At the end of the day, it is the trusting relationship one builds and maintains with a child that matters most. This was the conclusion I came to as I stood on the end of the Santa Barbara pier with grandchildren Ivy and Everett, watching the sun set on the first day of a new year. I quietly sang taps to them: “Day is done, gone the sun . . . safely rest, God is nigh.” None of us wanted to leave, but it was getting dark.
The prospect of grandparenting the children for three days while their parents and baby sister, Cora, went to San Francisco, seemed daunting right on the heels of a busy Christmas. But I had promised, so off I went with my bag of Grammy tricks and a Starbucks venti latte.
The excitement of being together carried us through the goodbyes to parents, and we began planning our adventures together. No need for a Disneyland when you have a Santa Barbara. There is no end to the possibilities for fun in this magical, child-friendly town. We set off with high spirits.
The first challenge presented itself as we got into the car — is there a class for grandparents on buckling children into car seats? The children were helpful in giving instructions and a bit puzzled about why this was so difficult for me.
The morning was glorious, enjoying the surf and sun, the pier fishermen and barking seals, the fishy smells and soaring pelicans. Next stop was the skateboard park where we observed the bravado of those showing off newly acquired Christmas scooters, skateboards and helmets. The children were fascinated.
Last stop before lunch, the park. Ivy’s hefty fall off a zip line made us all wish Mommy and Daddy were still here. Unsure how serious the perceived arm injury was, our fun came to an abrupt end and we limped home, spirits dragging. And those car seats again!
Was this continued crying a little girl’s moment for drama, or leftover tiredness or was a visit to Urgent Care in order? Texting parents, assessing the situation, being observant and sympathetic, filled our afternoon.
It was thus on Day 1 that the fun of being a Grammy converged with the overwhelming responsibilities of being a parent on a daily basis. I had forgotten how absolutely constant and demanding it is.
Now there was the grumpiness after naptime and snacks and food peculiarities and sibling squabbles and finding activities that accommodated the questionable arm and dinner and baths and lost toothbrushes and which book would be read first and how each needed to be uniquely tucked into bed.
Having left my home at 6 that morning, I felt it wise to go to bed soon after the children did. Ivy arrived bedside a couple of hours later complaining of arm pain, joining me for the night and bringing renewed concern with her, only to have her smile brightly in the morning and say she was better. I, on the other hand, felt exhausted.
As we began another day of routines, I thought of my daughter and her husband, and how they do this day in and day out, and that they and parents like them with young children, are living lives requiring great doses of patience and self-sacrifice.
And as I was filled with renewed admiration for them, I began to wonder how I would get through Day 2. I couldn’t begin to remember how I had raised three children of my own.
Day 2 was the zoo, and Day 3 was a picnic at the Mission and playing at Shoreline Park. Somewhere along the way, I realized that more than providing fun, my job as Grammy was to offer safety and security for Ivy and Everett and to build a positive and caring relationship that would see us through the foibles of their daily routine.
With word that Dad and Mom were on their way home, we headed back to the pier for celebratory ice cream cones, a rare treat, and to listen to Capt. S. Rock sing with his guitar, the children accompanying him with instruments.
As the day drew to a close, Everett shouted “Boat ahead” for each approaching vessel, great or small, and Ivy sang to the setting sun.
None of us wanted to leave, but it was getting dark.