Life with a two-year-old

Life is different in a household with a two-almost-three-year-old than it was in an empty nest household. Our grandson is marvelous, smart, curious, cheerful, and energetic. He is an excellent climber. That combination means that his safety demands constant supervision. We have a small step stool that we keep in the kitchen to I can reach the highest cupboards. It is also used by our grandchildren when they help with food preparation so they can reach things at the kitchen counter. Our older grandchildren ask us to get them a glass from the cupboard when they want a drink. Our two-year-old pushed the step stool over to the counter, climbed up onto the counter, opened the cupboard and got out his own glass. He would have gone to the refrigerator and filled the glass with water, no doubt, had not his mother and grandmother intervened. As I have already written, he needs constant supervision, so one of us is watching each time he attempts something new.

He knows how to unlock and open doors. Yesterday when we were preparing to go on a short adventure he got ahead of me while I was tying my shoes and went out into the garage. He is too short to make the motion-detecting light work, so when the door closed behind him he was in the dark. When, seconds later, I got to the door, he was standing there in the garage in the dark unconcerned.

Having him visit puts us at a distinct advantage because he came with his mother, so we have three sets of eyes and three pairs of arms to keep track of his adventures and make sure that he is safe. It gives me a great deal of respect for his mother, who is a full-time caregiver.

Last evening, I had sole responsibility for him for about an hour while his mother and my wife made a quick trip to the store. I didn’t have any illusion that I would be able to get anything done. I simply played and kept track of him without trying to do any cleaning, check my email, or accomplishing any other task. He is, after all, a two-year-old. His attention span is short. In one hour we took a dip in the hot tub, got his pajamas on, played with his spider man figurines, played with dominoes, played with balloons, played catch in the back yard, drew with sidewalk chalk, assembled and disassembled Duplo blocks, read several stories, and played hide and seek. It seemed to me like I was just figuring out what game we were playing when he switched to a new activity. I lost count of how many times we went up and down the stairs.

This was in the evening, after we had been to the park where he ran and climbed and went down slides, after we went on a walk where he ran ahead and I had to jog to keep up with him, after a long day filled with lots of activities. No wonder his mother falls asleep each time he takes a short nap.

I wouldn’t want it any other way. It is absolutely fascinating to me to watch him explore and make his way in the world. He is learning so much so fast that there is a new skill each time I look.

Our children came into our lives a bit later than was the case for some of our peers. As parents of young children in our thirties, we were sometimes the oldest ones in a parents’ group. I made jokes about it, saying, “Since children require 20 years of care from parents, why rush to have them. You could have your children at 60 after you’ve established your career, earned a bit of a nest egg and are retired.” It was a joke. I didn’t really mean it. I don’t think I’d even make the joke these days. the energy level of a 69-year-old is no match for a two-year-old. One hour of being his solo caregiver and I was definitely relieved to see his mother and grandmother return. The three-to-one ratio seems just about right. It gave me new respect for his mother, who used to work in a preschool and manage a classroom with a dozen two-year-olds with a single assistant.

She definitely has the skills and energy required to keep up with a two-year-old. She kept him safe and entertained through two major airports and a nearly five-hour-flight all by herself.

One of the advantages of being a grandfather is that I get to just watch most of the time. I can play with our grandson knowing that if he needs a change of clothes or some special time with his mother she is readily at had to help out. I don’t have to do the laundry, clean the house, care for the dog, and prepare meals while being the sole caretaker of a two-year-old who can open doors, climb on kitchen counters, turn on and off the lights, and reach a bookshelf that requires him to stand on his tiptoes and extend his arm as far as it will go. This is a child who can open the pantry door and who uses the shelves to climb towards that snacks that have been intentionally placed out of his reach.

I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to watch our own children grow and develop and now to be given another chance as I watch our grandchildren. I am delighted with each visit and eager for as many visits as their parents can tolerate. I can appreciate what a gift I can offer by watching a child while a parent gets a few moments to do another task. I may not have the energy to be a full-time caregiver any more, but I can appear fairly competent for short amounts of time.

And, after just an hour with the two-year-old, I’m grateful to have a recliner in my study where I can retreat for a few minutes while I catch my breath.

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