|I sit between two rug rats (Rob’s term of endearment): a 2 3/4 year-old, and the two-month-old infant, in the back seat of my daughter’s SUV. Two car seats with me in between. I’m holding a bottle for the baby, and searching for the sippy cup for the toddler with my other hand. As we drive, Riley, the two year old, is getting grumpier. She’s mercurial, sometimes fun and sunny, but in typical toddler fashion, when tired, pretty awful. At this moment, she’s awful. Rob is in the front with Stephanie. Did I mention I’m in the back, between two car seats?
We’re trying to change the mood. Pep up the two-year-old. Rob begins to be a two-year-old; now he’s on her level. He’s distracting her, making her smile as he mimics her words, her grumpiness. Slowly she’s coming around. Stephanie hears the change in her voice, and she begins to ask Riley…”did you crack?” She means her smile, which Riley’s trying to hide. She wants to smile, but she wants to maintain her mood…impossible to do both. Before she knows it, she’s charmed right out of herself.
Bribery and a little clever humor work wonders. She’s laughing, and peace is restored, at least for the moment. We don’t kid ourselves that it will be lasting. The most we’re hoping for is the garage. Just pull in with no crying, no screaming. Just unload and begin to comfort, change diapers, find snacks, distract. That’s the job of the parent, or parent-stand-in, sometimes known as a grandparent.
I watch Stephanie and Matt, trying to hold their own against the needs and demands of the two small people they birthed. They’ll never make it, any more than we did. It’s a losing battle. A small human can overwhelm an adult with hands tied…not even a fair contest! The best you can hope for is survival, and growth. They do grow, and part of the process is they grow on you. As much as survival, the other key is falling in love. You get so caught by the spell these little beings weave that you become a willing prisoner to their smiles, their moods, their needs. And by the time you realize it, their work is done, and you’re hooked, body and soul. Well, maybe it has to be that way. Who would sign up for the craziness if they understood the commitment up front?
Stephanie sees me smiling at the scene after dinner, a little crazy, a little chaotic. She says I’m laughing at them, and I say no, just laughing. Not at them…just appreciating the scene, in all its joy, at this very moment in time.
This is just the age-old ah-ha that all parents experience. Only now, I’m experiencing from the second row of seats. Let me tell you, the view is pretty good from where I sit. I’m close enough to lean down and be in the game, but just far enough that most of the sticky bits miss me.