You survived waterbeds, est seminars, Jaws, shag carpet, streakers, Boy George and Y2K. Plus assorted midlife crises. But can you survive a few days alone with your grandchildren?
When Mommy and Daddy are out of the picture on that much-needed weekend getaway, you don’t have the option of giving the kids back following the evening’s last game of Uno or after you polish off your morning oatmeal. They’re suddenly no-deposit, no-return as you find yourself on the play date that never ends.
Try not to go bonkers in the first half hour, even when the grandkids turn your living room into Legoland or start racing from one end of the house to the other in a spontaneous simulation of the Indy 500. Above all, maintain a position of strength by establishing that you’re the boss at the outset. Yeah, right. We all know who’s really in charge in today’s kid-centric world.
But everybody will act as if it isn’t true. For example, your grandchildren will politely ask permission before hooking up their Wii to the television set in the den, and you’ll pretend to weigh the decision carefully before giving your consent after they’ve already started their game.
Soon every flat surface in your previously home, sweet home will be covered with Game Boys, coloring books, barefoot dolls, a bead kit, Zhu Zhu Pets, a toy fire truck brigade and a one-eyed stuffed zebra that somebody will be crying for at bedtime.
As your surroundings start to resemble something out of Mad Max and the decibel level rises to that of a 747 flying directly overhead, take a few of those from-the-diaphragm deep breaths and remind yourself that this weekend, too, shall pass.
Inspired weekend meal planning is a must, so you can forget that unimaginative food pyramid the nutrition police advocate unless you want to hear the nonstop mealtime blues. Better get in tune with the Culinary Kiddos, a four-star panel of youngsters promoting common-sense cuisine. Here’s what they recommend:
Cooking for Your Grandchildren (It isn’t rocket science.)
1. The Protein Group: Hot dogs, chicken nuggets, barbecued ribs (the messier the better) and peanut butter.
2. Those Comforting Carbs: Mac ‘n’ cheese, SpaghettiOs, creamed corn and Tater Tots.
3. From the Dairy Case: String cheese and chocolate milk.
4. The Waffle Group: Pancakes, French toast, waffles and any other foods you can get kids to eat by covering them—the foods, not the kids—with syrup.
5. The Dessert Tray: Ice cream, ice cream cake, pie with ice cream, pie with cake. And don’t forget the s’mores, the tasty treat that’s been both food and event for about a hundred years.
Many granddads report excellent results with the sometimes controversial Muncha Buncha Cruncha Group, which is the ideal accompaniment for watching sports with your grandkids on TV. While everybody chows down on Cheetos, potato chips, M&Ms, Oreos and buttery microwave popcorn, you can explain the subtle differences between a curve ball and a slider or why a football team needs both wide receivers and a tight end.
For all you gammies and gampies who might feel guilty about letting your grandchildren go without veggies for a couple days: get a grip. It’s not as if you were abandoning the kids on Survivor to forage for themselves. If the parents complain, remind them that it’s a small price to pay for babysitting while they indulge in that kid-free R&R they’ve been dreaming about. Guilt can work both ways, you know.
Eventually, with all this togetherness, your mind and/or your energy will snap. That’s when you introduce the grandparent-friendly games. Popular titles include “How Fast Can Everybody Pick Up the Mess?” and “Who Can Pretend To Be Asleep the Longest?” Or try the new advanced version, “Play Dead.” They’re all self-explanatory, and you can make up the rules as you go along.
Or switch to Plan B. Simply hand over the TV remote (after ensuring the parental controls are in place) and tell the little hooligans to watch what they want for the rest of the visit.
When all else fails, when you’ve run out of patience—and margarita mix—dial 1-800-I-GIVE-UP. Now it’s a job for the Child Whisperer, who offers the following free advice:
Five Sure-Fire Tips for a Successful Weekend with Your Grandkids
1. Forget about cleaning the house before they arrive so you won’t feel bad when they turn it upside-down.
2. Don’t play favorites; bribe each child to be good with an equal amount of cash.
3. Turn that lock every time you go into the bathroom because children never met a closed door they didn’t want to open.
4. Remember that kids repeat everything they hear, and young ears hear everything.
5. Keep your blood pressure medication handy.
Diana J. Ewing is the author of The Baby Boomers’ Guide to Grandparenting