After eight days at home being the sole caregivers of our adorable, pizzazzy, strong-willed, 3-year-old granddaughter Zara and her 9-month-old, curious, energetic little brother, Dean, we are tired! And we are ready to give a hearty shoutout to parents of preschoolers.
We know that some of our grandparent readers are helping with preschool grandchildren weekly or even daily. A huge shoutout to you, too!
Our situation is a little different. Of our nine children, only our oldest daughter lives in Utah, with her husband and five children. The others are spread across the country and to the far ends of the Earth. We travel enough that we get to our kids’ homes often and care for their kids while we are there so they can take off for a little break. But having these two little live wires here in our not-childproofed home has been another thing altogether. Come to think of it, no home is childproof. Children’s minds are so creative.
Our youngest son, Eli, and his wife, Julie, the parents of these two little fireballs, live in the middle of Manhattan, New York City, in a cute 700-square-foot apartment that’s four stories up and has no elevator. Their playground is the Natural History Museum when it snows and Central Park when it doesn’t. We have long admired their ability to cope with living in such a small space in such a huge, bustling city. They richly deserved the bonus vacation Eli had earned at work — and after coping with their kids for a long week, we were even more sure that they deserved and needed a break.
Three-year-old Zara, with her cute purple glasses and matching helmet, has been a pro on her little scooter almost since she could walk. She can roll down any street in Manhattan with one foot on the scooter and the other nonchalantly pushing herself along, enjoying the scenery as she wends her way in and out of the crowds on the streets.
Even though our house provided a lot more space and a purple Rapunzel princess dress that Zara wore for five straight days (we could not get her to take it off), there was no place for a scooter and definitely no Central Park. There was a lot of snow, however, and one of us took her out sledding fairly often just to try to run her down a little so she would sleep at night.
Despite our exhaustion, we spent many hours playing peekaboo with Dean, reading lots of books and making cookies with Zara. Just as I (Linda) poured four cups of flour into the mixer, Zara accidentally moved the lever on the mixer to high. Somehow, even covered in flour in a newly white kitchen, she still looked like a princess. I looked like Olaf, the snowman from "Frozen."
Our microwave is low enough for her to reach, and it was started several times a day with an assortment of plastic toys inside. With an annoying little dry cough, poor little Zara was up from 2-5 a.m. several nights, and little Dean started his day every morning at about 5:30. Sleep was not plentiful for any of us.
Even though we had promised ourselves never to forget how hard the 24/7 job of parenting young children is, we realized that we had forgotten. We forgot about sleepless nights, about the frustration of potty training, about sick kids, about unrolling every roll of toilet paper to the end, and about trying to find food that a 3-year-old will actually eat.
We have to admit to being as excited as Zara was when she got to watch "Dora the Explorer," "Little Einsteins" or "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" on that precious iPad, which was nonexistent when we were young parents.
After eight days, we delivered those two little cherubs to our oldest daughter, Saren, in Ogden for the last two days before their parents returned — because we had to fly off to give a speech in Texas. We have to admit that we were not totally devastated about escaping for those last two days. We slept on the plane.
When we dropped Zara and Dean off, Saren and her husband plus five pairs of kids’ hands were waiting with open arms to help. Suddenly, we remembered how much easier life got when we had older children to help with the younger ones.
Thinking back over that memorable week, we realized that we got to know those two grandchildren as we couldn’t have in any other way. We treasure those days as our admiration for their strong and unique personalities solidified in our minds.
However, I (Linda) also had another epiphany. Every time I see one of my daughters or daughters-in-law in the hospital or birthing center after they have just given birth to their first baby, they inevitably look at me and say, “How in the world did you do this nine times?”
But after this week, I have to admit that when I see a mom or dad with little preschoolers, I have to say, “How in the world are you doing this, hour after hour, day after day, year after year?”
Parenting is the hardest job in the world. But just like giving birth, it is also one of life’s most joyful and meaningful experiences. Not every day or in every way, but at the end of each day, nothing is more wondrous than watching a child who has been a naughty little customer all day blissfully sleeping in his bed. It’s the best!
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors and founders of JoySchools.com who speak worldwide on family issues. Their new books are “The Half-Diet Diet” and “Life in Full.” See valuesparenting.com or eyrea