Last week we entered new territory. Our 9-year old grandson flew to our home town all by himself (an official unaccompanied minor) to spend a week with us. Although we don’t live near either of our sons, we interact with their families often enough that we feel that our grandchildren are all comfortable with us. And they know our home, and are comfortable in our environment. However, we were still a little nervous when arrangements were made for our grandson to spend a week with us, all on his own. How would we entertain him? How would we keep him busy? Seven days suddenly seemed like a long time for this responsibility.
No problem. Our grandson showed the way; he had it all figured out. And, in retrospect, it dawns on me: In this world of heavily scheduled children – weekly summer camps, after school programs, music lessons, sports, etc. – kids need a week of down-time, sort of like practicing for retirement. And who better to do that with than their retired grandparents! We have embraced the retirement concept: Doing less is better. We just hadn’t realized that this life philosophy would work for a 9-year old. Granted, he approaches doing less with FAR more energy than we do. We don’t suddenly jump up while we’re playing a board game and hop around while we snap our fingers rapidly, all for no apparent reason other than pure exuberance. And when we lie on the sofa watching TV we usually just lie there, rather than hanging our head upside down over the side of the sofa or walking our feet idly up the wall above the sofa while our eyes remain glued to the screen. But these are early days in his practice for retirement. He’ll get there.
He was far less interested in being taken to things to keep him busy than we had expected. No, he didn’t need to go to Tree-go at our provincial park upriver. And, no, we didn’t need to arrange for a bike for him so he and grandpa could bike the trails together. His plan was to enjoy the pattern of life in our house, and especially to enjoy our well-known grandparent “leniency”. All by himself! And that’s what we did. A fine time was had by all. Thanks for coming, Gus.
So, what activities worked well for this particular 9-year old?
- Whale watching. August in the Bay of Fundy is prime whale watching season. Apparently the whales’ favourite food – herring – are back in the multitudes this year. Hence, instead of catching sight of a few humpbacks, which is what we were hoping for, we were treated to many of them, performing every manner of acrobatic feat. Magnificent.
- Crafts. It has become a tradition with this family to make some craft whenever they visit. To my surprise and delight, our grandson turned out to be just as invested in this tradition as his older sister. He now had the chance to be the one using the sewing machine with me. You just never know what’s going to turn their crank! Since, as he explained, he had already made a pillow and a stuffie on other visits, and since I’d already made him a quilt, he thought maybe he’d make coasters for everyone in his family. And so he did, with a little help from his grandma. He was very good with the pedal and also in gently guiding the fabric to keep a straight(ish) line. That’s my boy! Making something to take home was a great idea, and it was all his.
- Swimming. Having a nearby friend with a pool helped enormously. Thanks, Lorna and Jim! (A public pool would work, too.)
- Watching way more TV than would normally be allowed. We consider this part of good grandparenting! And the three of us also watched BBC World News together every night as part of the retirement practice thing. 🙂
- Playing lots of board games and card games. Monopoly, Clue, Scabs and Guts, and President were our favourite flavours of the week, but any would do the trick. And he was even OK with not winning every time, a true test of maturing!
- Staying up late. Why go to bed early when you don’t have to get up early?! We included our young grandson in our sleeping schedule of choice and reaped the benefit of having our young guest sleep in. A true win-win.
- Plenty of delicious snacks and no food you don’t like. They don’t say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach for nothing. And isn’t that what grandparents are for?!
For any of you who may find yourself anticipating your first time ever with a grandchild on their own for an extended period of time, just relax and let them guide the way. Within reason, of course. And only if you’re in the fortunate situation where normal rules can be relaxed for a bit without causing too much grief from (or for) the parents!
Whale photos from nbtourism.ca. Very accurate representations, but I was too busy enjoying the whale show to take pictures!