Baby-sitting grandchildren is not at all what it's cracked up to be: all warm and fuzzy and lovey-dovey. It's more like walking into a booby trap for unsuspecting grandparents. But it doesn't start out that way. Oh, no. There they are all spit and polish with shiny clean little faces. Mommy and Daddy are going on a little trip and we are going to take care of you and we're going to have a wonderful time. Smiles all around.

The minute the doors closed on Mommy and Daddy, it all went downhill. The first challenge came early on. How about dinner? All kids like macaroni and cheese. Right? Wrong! You want sushi, as in raw fish? Gaga doesn't do sushi. The 8-year-old produced a much dog-eared takeout menu. I pointed to Grandpa Paul (known as Opa) and said "Go."

I won't discuss bedtime. It's too sore of a subject. Let's just say we were all asleep at the same time at least at one point during the night. But morning came very, very early. I hadn't been up and running at 6 a.m. for 50 years. Breakfast was pretty easy, though, as long as they could eat in front of the TV.

I told them to be ready for school by the time their car pool arrived at 7:45 a.m. The older, more seasoned of the two assured me. "It's OK, Gaga. It only takes me 3 minutes to get ready."

Sure enough, at exactly 7:45 he stood at the door with his backpack, but I wasn't too sure about the outfit. Aren't you going to brush your hair? "No. I only brush my hair when I go to church.


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" And he was gone!

I looked at the 4-year-old guy and checked the schedule. Three hours till play group! I smiled encouragingly. "Mommy says you like to play." He howled, "TV." Oh, well.

Dressing for the day was quite an experience for this little clotheshorse. It took five minutes to pick out the appropriate underpants. Finally, he chose a lovely rendition of Spider-Man. Next came the pants. "These aren't jeans," he assured me as he pulled them from under the bed.

I made a mental note. Make sure they are washed at least once before Mommy comes home. Then he took me to his closet and pointed to a stunning pink-collared shirt with cuffs. I checked for cuff links. But no. I guess he hadn't figured that out yet. And, finally, he stood before me - definitely a Brooks Brothers man in the making.

When the car pool picked him up, Paul and I sat down and checked the schedule. It seemed that Opa had the afternoon pickups and, being the conscientious grandfather he was, he spent the rest of the morning doing dry runs. Heaven forbid, we lost them the first day.

Afternoon came around way too early. In they bounded, hungry for cookies and juice. That I could do.

Then dinner time rolled around again. "How about Gaga's famous hamburger casserole? Your Daddy used to love it." "Noooo. Can't we have Chinese?" The big guy disappeared and reappeared 10 seconds later with three takeout menus. "We like this one the best." Who was I to argue? Chinese food it was.

Later, I considered baths. But they still smelled pretty good. Maybe tomorrow night.

After a rather bumpy good-night ritual, the lights were out, and no sound had come from their room for a good half hour.

Either they were in bed on their way to dreamland or they had climbed out the window and were halfway to New York. We were afraid to check.

After a few more tense moments, we sat down with a very large glass of wine and suddenly realized we had only made it through the first 24 hours. But what about the next nine days? We groaned and poured ourselves another glass.

Evangeline Maynard has lived in Palos Verdes Estates for 30 years and taught English at St. John Fisher School. She is the author of a semibiographical book, "The Rain Must Fall."

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