After she carefully watched us grand parent her sister’s three children for almost eight years, daughter Elizabeth decided she could leave her almost eight month old Samantha with us over night (28 hours and 34 minutes as it turned out). She was scheduled to run in a half marathon a couple of states away, and her husband, son-in-law Brandt, was scheduled to be away in California during that time for his work (with the Kansas City Chiefs).
Thus, we found ourselves in KC this past Friday, reviewing Samantha’s schedule and receiving instructions from both Elizabeth and Brandt as to what we could expect and what they expected us to do. Actually, they both seemed remarkably calm for first time parents leaving the first born overnight. True, we had raised our own children with minimum of damage, but that was more than three decades ago. And, we had ‘taken care’ of Samantha for up to 12 hours, but never overnight. Still, compared to the “Miller Bible,” the 22 page outline we had drawn up for my sister 35 years ago when she was taking care of our daughters, Elizabeth and Brandt’s instructions seemed almost derelict. Other than a 12-step process to be followed for putting Samantha to bed at night and an outline of what and when we were to feed the child prodigy, it only took about an hour of instruction (with shorthand note taking).
The big day was Saturday, and we weren’t the least bit nervous. The only concern we had was about something called the “Nest,” which was a video camera in Samantha’s room that both Elizabeth and Brandt could access from California and Nebraska via wifi. They could check on Samantha (and us?) for at least 20 of the 28 hours we were in charge — that was the estimated time she would be in her room, in her crib. No way we could pretend or fake it and claim everything had gone well — if it didn’t — with that kind of surveillance. We knew both Samantha and her grandparents would be watched carefully by both Elizabeth and Brandt.
11:30 AM – Elizabeth finally left after assuring Samantha she would return the next day. Samantha didn’t seem concerned. Actually, she was more concerned with trying to hold the bottle I was trying to encourage her to do.
11:45 AM – We put Samantha in her fancy stroller and took her next door to our apartment (together with Samantha’s other grandparents, we’ve rented a small apartment two doors down from where where she currently lives with her parents). We left her (36 inches away) in her stroller out on the balcony while we hung pictures. She seemed quite interested with the goings and comings on Main Street.
12:45 PM – While we were trying to feed her spinach, potatoes and some tiny cut up chicken (like putting toothpaste back in its tube), we both clearly heard her say, “No!” A few moments later she said, “Mama!” Then she said it again. These were her first words, tho we couldn’t get her to repeat them. Nor was it clear that she had any idea of what they meant! But it did lead to the following text messages (lightly edited) between us and her parents:
Brandt: Is Samantha walking yet?
Us: That was going to be our surprise.
Brandt: We expect her to achieve a growth milestone while we are gone…reading would be nice.
Elizabeth: High SAT scores.
Us: No problem.
Us: Guess what S’s first word was? Said very clearly.
Us: Next guess.
Brandt: Four letters? Begins with an F.
Us: That’s six letters. Think smaller.
Elizabeth: Are you saying Samantha is not advanced?
Us: Father knows best.
Brandt: I have a feeling she’ll be saying that a lot.
Us: We were feeding her and told her to “open,” and then very clearly we heard, “No!”
Us: She’s advancing very quickly since you left. Not supposed to get into the no’s until she’s two years old.
Brandt: Need her to start reading…I’m tired of always reading books to her.
Brandt: Her being Elizabeth of course.
Us: Second word, also very clearly?
Brandt: Go Sox.
Us: Next guesses. Repeated several times.
Elizabeth (on her way to Omaha): Turning the car around.
Us: Think she was trying to tell us something: No Mama.
Us: One “technical” question. Do we use both sound machines in her room for her nap as well as bedtime?
Elizabeth: Yes please!
Us: Got it.
Us: She went to sleep without a peep.
Brandt: You’ve scared her enough that she wants to be alone…that’s my strategy too.
Elizabeth: She knew I wasn’t coming back and was too depressed to fight it.
Us: Neither. She was just tired from our outing and her time on the balcony at our apartment.
3 PM. Following her nap and a bottle with Grandpapa, Ellen took her for a stroll and to a modern art gallery around the corner, where she seemed quite taken with the huge colored canvases. Then to a local coffee shop where Nonna instructed her repeatedly to “Wake up and smell the coffee!”
Then another texting exchange:
Ellen: Just FYI, you left us with a damaged baby. Diaper rash. Attending studiously to it, just sayin’.
Elizabeth: Seriously? Use triple paste
Ellen: Yes. Am doing that with all changes.
Elizabeth: Is she upset?
Me: Not in the least.
Ellen: Sorry to report not at all.
Elizabeth: OK good! Poor tushy.
Ellen: She doesn’t seem to notice.
Elizabeth: Great. Can I get another picture?
4:11 PM: Down for another nap (her mother is convinced that for a healthy start in life Samantha needs a lots of naps, a sleep schedule, and 12 hours of sleep at night). We followed instructions.
4:59 PM: Samantha didn’t seem to see the need for this nap, but she managed to entertain herself and so we left her for the requisite time. She seemed delighted to see us when we rescued her. And we spent 30 minutes unsuccessfuly trying to teach her to sit up.
5:15-6:20 PM: Another stroll, including dining alfresco, for both Samantha (pears, sweet potato and peas) and us. We got back home just a bit late for starting “THE NIGHT TIME RITUALS,” which include in the following EXACT order:
- Bottle (8 oz.)
- Diaper change and triple cream
- Leg massage.
- Discussion of what Samantha and we were thankful for today.
- Clean PJs.
- Two songs (Twinkle Twinkle and Five Little Monkeys (both rehearsed on Friday night with Brandt). Note Brandt sometimes sings different songs
- Reading a story.
- Turn on both noise machines.
- Wrestle Samantha into her ‘sleep sack.’
- A few more gentle words.
- Lights out and all the blackout curtains properly in place.
There was a 12th step, but whatever it was, we failed to do it.
6:53 PM: Only 23 minutes off Elizabeth’s schedule. Then we were out of the room, watching on the “Nest” to see what would happen.
7:07 PM: No further movement. High fives between the grand parental unit.
8:11 PM: We head to bed.
4:30 AM: I think I hear some squeaking, but the Nest is on the other side of the bed where Ellen is sound asleep (similar to what use to happen when we were raising our own kids).
5 AM: Not able to sleep any longer, tho I don’t hear anything further from Samantha’s room, I move to the living room and read. (Later, Elizabeth tells us she ‘observed’ Samantha up briefly in the 5:30-6 time range.)
6:53 AM: First clear signs I hear that Samantha is truly awake (EXACTLY 12 hours from the moment we left her room the previous evening. I guess she’s got the message from her mom that she is to sleep for 12 hours.)
The rest of Sunday was a breeze, although we almost forgot to dress Samantha in her Chiefs’ outfit for the afternoon game against the Raiders. Fortunately, Brandt realized that mistake as he was looking carefully at the “Nest,” and we were able to correct that terrible oversight prior to the 3 PM kick off. (Ellen had been planning on that as the next outfit she would wear, seeing as how every two hours she thought that Samantha needed a change of clothes.)
Elizabeth returned a little after 4 PM, clearly having missed Samantha more than Samantha had missed her. But once Samantha realized her mommy had returned, she ‘followed’ her with her eyes for the next two and a half hours before her 6:30 bedtime, almost as if to say, “I’m not letting you out of my sight again.”
Oh. And importantly, the Chiefs won, beating the 4-2 Raiders in a well played and well coached game. And Elizabeth and her friend successfully completed the half marathon in Omaha.