I enjoy baby-sitting my grandchildren. Honestly. But for my own protection, there are several rules in the "Grandma Contract" that I insist on.
1. I don't not play "Horsy."
2. I will not read a book more than three times in a row.
3. I refuse to make them eat lima beans.
4. And under no circumstances will I put them to bed at night -- not after spending years trying to put my own kids to bed when they were little. I jumped through so many hoops -- expensive bribes, repetitive stories, multiple glasses of water, endless songs and hours of fake sleeping next to them -- I felt like a circus performer.
That's why I had my attorney draw up a Grandma Contract the minute the first grandkid was born. When I baby-sit, I want to have fun with the grandkids. And bedtime isn't fun.
But the other night my daughter had an emergency and needed a sitter. I figured since the kids were long past the baby stage when bedtime meant crying, walking, rocking and more crying, how hard could it be? Just in case, I prepared by loading up with fun things to do before bedtime, hoping the kids would wear themselves out. This grandma wasn't born yesterday.
When I arrived, my daughter ran out the door, leaving me with two wide-awake kids who still needed to "brush their teeth, go potty and put on their pajamas."
No problem, I thought, as I opened my portable "Grandma box" filled with toys and a video. Using my child psychology skills,
The early evening went well -- how could it not with new toys and a video? By the time the movie was over, they were as vacant-eyed as a couple of zombies. This was going to be easier than I thought. But like a horror movie, just when you think you're finally safe from the bloodthirsty undead, these zombies suddenly came back to life. And bedtime was not on their agenda. Time for a bribe.
"Everyone who gets in bed gets a mint!" They both hopped into bed. I tucked Lyla in like a mummy, rendering her immobile, then headed for Luke's room, where I was required to sing 10 verses of the ABC song. Halfway through round five, I heard Lyla's door open.
"Go back to bed, Lyla,' " I called to her.
"I want Mommy!" she cried.
Luke teared up: "I want Mommy, too!"
At that point, I also wanted Mommy. It was time to lie: "Go back to bed and Mommy will be home in a few minutes."
To my surprise, the kids were out cold five minutes later. I spent the rest of the evening watching a TV show I didn't like (couldn't figure out how to use their remote), with the sound off (didn't want to risk waking the kids).
Looking back, it wasn't so bad. It only took $30 worth of toys and videos, a few idle threats, several bribes, a decent singing voice, the patience of a Heinz ketchup user and the knowledge that tomorrow night I didn't have to put them to bed.
It's in my contract.
Contact Penny Warner at www.pennywarner.com.