She comes down the stairs carrying about five stuffed animals and two blankets. She throws all her “things” in my lap and usually crawls in my lap and we sit there and chill a little while. Maybe we’ll watch “Clifford the Big Red Dog”, Or “Cat in the Hat”, or some other age appropriate TV show. Sometimes we’ll laugh and talk about what they are doing on the shows. We may even read a book or two. She loves to read.
Deacon, my grand son will come inching down the stairs, peak around the corner, and maybe in a round about way slip into the room and climb on the couch and just chill. He doesn’t like to talk much when he first gets up. Sometimes he’ll sit in my lap. Dike also carries a few stuffed animals into the den along with his silky blanket. He likes some of the same TV shows Buckley likes and will watch those with us.
My oldest grand son, Jonas, comes down last most days, sometimes early, but he likes to sleep late. When he comes down he likes to sit in one of my big leather chairs and his TV habits are a little more sophisticated than the younger two. He likes “Sponge Bob Square Pants” which I let him watch sparingly. Frankly, I don’t get that show and there is too much crazy stuff going on and a lot of slap stick. Jonas is an ace at putting complicated Lego toys together and building things and he is very adept at reading the directions and building things by himself. Sometimes it’s to complicated for Ya Ya.
Well, here it is, about 7:30 in the morning. The grand’s are up, awake, and ready to play. But before that they must have breakfast. We all know how important the first meal of the day is. I like to feed them Eggs, wheat toast, whole grain cereal, fruit, milk, juice, and occasionally I give them a piece of seared swine flesh ( Bacon). Sometimes they eat it all, sometimes part of it, sometimes very little. Usually, in the course of a week, they all get enough nutrients and vitamins from the food variety to fuel their active little bodies. It’s also very educational to hear the breakfast conversations of a Seven year old, a Four year old and a Three and a half year old. Then again, sometimes they don’t speak much at all. But all of them want to be the first to finish eating at times and move on to the remains of the day.
Then we have to put day clothes on. Now that’s a chore most days. Jonas dresses himself, Deke sometimes dressed himself, and Buckley sometimes dresses herself with a little help from Grand Daddy. Most often, to my surprise, they are pretty good at coordinating their outfits. It’s very interesting to me to see them decide what to wear. Oh, they all have several pairs of shoes and that choice is usually a little more difficult. But we eventually get everyone fitted for footwear.
We play around the house a lot, they all have bunches of toys, and they have items on the back porch they like to play with, a sand box, cars in the sand box, along with a kitchen set, they can pretend to cook with, there is a little toy house in the back yard they play in, and then there is the infamous swing on a big tree. We take turns swinging. We hunt for bugs, spiders in the garden, and chase the neighbor’s cat who ventures into our yard. In the summer we may turn on the sprinkler and get all wet, or go to the front and ride a variety of little toy cars, trikes, bikes, or just play in the bed of my old Truck.
Then I prepare lunch for them trying to make it palatable and nutritious. Maybe I’ll load them up in the big van and go to the park in an attempt to wear them out. Truthfully, I’m worn out by then. But I keep on going. We might go somewhere special like the McWane Science Center, the Birmingham Zoo, or to a few neat toy stores to look around, with the understanding that we won’t buy anything. We’ll just look and enjoy looking. Some days I’ve taken them all to the grocery store with me and let them help me shop for food. Yes, I’m a brave Grand Daddy Ya Ya.
Home again from an outing, I start planning dinner. Sometime the Grand’s parents are able to play with them a bit as I cook dinner. Then Nana gets home from work and we eat dinner together with all those present. Then I graciously allow Nana to take over the care of the Grand’s till bed time. About 8 pm bath time starts. They get their pajamas on and then the night time book readying begins. After that, brushing of teeth, potty break, then they are tucked into bed and they say their prayers and then sweet slumber (most nights).
The secret to being a Grand daddy Ya Ya is not really a secret at all. It’s simply a matter of taking the time to give time and attention to each grand child. You have to spend time learning what makes them tick, what makes them sad, what makes them happy, and how to administer discipline and instruction in a way that does not damage their sense of self worth. Sometimes, just being there and being willing to listen to their questions, the jabber, and their childlike wonder and interacting with them on their level, is the most important part of the process. A Grand Daddy Ya Ya is able to impart many valuable lessons to Grand’s such as teaching them to be polite, grateful, civil, loving, caring, appreciative, and kind. Simple instructions that will help them all throughout life. Most importantly, I tell each grand, everyday how much I love them and how special they are to me and to their Mom’s and Dad’s.
When my three Grand’s are in my care, I relish my position as the Grand Daddy Ya Ya. It is the most important responsibility I’ve ever been privileged to do. It’s tough on an old bird to be sure. It’s not always easy. But I accept this adventure with pleasure and enthusiasm. Surprisingly, being a Grand Father does not make me feel old. What makes me feel old is being married to a Grand Mother. Just kidding, of course!