We had a couple of our Littles with us for part of this past weekend. Just long enough to have fun together, but leave us standing upright and not run out of things to keep them occupied (i.e., not overly concentrate on the fact that their parents were G.O.N.E.). Don, in spite of never being a Boy Scout, still believes heartily in 'being prepared', so I try to have a list of ideas ready before they walk through the door.
We started with doing a couple of iChat sessions with their cousins 2000 miles northwest. It's fun to give them the phone and see what they talk about. And interesting to see the difference between a 4 or 5 year old and a 9 year old. Funny to see what they want to talk about; it almost always includes tracking down the pets, checking out bedrooms, and lots of silly laughs. It usually makes me want to grab some Dramamine, watching both ends of the video conversation. I'm thankful for whoever came up with something like iChat so we can connect over so many miles, because there's just nothing like seeing the faces of those you love.
Then we went to the grocery store and bought important stuff: a new four pack of playdoh, white pumpkins to paint, bananas, apple juice, and kid cereal. They were hard-pulled to the Halloween aisles, but we managed to make it home without buying a 6 foot skeleton or bigger-than-life hairy spider. Not that they didn't ask. Anytime I go to the grocery with littles I remember how much I've forgotten - how much work it was to go grocery shopping with lots of little people hanging off all sides of the cart; getting hounded to buy stuff; keeping track of everyone and not pulling stuff down off displays or breaking anything. (I always have horrors of looking like Mr. Mom, taking out entire cap displays with one fell swoop.) It's good to be reminded, because I don't have to do that much anymore, but my two daughters and daughter-in-law are smack in the middle of it, and some empathy for their stage of life is always good.
Home to paint pumpkins with fingerpaint, which may have involved stripping off all unnecessary clothes, covering the coffee table with butcher paper, and remembering that I never wanted to let my kids paint when they were little, so I should do that now, because likely their parents aren't crazy about it either, and Littles need to be able to paint pumpkins purple and red and yellow with someone who isn't getting paid to let them, at least once in awhile.
Next we filled the bathtub with toys, and didn't overly worry about actually using soap. It was more of a 'soaking off the dirt' experience. Put on pjs, and watched Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory - the Johnny Depp version (note: the Gene Wilder one is much better, less evil and menacing I think) (Don had never seen it?!>!), ate corn dogs and mac and cheese for supper which they loudly declared their favorite!, tucked them in with books that I'd read to our kids 20+ years ago. Kissed them goodnight and breathed in deep their fresh bath smell, took a teensy moment to take in their fine wisps of hair and bodies too short to fill the bed - it's funny what you someday miss, those little things you took for granted in the heat of the battle of raising your own.
The next day it was off to church, which meant Sunday School for them. Walking into the children's area with little hands gripping ours, assuring them everyone was nice and they would have fun, and coaxing them to open their hand and let go; afterwards, a stop at Rosa's for lunch with prizes and watching how the tortillas are made, then we took Miss Lily for a long walk to feed the ducks.
The ducks - wild mallards - wanted nothing to do with us, and less with Miss Lily, but the turtles were takers of our bread offerings. (Note to other grandparents: I keep a bread sack of the ends of the loaves in my 'beer and soda' fridge for when Littles come for a visit, then we find ducks and turtles to feed.) Then a stop at the park to swing and slide and run around a bit, which might have involved torturing ML with going down the slide, not her favorite.
A few hours more and their parents swept through the door to a chorus of cheers that sounded like we'd possibly been torturing them the entire time they were gone. I'm counting on them knowing better. Lots of stories about their fun weekend away, dinner out in a real restaurant with tablecloths and waiters who take away used plates, room service and naps in the hotel, going to the park and shopping before taking a cab to the airport.. It made us happy that we got to take their place for a little window of time - everyone needs to catch their breath now and then, retie the knots they agreed to at an altar 10+ years ago, have a conversation or two that doesn't involve 'the kids' and isn't interrupted by anyone under 25, all the while not paying so much for childcare that you can't pay the mortgage. How we would have loved that when ours were growing up.
Ten minutes out the door, they're all on their way home, and we're settled into wine-thirty, a frozen pizza in the oven, and Miss Lily down for the count.
All is good. We are blessed.