A week ago IT Genie approached me and asked what I was doing the next day. Now any one can tell you that when a person approaches you and asks, “What are you doing tomorrow?” that is not what they are really asking. This is a question that I would say was rhetorical, there is no answer required. No matter what you are doing tomorrow the person asking the question has other plans for you and you might as well just reply, “I don’t know, what am I doing?” For myself, I usually just tilt my head, raise an eyebrow and wait silently for the other shoe to drop. That’s what I did when my son asked me what my plans were for the next day.
IT Genie knows that look, so he quickly gives me the low-low (I don’t know what that means but I wanted to use it in a sentence). He tells me that he and Company were planning to cut gardens for planting the next day and was wondering if I and his mother would like to come over and watch our grandchild while they did this. “I’ll throw something on the Bar-B-Q,” he adds at the end in the hope that the offer of free food might be a swaying factor.
“Your mother is working tomorrow,” I tell him and his face drops. I know that look, it’s the one all men get when they have left something to the last minute that they felt was a shoe-in. I can imagine how the conversation went two weeks ago;
Company: “You should ask your parents if they could watch Parker while we cut the gardens.”
IT Genie: “It’s not a problem; mom will say yes, she loves being with him.”
Company: “You should ask anyway just to be sure.”
IT Genie: “I will but it’s just a formality.”
So his only reply to me was, “Oh…” Mission Control… we have a problem. I can see the predicament he is in and after a short silence I throw him a bone. “Bring him over to the house and I’ll keep an eye on him.” His eyes go wide not in relief but in some kind of horror. “Oh…” he says again, “okay… I’ll run it by Company and see what she says.”
Alright, I’m doing my best not to be offended by this verbal transaction. I understand that when it comes to all things children, mom rules. He can’t agree to anything unless Company gives the green light but his look is telling me that he is not necessarily onboard with the idea of leaving his first-born child alone with his father. What the hell does he think??? I didn’t have anything to do with him until he started school!!!
“How many fingers do you have?” I ask him
“Ten,” he replies looking at his hand just in case it’s a trick question.
“How many toes do you have?”
“Do you have any scars? Do you walk with a limp? Do you have an uncontrollable tic? Do you look at the ground when people talk to you?”
“No, No, No, No.”
“You do know that your mother worked when you were a baby, right?”
“So who the hell changed your diaper and fed you when she wasn’t there?!!?”
“Tell Company that and let me know.” I said to him at the end of our conversation about my plans for the next day.
It wasn’t until early the next morning as she prepared to leave for work that I told Honey about my conversation with Genie. I still had not received any communication from my son in regards to his plans for the day but I thought my wife should know what she may come home to.
“Grumpa’s going to solo!” she said with a laugh and a smile. There was no look of horror or even the slightest hint that Honey had any apprehension about my ability to watch over a seven-month old child and as she left for the day saying “I hope it goes well today… grumpa”, she did so with a smile and without ever once telling me what to do. Honey and I have been through the child rearing wars together and she knows that her grandson will be safe in my hands for a few short hours; there is no need to make me question myself. The smile as she says ‘grumpa’ also tells me that she knows, that I know, that even if I end up with a screaming child for an entire day that we’ll both survive and all will be well.
Company of course is not Honey and when Genie arrives mid-afternoon he is carting two bags and young Parker. He sets all down on the living room rug and looks at me with his serious face.
“I was told to tell you if it’s not in here,” he warns as he waves his hand in circle over Parker and his luggage,” you are not to give it to my kid!!!”
I laugh and smile at serious-faced Genie, my child all grown up. “No problem,” I assure him as I approach Parker, “what do you have in there?”
Genie proceeds to give me an inventory of the supplies he has brought as I remove the wind-tarp that covers Parker’s child seat and remove the safety harness. I smile at him and whisper in my best sing-song Grumpa voice, “I guess we won’t be drinking rum today after all.” He smiles and farts. I laugh… he laughs. The day will be okay.
In fact the day went perfectly from a Grumpa stand point. He played with the toys that had been supplied and watched the hockey game with me (I think he really liked the Nashville Predators or at least their bright yellow jerseys that streaked across the screen). We had a couple of meaningless conversations and got in a few minutes of standing and walking exercise but mostly we just hung-out together. He didn’t cry… I didn’t cry. A few hours in he let me know that he would not be opposed to a little snack, I was in agreement, I had hot wings… he had some grey-coloured sludge from the bag. He didn’t seem to mind. “It won’t be long,” I said to him with a sauce covered smile, he smiled back and drank some more of the grey coloured liquid.
At just shy of four hours under Grumpa supervision Parker had reached the point of saturation and he was going to need a diaper change. I put him on the floor placing a pillow behind him and went to rummage through his luggage. I hear a thump and turn to see that Parker has teetered sideways, missed the pillow and done a face plant into the carpet, he is beginning to cry. I pick him up and he lets out a wail at the precise moment Honey walks in the door from work.
It’s the first time the kid has cried all day!!! Honey grabs Parker from my arms and soothes him as I explain what has just this moment happened. She looks at the scene of the crime and admonishes me through her grandchild, “Grumpa’s an idiot,” she coos to the child “he knows he needs to surround you in all directions. You’re just learning the whole balancing thing. Aren’t you?” Parker has stopped crying in his grandmother’s embrace.
From that point on my services were no longer needed. Grandma was here and she took charge. She did the changing and the feeding and by the time GenCo returned to retrieve their son he was sitting comfortably on Honey’s lap playing with a stuffed toy. Company takes Parker from Honey saying hello to him in her mommy-song voice and I’m quite certain giving him the once over as she embraces him. With no new visible scars or abrasions she is re-assured and she smiles and asks me pleasantly how the day had been.
“Well after the rum, he pretty much slept the day away.” I reply.
No parent should be too comfortable.