LEARNING TO PICK YOUR BATTLES: the secret to babysitting grandmunchkins

January 12, 2012

I am finally about to earn my “grandmother stripes”. An hour ago, my son, Tam, and his family appeared at my door, with two blonde moppets in tow. For two months, now, I have known they were coming for a late mini-Christmas. I have looked forward to it since late November, when daughter-in-law Malin emailed me that they planned to fly over from Sweden to join the family celebration with my other son, Terry.

From January 5 to 8, We had all spent four glorious days in sunny San Clemente, California with Terry, attending his Change of Command ceremony. We had stayed at the San Clemente Holiday Inn, spent a day at the San Diego Zoo, and dined at both P.F. Chang’s and the Fisherman’s Restaurant on the San Clemente Pier before we all started home.

As I hugged everyone, Malin reminded me, “This is not a long good-bye. We’ll see each other again back in Texas.”

I’ve always envied my friends, all grandmothers by now, blessed with grandchildren nearby. With my sons so scattered — one in Sweden and the other in Southern California — I’ve been around my four grandchildren so seldom that I’ve been afraid the next time I saw them they’d all be married or at least shaving. I yearned to babysit. To regale everyone with my adventures with Harald, Sofia, Sadie, and Thomas.

Now, that time was really here.

“Hey, mom,” Tam began, glancing at Malin. “We were wondering if you’d consider watching the kids for a few hours.”

“Yeah,” Malin agreed, handing me a shoebox full of children’s DVD‘s: E.T., A Dolphin’s Tale, The Muppet’s Christmas Carol, Happy Feet, and other faves of the pint-sized population. “These should keep them occupied.” And,” she added, dumping out a sack full of fruit and snacks, “they can eat anything they can find in here.”

So, after leaving their cell numbers, munchies, and DVD’s, they sneaked out the door for a movie and dinner out to celebrate her birthday.

Soon, I was in the company of my Swedish-speaking grandchildren. Seven-year-old Harald and three-year-old Sofia, who knows only one English word, albeit the most important one — “Nannie”. Before they left, Tam and Malin delegated Harald as Sofia’s interpreter.

Enthusiastically, I shoved a DVD into my Blu-Ray receiver.

“Oh, boy, guys. We’re going to have fun,” I said, as I waited for the disk to kick in. Only it didn’t.

After several more futile tries with the -challenged receiver, I got another bright idea: to play them on my laptop. But even my trusty Toshiba crossed his arms.

“Nope. Not gonna happen until you change my display.”

Sure enough, once I restored the Windows display, the Scooby-Doo DVD fired right up. Ten minutes into the movie, another idea popped into my head.


“Hey, y’all, how ’bout some popcorn to go with these movies?” I asked, heading into the kitchen. Rummaging through a box of various brands of microwave popcorn, I held up one packet after the other for Harald’s sanction. Because he’s allergic to milk, that also means he can’t have butter. So, the Movie Theater Butter popcorn elicits one dramatic, Oscar-winning gag after another.

Not to be discouraged, I remembered a bag of Amish popcorn a neighbor brought me from up East and popped it in a pan on the stovetop.

Alas, another strikeout.

“Yuck!” protested Harald, as he spat it back into the cup.

Then, I remembered the bag of potato chips I bought only two days ago.

“How ’bout these?” I ask, holding up the bag of Ruffles.

Harald’s face lit up.

“Now, those I can have!”

Feeling triumphant, I filled plastic cups with potato chips and Seven-Up for Harald, Sofia, and myself and prepared to enjoy the rest of the movie.

After a couple of minutes, Sofia piped up.


I looked at Harald.

“Nannie, she wants more chips.”

So, back to the kitchen I went — times two.

All went well until The Dolphin’s Tale was over. Prying Santa Buddies out of the box, I popped it in. We were going to have the biggest movie-rama ever. Until my laptop rolled over and took a siesta.

Once more, technology had conspired against me.

With no more movies to watch, the natives became restless. Sofia decided it would be more fun to climb the stairs and bring down every book she could find from a bookcase holding three generations of family bibles and other treasured mementos. That and scoot down the stairs in her birthday suit.

Okay, Nannie. What is she really hurting?

Nothing at all, I assured self.

So went the rest of the night. Both my t.v. and DVD player were knocked cattywumpus and my laptop. doing Rip Van Winkle impressions.

“When are Mama and Pappa coming home?” Harald began to wail.

Kim, I told self, you can totally do this. Grandmothers everywhere have dealt with rowdy grandkids, rearranged books, naked babies, and fickle technology.

Finally, around 10:30, Tam and Malin returned, refreshed, after their couples’ night out.

“How did it go, Mom?” asked Tam.

As I considered my answer, it dawned on me. I had survived my first baby-sitting gig…and lived to blog about it.


4 thoughts on “LEARNING TO PICK YOUR BATTLES: the secret to babysitting grandmunchkins

  1. I love the way you lay out your life for us to share. Anyone who reads this has to empathize with the foibles and fun of young children, lost in translation, subject to dietary limitations;)

  2. Occasionally I get all freaked out about my childless/grandchild-less state…then I’m reminded of baby-sitting. Cures me every time. That and the cost of a college education.

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