Spevak: Convenience is crucial when watching grandkids

By John SpevakDecember 27, 2012 

Some of my readers may remember the movie "Adventures in Babysitting."

That's an apt title for today's column, which describes my adventures in baby-sitting AJ Spevak.

AJ, my grandson, is 2½ years old. Many people might doubt that a 67-year-old guy like me could handle a dynamo of energy like AJ for 39 hours while his mom and dad were both out of town. But I proved the doubters wrong.

I used what I call "Papa's techniques." To show you how easy they are, I'll provide a 24-hour sample of how I employed them earlier this month.

AJ's mom left the house on a Thursday at 5:05 a.m. to catch a flight. His dad had already left. So at 6:30 a.m., when my alarm went off, I knew it was just AJ and me -- plus his two sisters, Hanna, age 14, and Kaila, age 12.

At 6:50, AJ was up. Papa knew he had to give the kid a diaper change and some minimal breakfast before we drove his sisters to school.

Fortunately, Hanna and Kaila are capable, independent young ladies, so I didn't have to worry about them.

After putting a dry diaper on AJ and re-zipping his pajamas, I went to the pantry and found just the right breakfast -- Trix. Nutritious? No. Effective? Yes.

I was setting the tone: survival. I wasn't trying to win prizes for being a model grandparent. I was trying to survive the day.

The Trix worked. A small bowl goes a long way, when eaten with a sippy-cup of apple juice.

AJ is a good traveler, so once in his car seat, he was fine. After both girls were dropped off, I realized it was now AJ and me, mano-a-mano. My goal was to survive until nap time, around 12:30 -- four long hours.

At home I turned on PBS and found a "Cat in the Hat" cartoon. Then AJ helped me toast and butter a piece of bread. On a paper plate (real dishes need washing), I cut the toast into six pieces.

We sat on the couch, ate toast and watched the "Cat," for about three minutes. Then AJ was ready to move on. We played catch with a football, tossed around a small volleyball, then shot small basketballs toward a hoop on the closet door.

AJ then led me into the dining room, where he pushed "play" on a small TV/tape player. We both watched "Baby Einstein," while other cartoons played on the TV in the family room. Kid-show stereo.

Orderly? No. Chaotic? A little. But it worked. One of my techniques is distraction. I didn't want AJ to realize his mom wasn't home.

Three hours went by. Time for Papa to make lunch: blueberries and a ham sandwich.

Nap time: AJ sleeps in a double bed. So he and I went up to his room, I closed the shutters, and we both stretched out for a nap. Except soon AJ was standing on the bed looking out the window. Forty minutes later, after some mattress trampolining, AJ finally fell asleep. Papa lay absolutely still.

Then it was time to get AJ up and pick up his sisters from their schools. As I put AJ in his car seat, I realized, at 2:30 p.m., he was still in his pajamas. That's OK. Papa's techniques put a low priority on kid fashion.

On the way home, around 3:30, it was time for Papa to make dinner. That meant a stop at Subway's for three foot-long sandwiches and two bags of chips. Nourishing? Not particularly. Practical? Yes.

Once home, Hanna and Kaila were wonderful with AJ, providing time for Papa to regroup.

Eventually it was bedtime, with Papa again in AJ's bed for the night. After 30 minutes of mattress break-dancing, AJ fell asleep, lying across the width of the bed. Papa had 6 inches of mattress space.

But AJ continued to sleep, and Papa's primary technique is never wake a sleeping kid. Amazingly, we made it through the night. Eventually, it was 6:50 a.m., time to get up and get the girls to school again.

Strict discipline? Maybe not. Going with the flow? Sure. All AJ all the time? Definitely. Success? Yes. For one full day, Papa survived.

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to john.spevak@gmail.com.

Comments on the writings of John Spevak, an Enterprise columnist for 29 years, are encouraged, and can be sent via email to john.spevak@gmail.com.

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