“Don’t even ask if it’s a good time for a visit,” Mom had said, “any time is a good time. Bring those little angels over as soon as you can!”
I knew the moment I hung up, my parents would dive into planning menus, figuring out where they could borrow a crib, high chair and booster seat, as well as all those other details grandparents enjoy preparing for that first visit.
Fortunately, the baby wanted a nap right after her early-morning bottle. Her sisters had yet to awake, allowing me uninterrupted time to pack and load the car. I soon discovered that taking three small children the 192 miles to Mom and Dad’s house required a lot more stuff than when I made the trip alone.
At last, with all kids properly secured and occupied with toys and books, I pulled the red and white Chrysler Cordoba onto the highway. I’d reviewed what I needed to take with us so many times. I resigned that whatever I’d forgotten, I’d just buy there.
For the first fifty or so miles, silence reigned as the movement of the car lulled all three girls to sleep. Thoughts of my germinating plan to resolve my sudden unemployment filled my mind.
Four-year-old Deni* woke up before her sisters. As she resumed reading the book in her lap, I whispered my request. “Honey, would you please read to yourself? Susie* and Jamie* are still asleep.”
Deni leaned towards me. “Okay,” she said in a loud whisper.
Straightening back in the bucket seat, Deni turned the page and continued reading—aloud.
“Deni, please read to yourself.”
“Okay.” The story continued in a softer voice.
“Honey, can you, please, read that story to yourself?” The preschooler had never ignored any request; I just didn’t understand what was happening.
“I am reading it to myself. I can’t help it if you’re listening.”
Patting her arm, I laughed as softly as I could. “You are sooo right, Sweetie. I’m sorry for interrupting you. Go ahead and read softly so the girls don’t wake up.”
Boy, did I have a lot to learn about little kids. How in the world does one explain to a preschooler how to read to herself?
Hours later, I made the turn onto W. Maryland Lane. The girls gawked out the windows, bouncing on the seats as I announced this was Grandma and Grandpa’s street. “Dat’s Gramma-Gramma’s twuck!” Two-year-old Jamie blurted out.
We’d long given up asking Jamie to repeat the two different names for the grandparents. She got it that they had different names for Grandpa and Grandma, but spared herself the semantic struggle by calling my mother Gramma and my father Gramma-Gramma. Worked for them.
The remainder of the afternoon and all evening reverberated with lively chatter and all sorts of kid-activities. Mom and Dad had really gone overboard; I’d never seen them laugh so much for so long.
Finally, the time had come for the children to head for bed. They gave no argument, so I knew they didn’t mind. However, while Deni had changed and waited for me to come tuck her in, Jamie walked all over the house. She’d changed into her pajamas but, tennis shoes in hand, scurried from one room to the other.
“Jamie? Your room is this one. See? Deni’s already in bed,” I said, pointing out the open door near me.
Jamie nodded her head but reversed direction. I raised my index finger, signaling Mom to hold her story for a minute.
“Honey, it’s bedtime. You need to go to bed now. Do you understand?”
Jamie nodded and turned around again. She took a few quick steps before my command. .“Halt little Princess!”
Leaving the rocker, I took hold of Jamie’s shoulders and turned her to face me. I knelt on the carpet before the beautiful African-American two-year-old.
Tiny eyebrows raised, Jamie tilted her head to the right and waited for me to speak.
“Sweetheart, what did I ask you to do? Do you remember?”
Nodding her head, Jamie said, “Jamie go bed.”
I smiled. “And, where’s Jamie’s bed in Grandma’s house?” The little arm raised, her index finger pointed to the bedroom. “Yes! That’s exactly right. So, if you know what Mama Dar wants you to do, and you know where your bed is, then why aren’t you going to bed, Jamie?”
With a deep sigh, the little girl looked at me and held up her shoes. “Jamie can’t find duh piano.”
I grabbed on to the precious little girl and gave her a hug. We cuddled for a few minutes before I could speak. “Mama Dar’s so sorry, Jamie. Grandma doesn’t have a piano. You are such a smart girl. You tried hard to obey but couldn’t do it here. You’re a good girl and Mama Dar loves you so much Jamie.”
Jamie pressed into me and waited for a resolution to her problem. “What Jamie do now?”
“How about you put your shoes under the television over there. I think there’s just enough room for your shoes and Deni’s, too.”
The child obeyed and ran to the bedroom to retrieve her sister’s shoes. “Jamie put Deni’s shoes.”
As soon as I returned from the bedtime prayer and kisses, Mom burst with the question. “What in the world was that all about, Dar? Why couldn’t she go to bed until she found the piano?”
“I wanted to be sure the kids could always find their shoes, in case of emergency. At our house, there’s an old, upright piano in the living room. The kids know that anytime they take their shoes off—whether to take a nap, go to bed at night, or just because, their shoes go under the piano bench. We never have lost shoes in our house.”
“Seems to me that Jamie learned that lesson better than her Mama Dar, huh?” Daddy laughed, but he was right.
Indeed, I had so much to learn about little kids. How could I even consider my plan to resolve my sudden loss of income?
The events of the following day spotlighted the real truth: there are more important factors to caring for kids than explaining how to read to yourself, or remembering your own house rules.
Story-line began with the following link: With Just One Phone Call