I’m currently swinging in my backyard hammock next to a small, blonde and half-naked two-year old. You might be wondering how a childless gal like myself ended up in this situation, while I am wondering how long the silence will last.
After all, my nephew is two, and while two may not be as ‘terrible’ as some may call it, two is most definitely loud.
I am not a parent. I am, however, an aunt, to basically the world’s most amazing kid. Today, the world’s most amazing kid and I had the best day ever.
Let me set the scene. Finding time to hang out with my nephew is difficult due to both my schedule, and the fact that my brother and sister-in-law never really want to let him out of their sight. Don’t get me wrong, they do not shelter this kid; quite the opposite, but it was a long road for them to get where they are today, and they are grateful for every minute they get to spend with him. To the point that I need to work pretty hard to snag him for a few hours, much less a day. Today, however my husband planned a day-long rafting trip along the Deschutes River in eastern Oregon. He invited quite a large group including my brother and sister-in-law. Lucky for me, I made it pretty clear two years ago that there’s almost nothing that will get me back in a raft, so I was left off the invite list and moved to the top of the nephew watching list.
After waiting by the door in my running clothes, my nephew finally arrived at 8 AM. I, with all my experience, decided I would wait to do my Sunday run until after he arrived, and had requested his jogging stroller for the day. I am a good runner. I average 50 miles per month. Today, I learned a very important lesson. Miles and stroller miles are very, very different units of measurement. At one point I am pretty sure my head dipped below the stroller handle as I was trying to muster up the strength to push up a huge hill (sidewalk ramp) in front of me. My nephew was chatting the entire way, but at one point asked if we were done yet. Ouch.
I was fairly interested to see my pace, but when I pulled my phone out, I found it had only recorded the first 0.23 miles of my run. I, of course, quickly corrected the mileage because I know my route, and I needed to beat my brother-in-law (on the other side of the family) at most miles run so far in August. There’s something really awesome about beating Oregon fan at something.
I was grateful to see a familiar face near the end of my run, and stopped at my friend’s house so my nephew could say hello to their two girls. We were barely though the door before we were greeted with squeals of joy and my nephew went about making himself at home. In the recliner, with a blanket, and soon a plate of pancakes courtesy of his friends. However, once the food was gone, he had moved on to rummaging through the various toys available to him, and was demanding a game of football within minutes. Lucky for me, my friend was gracious enough to offer to play with my nephew while I ran down the street to the house and took a shower. Considering the first words my friend said to me when I arrived were along the lines of “you are really sweaty” I clearly needed one.
The scramble following the shower was when I got a real idea of how much work a small, blonde, two-year old can be.
I started to load the car.
First, let’s talk about car seats. I may not be a parent, but I sure as heck know you can’t buckle the kid into the front seat next to you. No, it is much safer to install a 15 pound piece of plastic with a 25 point harness that anchors to 10 different points in your car. I’m glad my husband and I have our own carseat for occasions like this, because it is never coming back out of my car. Ever.
Next up, the diaper bag, which I triple checked for wipes and diapers. This kid can throw down in that department. Then it was snacks, water, my wallet, sunglasses, and sunscreen. In total, it took me about 45 minutes to get back over to my friend’s house, at which point my nephew was helping the girls sell lemonade. As difficult as it was to pull him away, I had a big day in mind, and we needed to get on our way.
Our first stop was the Portland Aquarium. I had never been before, but the reviews seemed decent, and I had heard you could feed the fish. I was happy when we arrived only 30 minutes after it opened and it was not crowded. With my $10 Groupon in hand, we set about on our little adventure. Most all of the tanks were taller than my nephew, which meant he was either planting his nose against the glass, or climbing up a ladder or a wall to see in. Most every fish he saw, he called “Uncle Brian’s fish” since my husband is an avid fisherman, and clearly, all fish belong to him.
Watching him bounce between tanks was fun, but what was even more fun was watching him see some animals for the first time. Including the anemones. While he didn’t want to touch them himself, he most certainly wanted “Auntie Della” to touch each of them. He would watch quietly and study each new creature very hard until they moved or he moved, at which time he would laugh and laugh, and give resounding “That’s funny!” So much joy in that little laugh.
He also couldn’t decide which view was better, his view from 2 feet above ground, or from my hip. I did a lot of lifting today. I feel pretty good about missing my weightlifting tonight. When it came time to feed the fish, the view from my hip was his chosen location. Except when it came time to feed the Koi. He was excitedly digging into the pellets when he looked up to see a Koi jump, which caused him to jump, and fall off his step stool. I was able to catch him, and get the incident on video. That’s what I call an auntie win.
We ended up walking, running, or riding through the gallery loop three times. Each time he pointed out “Nemo” when we passed the Clown Fish. I finally convinced him to go to “Uncle Brian’s truck” with me, and we set off on our next adventure. We headed east towards my grandma.
On Father’s Day of this year, my mom’s mom had a stroke that while considered minor, effectively ended my grandma’s ability to live alone any longer. At 88 years old, my mom and uncle made the tough decision to find a foster home for grandma. I know it tore them both up to do so, but just as our parents worked to keep us safe as children, we children will eventually have to work to keep our parents safe in their golden years.
I had not yet seen grandma at her new home, and I was excited to not only visit her, but bring along my small, blonde, two-year old friend. The house was on a busy street, but it was beautiful. A great yard and plenty of light. The caretaker is a very, VERY friendly Romanian woman, who greets everyone with a hug. She was tickled to see my nephew and asked if we would be coming back before we even got in the door.
We walked down a long hall and came into an open room with four little old ladies sitting around a table talking. Grandma was in the back. I always worry that one day she won’t remember who I am, but not today. She moved quickly, much quicker than I expected, to come greet us. My nephew and I spent the next hour visiting with grandma. She still struggled with her memory, and asked me a few times if my nephew was my son, but in all, we had a wonderful visit. My nephew was happy to give her lots of hugs before we left.
On our way home, the magical silence of the nap happened. Which is good, because the remainder of the day included grocery shopping, a pool party with 35 small children, and a late night bath that would be disturbed by a fly landing in the bath water and literally causing screaming.
The nap gave me a moment to reflect on how lucky I am. I am able to spend an entire day with this little one, and watch him discover new life experiences. I get to share him with his parents, my husband, my grandma. I get to be part of the village that raises him. I get to watch him grow, play, love and learn. I get a lot of people telling me I need to have children. I am told I will regret it, that I will be a great mom, that I am hurting my parents, and that a child will make my life better. Good or bad, someone always has an opinion, and that’s okay.
All I know is that right now, right here, is all I need.