I recently took care of our fabulous 2-year-old granddaughter for a few days while her parents were out of town. Consequently, I have acquired a new skill set, which includes the following:
Putting sunscreen on a small child • I'm pretty sure sunscreen had been invented by the time I had kids, but I don't remember using it on them very often. Why? Because I grew up basting myself with baby oil whenever I went outside FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF GETTING TANNED. So I was slow to see the point of sunblock.
And yes. You're absolutely right. This is one of the many reasons I should have been turned into the Division of Family Services when my boys were young.
However, I'm a very responsible person these days, mostly because my kids' paper routes finally taught me some responsibility! I even believe in sunscreen now, so when the granddaughter's parents told me to use it on her, I obeyed. Sunscreen for today's toddler comes in a squirt bottle, which is awesome. Because who doesn't love spray-painting a baby?
Chewing the fat with babies about their favorite TV shows • That's right. I can now dish with America's preschoolers about "Yo Gabba Gabba!"
So, OK. I always have the same initial reaction whenever I see kid shows for the first time, i.e., that they're kind of creepy. I for sure felt that way about "Yo Gabba Gabba" when the show's host, D.J. Lance, strolled onto the screen wearing a furry ski hat and an orange unitard, because you know how it is grown men wearing furry ski hats and orange unitards are scary. In fact, whenever I see grown men wearing furry ski hats and orange unitards I turn around and run in the other direction.
I advise you to do the same.
But after a few days of watching "Yo Gabba Gabba" with my granddaughter, I caught myself singing "There's a party in my tummy! So yummy! So yummy!" at random moments, as well as telling people I like the character Brobee the best because he reminds me of my dog.
Doing hair • Unlike my mother, who has honorary PhDs from beauty schools all over the country (as well as Canada), I'm no good at styling hair. This is the reason God never sent me daughters. OBVIOUSLY. And for the first few days, the granddaughter did in fact look all waifish with that fine baby hair hanging in her face.
"I'm no good at this," I wailed to our neighbor, who's a priest.
"Ah," he said knowingly. "Grandma shame."
So then he absolved me, and I improved on the hairdresser front. Sort of. The granddaughter wasn't perfectly coiffed, but at least you could tell I'd waved a hairbrush in her general direction.
Meanwhile, here's the biggest thing I realized while I was baby-sitting. It's easy for women with grown children (like me) to sentimentalize the good old days when our kids were young. And it's true that those days were good full of tender moments. But they could be exhausting, too. And tedious.
Looking after little ones is hard work, which is why I'm taking my hat off RIGHT THIS VERY MOMENT to young parents everywhere. You guys have my respect. So hang in there. You're doing a better job than you might think you are.
And definitely a better job than I did last week.
Ann Cannon can be reached at email@example.com or facebook.com/columnistcannon.