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Shhhhhh

by Ferida Wolff

 

I was babysitting my two-year-old grandson while my daughter and son-in-law went off for a needed weekend away. I had been in charge at other times but only during the day and not over an extended period. Three decades have passed since I had full charge of a child. I hoped I remembered my mothering skills. How different could it be? I wondered.

Everything was fine during the day. I changed diapers as necessary and had no problem keeping him entertained. We went to the playground where he toddled up the steps and flung himself down the slide. We rode the elevator up and down in the store as we shopped in the local market. He had a two-hour nap after lunch and woke up happy. We took a walk in the afternoon and watched the trucks rattle along the road, a highlight of his day.

Easy, I thought.

Even dinner was a breeze. My daughter said he wouldn’t eat cheese but he gobbled up a whole finger of string cheese. He ate two meatballs dipped in gobs of ketchup, a double helping of applesauce with cinnamon, and tasted a green bean, which he didn’t eat but he didn’t throw on the floor either — a definite plus. After his bath, my sweet grandson snuggled into my lap for a story. We read the book the traditional multiple times and then it was bedtime.

I put him in his crib, shut the light, and was ready to leave when I heard the plaintive call.

“Up,” he said.

“It’s time to sleep,” I answered in a whisper.

“No, up,” he repeated.

“Goodnight,” I crooned.

I gently patted his back until he settled down. When I heard his breathing get deeper, I thought it was safe to tiptoe out of the room as I had done so many years ago with my tiny toddlers. I didn’t reckon on my joints. My toes cracked with my first step. How could anything so little sound so loud? It was loud enough to wake him.

So I patted and shhhed until, once again, he was asleep. I wiggled my toes before starting my retreat to warm them. Then I moved very slowly, keeping each step balanced and light. I almost made it to the door when my knee exploded. Crack. There was no way my grandson would sleep through that! Sure enough, I heard him call me.

I remained quiet hoping he would turn around and go back to sleep but he got agitated instead, crying to come out. So, back I went, shhhing and patting and silently reprimanding my body for its lack of cooperation. Once more I heard the deep, even breathing. I stopped patting but remained in place a little longer.

Threatening my body with dire consequences, like extra time at the gym or wearing shoes in the house, something my feet and I don’t particularly like to do, if it should so much as creak, I gingerly headed toward the door. Each step seemed to take a day. I got to the threshold and slowly eased my way through. As I carefully pulled the door closed, I heard a stirring, a little whine, and a questioning whisper. I held my breath. Then all was quiet.

As I made my way down the hall I ruminated on the difference between being a mother and a grandmother. It wasn’t so much a shift in philosophy or a greater tolerance or even a more expansive understanding of bringing up a child; it was arthritis!

I hope I am getting wiser as I age but one thing is obvious — I sure am getting noisier.

 

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