As I write this, I’m sipping a full cup of Bailey’s laced with a couple of generous splashes of Jameson’s Irish whiskey. That’s because we just returned from an evening of babysitting three of our four grandchildren.
The highlight of this Saturday evening came just after we got the three kids to bed at 9:45, which was about three hours late for the 1-year-old, two hours late for the 3-year-old, and about an hour too early for 7-year-old Annie, according to what she told us.
At about 10 p.m., 3-year-old Finn started crying from his bed. When I got up to check on him, he said he wanted his Daddy and not his grandparents, who basically let him have whatever he wanted to eat for the past three hours and played countless games with him, including football and soccer in the basement, which left Pop Pop really tired.
The last thing Pop Pop and Mom Mom needed was for Finn to wake up 1-year-old Grace. So Pop Pop made a deal with Finn.
If Finn would stop crying, Pop Pop would let him come downstairs and watch college football with him while they waited for Daddy and Mommy to come home. Finn agreed to the terms, after he negotiated something else he wanted to eat.
At 10:30, Finn and Pop Pop were having a good time together watching college football when Daddy and Mommy rolled in about an hour later than expected (with the usual excuse that they forgot what time it was, this excuse from two people who wear watches and have cell phones with clocks.) And Daddy couldn’t believe that his son is up watching college football at 10:30 at night! And so Pop Pop told his son that if he would like to fire Pop Pop, that’d be fine with Pop Pop!
Of course, Daddy was all apologetic to Pop Pop in this moment — a scene that shows three realities of extended family life:
1. Grandparents can get away with just about anything with their grandchildren.
2. There is no way a mommy and a daddy will ever fire their parents as babysitters.
3. The grandchildren know how to really work their grandparents.
That helps to explain why we don’t yet have a photo of our extended family for our annual Christmas letter because the grandchildren are still negotiating the terms of what they will get if all four smile at the same time. We will attempt that photo at Christmas, even though the Vegas bookies have listed the odds of all four grandchildren smiling at once as higher than the odds of winning the Powerball. Perhaps a lottery-winning windfall will be the price they demand for their smiles.
That’s a negotiation for another day. Tonight, I’m really tired and, quite honestly, more than a little tipsy from my full cup of Bailey’s Irish Cream that’s laced with generous splashes of Jameson’s.
Now I need to go to sleep.
John Shaughnessy’s four books include The Irish Way of Life: Stories of Family, Faith and Friendship. He is assistant editor of The Criterion, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.