My New Hobby

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The thing about grandchildren is that you always have something fascinating to talk about. I was thinking about that at lunch the other day when my friend said…”So, how is everybody…”

And away I went.

“Death Wish Augie is definitely getting easier to babysit.” I declared happily.

Faithful readers may recall my discussion of Augie, my little zen baby. He would lie happily on the floor, twirling his toes, gurgling, and treating anyone within eye sight with the worlds widest smile. Since he was the third grandchild, and the other two generally were quite busy trying to kill each other, we were all grateful that Augie could be consistently ignored. That was before Augie learned to crawl, walk, and climb, seemingly with a few weeks time. He still had the world’s widest grin. He would totter toward the nearest coffee table, climb it, look directly at me and grin. Widely! He grinned while I frantically ran across the room, with arms outstretched, praying that I would catch him before he stepped off the other side of the table.

“Yeah…” I continued “Augie’s balance has gotten much better plus…” I added, warming to my subject “one of my personal babysitting goals seems to be in sight…”

You may know that I really don’t like holding babies or actually playing with children. Children aren’t great conversationists, and I find that the games that delight them become don’t do much for me. Peek-a-boo just isn’t that exciting the 50th, or 500th time you play it. In retrospect, my life plan to retire early and babysit grandchildren might have been ill-considered.

But, conveniently, my children had 4 boys within 3 and 1/2 years, and I thought I had a plan.

“Since they are almost the same age, I should be to be able to sit, play FreeCell, and let them amuse each other…” I explained.

Of course, it hasn’t always worked that way. My second grandchild, Max, has always adored first-born Abel. I used to follow them around the house. Little Max would have his arms outstretched, calling “Abel, Abel, Abel” and following him where ever he went. Abel would reciprocate by casting murderous glances in Max’s direction and surreptitiously shoving him. One day, unexpectedly, Abel suddenly suggested that Max come out on the porch and play. He patted Max on the back, took him by the hand, helped him down the step, and bought him over to a toy. Max’s mother (Abel’s aunt) was astounded, and delighted. At that point, Abel walked out of the porch, back into the house, and shut and locked the door.

“Abel!” cried his still astounded, but considerably less delighted, aunt.

“I didn’t want him in here.” Abel explained.

This hasn’t gotten better. At a recent family camping trip Abel had wandered away. He was sitting at the base of a tree, playing quietly with sticks and stones.

“I just want to be lonely.” he frowned, in a tone simultaneously pleading and menacing.

Max was right behind me, and he smiled at Abel. “I can help you be lonely!”

“Still no FreeCell for me.” I groaned inwardly. I first tried to convince Max that someone, somewhere, was doing something much more exciting than playing with sticks and stones. After that didn’t work, I picked him up. Alas, no one is supposed to pick up Max without his consent, and he was rather cool to me for some time afterwards.

“But my goal…” I reported excitedly, “may be close. I can just see that FreeCell screen. Augie and Max play together!”

Another amazing thing about the grandchildren, is how different they are. My son’s children, Abel and Augie, like to pretend that they are cooking. They also enjoy taking out my husbands puppets and playing tea party. I mean, they are boys, they like dirt, trucks, climbing, and twisting knobs on every piece of electronic equipment in the house. But they are not Max. Max, in addition to being wildly social and imitative, has an intense imaginary life that leans heavily toward whacking, smashing, swording and shooting. Also rescuing drowning grandmothers.

“It’s all those older boys in day care at the gym.” my daughter explained sheepishly to me, after I had spent a long day helping Max whack imaginary flying things.

“Uh huh. Sure.” I said.

“And YOU were the one to blame for the swording! I still have bruises.” my daughter glowered.

“Oh.That. It was his grandfather… Really.” I replied quickly.

“Uh huh. Sure.” she said.

Max’s imaginative play is very directive. My part in this is strictly limited to obeying all orders, quickly.

“I’ve recently been baby-sitting Augie and Max together.” I continued, happily talking. “Augie just follows Max around. They just run. Plus Augie imitates everything Max says or does…Max is teaching him to scream really loudly…plus Augie is laid back enough that he doesn’t object when Max takes toys. I think he’s just really happy that someone is paying attention. And, of course, King Max is gratified that he has a faithful subject, as is his due… This might actually work!”

“Here’s my prediction.” I added…”Abel is the grandchild most likely to be involved in a conspiracy. Max is the one most likely to take over the world (perhaps with Abel’s help.) And Death Wish Augie will break all the girls hearts… perhaps while skydiving…”

“Uh..huh.” my lunch mate nodded mechanically. “Ah…Fascinating…Umm…have you thought about what we should order?”

I mean, aren’t they just fascinating? It almost makes up for those 500 games of Peek-A-Boo…

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