My new career has been in place for a couple of months. And while it may be too soon to tell, I think this new gig just may be calling. Like all jobs, I have had to rely on a combination of past experience, research, leaning on role models and on-the-job-training. In addition, before I punched in for the first time in September, I was fortunate to have scored an internship last year. Most Thursday mornings were spent with with my dynamic great-nephew, Liam. Besides the entertainment value of watching a 3 ½ to 4 year old, my child care skills were refreshed and I took away several lessons that I am certain I can apply to Lo in the near future.
• Routine is good. Liam’s first visit included a snack of animal crackers, grapes and milk. EVERY subsequent visit had to include this same snack. And how did we not know that once we took him to “the cookie store” aka Einstein Bagels, he would beg every week for a return trip? And then torment his older brother with a cookie description whether we went or not.
• Stages will be outgrown. For the first several weeks, Liam had a full-on meltdown when it was time to go home. He would start wailing as soon as he heard his Dad open the door. He once hid behind the couch. He sobbed and screamed to the point that I felt my eyes well up. After about 6 weeks, his dad arrived and Liam calmly put on his shoes and walked out. And never again cried. I tried not to be insulted by this.
• TV watching is a slippery slope. Allowed to watch a kid’s video once, it became a constant request. (Well, that and eat: “I still hungry.”). I had to impose limits and I had to come up with more interesting options.
• The child wants to do everything himself. It takes at least twice as long to let a preschooler put on his socks, shoes and jacket, fasten his car seat buckles and put coins in a parking meter, but you must accept that these are important life skills and that your time is his time. It also takes a really, really long for a kid to spread peanut butter, so you might want to hold on to that one yourself.
• The only thing a child does not want to do himself is pick up toys. And, after all these years, it is still true that nothing hurts worse than stepping on a stray Lego.
• Toys are good, but nature is better. Pine cones, sticks, bugs, rocks and meeting local dogs are sometimes enough.
• Take advantage of your local kid-friendly resources. The library, the city parks and the Audubon Society all provide free and fun activities. Not to mention experiencing the wonder of seeing a child watch live owls up close.
• Snuggled up with a child, reading a story book is the best 15 minutes you will spend on any given day.
• You should always ask a child what his favorite food is. One day, it is gummy vitamins. The next it is kombucha. No real lesson here, it’s just funny.
• Which leads me to: always write down the funny things kids say. Liam is hilarious, but I can’t prove it to you. I should have known better since I already regret not recording my own kids’ witticisms which is why they have to endure the same half dozen stories of their childhoods over and over again. I pledge to do better with Lo. (I do recall one of Liam’s: upon the birth of Lo and learning her name, Liam gave me a quizzical look. “Her name is Slow?” His expression changed to enlightenment when he realized, “Oh! Because she is not fast.” )
Fast or Lo, with Liam’s tutelage, I am prepared for my grandmotherly duties.