Decent: Hats off to ‘babysitter’ grandmothers on this Mother’s Day weekend! – Chicago Tribune

2022-05-06 19:50:46 By : Ms. Sha Ma

A simple task like walking the dog can be tricky when your grandchildren come to visit. (Hilary Decent / Naperville Sun)

This Mother’s Day I’d like to give a shoutout to all the grandmothers out there who regularly look after their grandchildren. I want you to know I feel your joy and I know your pain.

When you live 5,000 miles away from your grandchildren like I do, babysitting isn’t something you get to do often. So, when my daughter was finally able to visit from England after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, she lost no time in making sure I fitted three years of grandmotherly supervision into two weeks.

I have friends both here in Naperville and back in England whose children have thoughtfully planned grandchild care into their retirement schedules so they’re never without something to do. Said grandparents will devote maybe one or two days a week, plus evening sessions and weekends at the drop of a baby beanie hat.

To be honest, I’m not sure I’d be up for that even if my grandchildren lived next door. There’s a reason that women can’t usually have children after their early 40s. Looking after them is exhausting!

Notwithstanding the irony that many menopausal women suffer from insomnia so technically would have no problem tending to a child five times a night, it’s just not something I really want to do. I served my time back in the ‘80s when my own children were born.

Excuses like, “Sorry, I can’t pick you up, the car is full of child seats” or “I can’t do Saturday night because I can’t get a sitter,” are quite reasonable when you’re young. But do I want to go through that whole stage again 40 years later?

Knowing a 3-year-old and 5-year-old staying with us would be disruptive to my schedule, I did my best to clear it before they arrived. I was pleased I had because attempting to do the smallest task reminded me of the distractions a service dog has to go through while it’s being trained.

Speaking of dogs, my pooch faced her own trials during the visit. Before breakfast each day I usually clip on Daisy’s leash and take her out for a short walk. We get on well but we’re complete opposites. She goes to the bathroom about 10 times while we’re out, with an extra one for luck before we get back in the house. I, on the other hand, go three times before we leave the house, with one for luck just in case I’m caught short while I’m out.

Chloe and Maddie love Daisy so they were keen to join us on our daily trips. I imagined myself walking Daisy while the girls skipped along picking up leaves and stones for our nature project. What a good grandmother I’d be. After all, I have a lot to live up to with everything my friends do on a regular basis.

“I want to hold the leash!” “No, me, Daisy loves me more!” “I want it.” “Waahhh.”

Sometimes all it takes is a little ingenuity.

“How about we all have a leash,” I said heading for my purse collection. I unclipped two of the longest straps and attached them to my poor dog’s collar next to the one already there. She looked like a maypole.

“Right, now we all take one and off we go,” I said, opening the door. My relief was short lived. We’d barely made it off the doorstep when the girls started fighting over which color strap they wanted.

Food was another tricky issue. I knew Maddie’s Do Not Eat list was extensive, but I wasn’t prepared for what would happen if one of the items accidentally made it onto her plate. One day she recoiled in horror before letting out a blood-curdling scream.

“I don’t want it!” She yelled, pointing wildly. I swear Joan Crawford was more receptive to Betty Davis’s cloche-covered rat in the movie “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.” The offending item? Some pesto-coated pasta she had assured me was her favorite just moments earlier.

The problem when you’re 3 is that while you may like something in your own country, the food is different on the other side of the world. All I can say is thank goodness for the meager British food section at Jewel. If anyone notices a sudden shortage of Heinz Baked Beans, it has nothing to do with the pandemic.

One thing I have a new appreciation for is Naperville’s wonderful range of playgrounds. They’re all a little different, some super creative and, best of all, they’re free! My personal favorite is the 95th Street Community Plaza, right next to the library. With its piles of books to climb, an ink well to whizz around on and a paper boat to sail in, it’s like my own personalized theme park.

While we’re on the subject of libraries, how cool are the children’s departments? The indoor play areas are the perfect place to spend a chilly day in a country where spring doesn’t seem to start until late June. Plus, they offer story times where parents are encouraged not to attend. Amazing!

Not enough time to dash to the store unfortunately, but if the session we attended was anything to go by, plenty of time for all the moms to update their Instagram accounts.

The best time of the day was bedtime. Rituals included brushing teeth (never, never accidentally put the wrong lid on the tube or there will be another Maddie meltdown), not being able to find pajamas, hiding in the closet (I still feel bad I resorted to that), reading 15 stories, refusing to go to the bathroom and demanding that Daisy tuck them into bed.

So, this Mother’s Day let’s hear it for all those hardworking grandmothers who help raise their children’s children, offer them sage advice and give them a respite from mom and dad. As for me, I’ll be down at the playground.

Hilary Decent is a freelance journalist who moved to Naperville from England in 2007.