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Sharon Randall: Back to baby boot camp

I used to think that being a grandparent would be the easiest job ever. If you could survive being a parent with firsthand experience, surely youíd remember enough to wing it the second time around.
I donít think that anymore.
My youngest child, whom I still call ěthe baby,î was 33 years old barely seven months ago when he and his wife presented me with my first grandchild.
Thirty-three years is a long time to remember things like diapering and bathing, let alone reciting nursery rhymes you never knew well to begin with.
Most of what I know about being a mother I learned from my children. We made up the rules ó like songs we sang and games we played and stories we told ó as we went along.
And most of what Iím learning about being a grandmother Iím learning from Randy. Weíre making it up, my grandson and I, as we go along. Itís not easy living 500 miles apart. But I visit him as often as I can and he makes the most of each visit.
Last week was boot camp. He was a drill sergeant. His parents were generals. And I was Gomer Pyle, disguised as his nana. How can something you once could do in your sleep ó and often did ó suddenly be so hard?
Take my first attempt at changing his diaper. Removing the wet one was easy. Replacing it was not. I knew, of course, with a naked baby boy, time was of the essence. Some things you never forget. But I did not recall what babies do with their feet.
When the diaper came off, he curled up in a chubby pink ball, stuffed his toes in his mouth and improved his aim considerably.
Youíd be amazed how fast a woman my age can move, if properly inspired. I alligator-wrestled him into a diaper and taped it as tight as I could.
ěGood job, nana,î said his daddy, inspecting. ěThe tapes just need to be a bit tighter.î
Later, when I tried giving the boy a bath, he splashed so hard I thought weíd both drown.
ěHere,î said his mommy, ělet him hold his rubber duck,î and the splashing slowed to a slosh.
I fed him a bottle mixed with oatmeal so thick it clogged the nipple and made him furious. I spooned (at his motherís suggestion) a tiny bit of strained squash in his mouth that made him gag until he threw up.
I even managed to bump his head, not just once, but twice, causing him to cry real tears and reach for his mommy and look at me as if I were someone he didnít like at all ó Hannibal Lecter disguised as his nana.
Iím not a quick learner. But heís a good teacher. We both worked hard all week.
Finally, the last night of my visit, his mom and dad went out to dinner and left us all alone.
First, we played. I taught him ěPat, Pat, Patî (once a favorite of his dadís) and ěLittle Bunny Foo Fooî (he likes bopping field mice on the head) and ěNASCAR 500î (I push him around the house really fast in his walker).
When I gave him a bath, he licked soap off the rubber duck and hardly splashed at all.
I taped his diaper tight, zipped him in his jammies, read ěThe Very Hungry Caterpillarî by Eric Carle and let him chew the cardboard pages all he wanted.
Then I held him the same way I used to hold his daddy, and fed him a bottle of his mommyís milk with no nasty oatmeal. And he drank it down in big, sleepy gulps and gazed into my eyes as if I were someone he liked a lot ó his very own nana, disguised as Angelina Jolie.
When his parents came home, he was sound asleep with one arm dangling through the bars of his crib, and I was singing a song I call ěNana Rocks.î
The next day I left, promising to come back as soon as I can.
Now Iím singing a song I call ěMissing Randy.î And heís busy working on a new lesson plan.

Sharon Randall can be contacted at randallbay@ earthlink.net.

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