Is anything more fun than being a grandparent?! Nothing comes to mind. Whoever said, “If I had known that having grandchildren was so much fun, I’d had them first!” Amen brother, amen! I love my three boys, but man this grandkid thing is an adventure! And right now (unless someone has failed to clue me in) there are 10 of the little boogers running around this farm. Plus, they all live within 3 miles of the farm. Oh you are SO lucky is what some may be thinking right now. You’re right, we are blessed beyond measure! We have birthday gatherings (at least 10 of them 🙂 and holidays and unplanned gatherings…but those times are not exactly what you would call “quality” time? I mean, the little guys have to be fed and hunted up and entertained and fed. “En masse” means us wimmin folk have a multitude of duties to perform which means someone is usually urging one of the Big Guys to go see where all the kids are now!
So, a while back, I instituted what we call “Cousins Night”. All of the cuties come to our house to spend the night, play checkers, push each other in wheelbarrows, hunt rocks on a walk, do puzzles or make up tall tales, taking turns telling them. (It’s really really REALLY hard for a 3 year old to wait for their turn by the way. A timer is the key.) Or we might all go out to the Lodge to roast wieners, chase bugs, walk down the lane beside the house to the old barn and creek (pronounced “crick” in these parts). Of course, they like to get out all of the old Fisher Price Little People sets too. And the girls will freak the boys out by dragging out dolls and dress-up paraphernalia. But the boys like to freak the girls out with bugs. No wait. The girls like bugs. The boys climb to the top of my pecan tree. Nope, the little ladies can scoot up that tree as fast as the boys. OK, so not much freaks these girls out. The point is, they love being together. They beg for a Cousin’s Night.
I would encourage you grannies out there in cyberworld to think about trying this. Your grands may be spread out all over, but maybe you could aim for something twice a year. Whatever fits your schedule. And theirs. It’s a break for the mommies and daddies. I think sons and DIL’s look forward to our nights as much as the kids do!? And it is quality time! We aim for once a month here.
Planning is key though. You canNOT not have a plan. Trust me on this. They can’t run amuck. Chaos follows closely behind and is a thing to fear! Ask me how I know…
- Know what you’re going to have for their supper. Keep it simple. You MUST keep it simple!!! We have hot dogs. A lot.
- Plan all activities…puzzles, storytelling, domino building, storyreading, games, outside running around chasing each other, races. Don’t rely on the “let’s figure it out as we go” philosophy. Chaos, I tell you. Chaos. Especially if you have a wide age range. What entertains a 2 yr old will bore the cotton socks off a 10 yr old.
- Put an older child in charge of the youngest. The definition may vary from younger child to younger child. It may mean “don’t let him/her out of your sight for one second” and it may mean “ok now you’re stalking/hovering. Let the kid breathe.” They make sure younger child’s hands are washed for supper, that he has food, that all potty visits have been attended to (and that the seat is now down and flushing has taken place), that said child has something to sleep in or on or under…whatever. At this point, you can’t be too picky.
- Which brings us to the Who Sleeps Where and With Whom point. You decide ahead of time. And only YOU. Don’t let the little darlin’s talk you into Plan Z. You know these kids and you know who will keep you up until all hours giggling if they’re together. Again, the Big Brother approach is good here too. I’ve found that Little Brothers tend settle down faster with Big Brother at his side. Of course, there are times when Big Brother is bonkers. Complete isolation works too, if you have enough beds or floor space.
- Which brings in bedding…I’ve given up on beds for everyone. Besides, they think it’s an adventure to sleep on the living room rug. So now, I ask all participants to bring a sleeping bag. Makes the next morning cleanup a breeze!
- Assign a room/corner for each child’s stuff. They really don’t bring a lot, but when you have 10 piles of stuff…well, it piles up fast. And nobody can find their stuff.
- Accidents are expected. Have first aid supplies at the ready. And pray you don’t need them. But then there are spilling accidents. And breaking accidents. No biggie.
- If you’re getting the whole lot of them ready for Sunday School the next morning (most of our Cousin’s Nights hit on Sat. especially in the school year), BE PREPARED!!!!!!!! This is the event that can make or break an excellent granny. Big Brother steps in once again to aid and assist the feeding of and dressing of little ones. Thank goodness. The boys are pretty easy, but the girls have hair that has to be dealt with. I love fixing their hair but mercy, 4 at one time?!!! Simplicity is key here again. Breakfast may be just cereal even if they are insisting that you and only you are the only person on the face of the earth who can scramble eggs and cheese to their liking. (These kids are con artists. They ALL are. Beware.) Each child has a buddy at this point and this gets you to the getting-in-the-car part. Safely, with all clothes on, tummies full, bladders empty and seat belts on.
- Once you’ve marched them into Sunday School, these sweet little babes are someone else’s problem. Just kidding. But then didn’t someone semi-famous but maybe not so bright say “It takes a village.”? Since I play the organ, their Paw leads the singing and one of their moms plays the piano, uncles and aunts have to take over during the worship service. But I do have to say, being the objective granny that I am, they all behave beautifully in church. Really.
After church, our sweethearts go home. And we go home, where it’s really really quiet. It’s almost like your ears are roaring it’s so quiet. Forget lunch. Go take a nap. You deserve it!
All in all, it’s a memory making time for use. We love it. The kids love it. Their parents love it. And it always reminds us why G-d gave us children when we were young and had some energy!! Can’t wait until next time!!!
I’ll bet you have ideas on a Cousin’s Night too. Share?!!!