Tiny humans, grandparenting and time

In the last year, we went from having two grandchildren to having five. Of that number, four are under age 2 and all four of those spend more than a little time with us every week (some every day). It’s what you might call higher-order grandparenting.

When you spend that much time with tiny humans you’re related to, you begin to understand any number of things except one: time and its fluid nature. For instance, when a five-month-old infant with a touch of colic is screaming at you because her tummy hurts, it seems as though time pretty much stands still. Of course, once she burps, poops, or otherwise rights her innards, you soon discover about three minutes have passed, not three hours.

Conversely, when said persnickety person is happy or sleeping, you get the impression time’s fleeting only to discover she’s been out for two solid hours. I guess you get so focused on their situation, you forget your own, which is not a bad thing these days. Tiny humans are incredibly helpless compared to most baby mammals and you never really consider that until you have to care for one.

Now, I have raised children before and dealt with babies, but it’s been more than 25 years since it was a daily thing. A lot has changed in that quarter-century from what are now termed best practices, to my energy level. Let’s face it, I can’t pull off at age 55 what I did when I was 30.

And my lovely wife, who recently retired as a teacher (librarian) is actually the lead in all this grandparenting, so she’s the one who gets up at 4 a.m. to help with a certain screaming banshee (as she has been named by her father).

Oh, and just to be clear, we have one granddaughter who will be 2 in February, a little guy who is 10 months old and twins who were five months old on Jan. 1. Happy New Year!

The twins live with their dad and his fiancée next door, the toddler is with us five days a week, and the middle guy is here at least one day per week, so like I said, we’re hip deep in diapers, bottles, cribs, strollers (we currently have five) and baby clothes. And rolling those strollers around the village, we see other grandparents doing the same. We should form a club.

I’m not complaining, but it is a great deal of work to deal daily with that many little folks. The truth is, we’re frequently outnumbered, which also contributes to the time dilation effect.

I recall having the toddler solo one morning as my wife was out and her dad was occupied with the twins. I was scheduled to have her for about three hours, which felt like an entire day by the time it was over. I mean, keeping someone two feet tall with unlimited energy and no fear alive becomes quite a challenge. And did you know toddlers have Olympic-level speed?

It turns out that ,if you look away from a toddler for 1.7 seconds, she is fully capable of going from one floor to another up a full set of stairs or from the back porch to the front of the house. It’s certainly helped improve my sprint speed and also my research into leashes for toddlers.

She is fun though, and endlessly happy when she’s not screaming in frustration because you won’t let her eat an entire cake or six dozen cookies. She also can’t fathom why you won’t allow her to dive into a mud puddle or snowbank. Thus is life at 23 months.

But when all the dust, diapers, and dirty laundry clear, and they’re all asleep or gone home, you can rest easy knowing you did something useful with your day. I was never a huge fan of children, probably due to being bullied and having less than ideal memories of childhood.

But being a grandparent is a very different role and a very nice one. When I was growing up, my grandparents on both sides lived far away, so I maybe saw them once or twice a year. These little ones will grow up truly knowing us and I think that’s a good thing.

We’re able to help their parents and enrich the lives of the little beasts. We’re calmer, more experienced, and less stressed than young working parents with not enough time in the day.

Let’s face it, childcare in this country is a joke, like so many things that have to do with helping normal people. Having family nearby is now almost required for young families to do well. But I’m not going to get all political here; that’s for another time.

As I write this, my granddaughter is asleep in her little chair here in my office. She’s snoring quietly, perfectly happy, safe and warm. Her parents are happily asleep with her twin brother next door and all is right in their world. And isn’t that the whole point of being a grandparent?

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg has been a grandparent for the past 13 years. The fifth one is 13 years old, lives on the west coast, and visits once or twice a year.