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Help! It all began with a frantic phone call from my son. His children’s daycare was closing. There was no one to look after his kids, Sabine, 21/2, and Zac, 4. To compound the problem, he and his family lived in Vancouver while I lived in Toronto.
Since my wife was working, the spotlight fell on me. I was retired and available. Seduced by the romantic image of bonding with my West Coast grandchildren, I immediately set off for Vancouver.
As soon as I arrived, my apprenticeship began. Jacqueline, my daughter-in-law, presented me with some long lists of instructions; lists of food, lists of clothing and – most important – the list of things not to do. Topping the list of no-nos were: No French Fries, No TV and No Videos.
A program of daily activities was also provided. Notations such as “Ask Sabine if she has to pee” were underlined in black. As a 1950s guy who left the rearing of my sons and daughters to my wife, I faced a completely new experience taking care of young children. The following is my diary entry detailing one day from hell.
8 a.m. Sabine is very choosy this morning. She has to try on three different outfits before selecting one she likes. Breakfast seems to take forever as the children have a very “spirited” debate about different cereals.
10 a.m. We are finally ready to leave for Granville Island, one hour later than the schedule specified. I load Sabine into the stroller along with several changes of clothes and a variety of toys. The bus stop is nearby and everyone is in a high state of excitement.
When the bus arrives, the two kids scramble on while I struggle with the bulky stroller. As soon as we are seated, Zac starts whining, “Zaidy, I’m hungry, Zaidy, I’m hungry.” I manage to quiet him down by telling him he will get something to eat at the bus transfer point. When we get off the bus, I immediately reach down for the food bag. Not there! I must have forgotten to pack it. The whining begins again, but this time both children complain in unison and I decide the best course of action is to return home to get the containers of food.
11 a.m. Home again. I quickly retrieve the food, and we are off once more. A small fight ensues, as Zac and Sabine are now both in the stroller jockeying for comfortable positions. I settle them down and head back to the bus stop.
The bus arrives, the kids quickly scramble on, and once again I struggle with the stroller. When we arrive at the transfer point, I look down. To my dismay, I notice Zac is not wearing shoes. “Zac, where are your shoes?” I ask. He replies coolly, “I left them at home, Zaidy.” Again there is no alternative. Back to the house.
Noon. We arrive home and recover his shoes. Since it is already lunchtime, I feed the children.
1.30 p.m. Once again, we set off and this time arrive incident-free. The children thoroughly enjoy visiting the model train museum, feeding the ducks and running around the playground.
The afternoon is topped off with a plate of greasy, crunchy French fries.
4.30 p.m. Finally, we are ready to go home. We board a water taxi that will take us across False Creek to a park. From there, it is only a short bus ride to our house.
Arriving at the park, Sabine suddenly tells me that she has to pee. I am pleased, because the previous three times she did not tell me and we had already used up all her extra underwear. With my help, she goes behind a bush and pees. Everything seems fine until she starts screaming. She refuses to speak but continues to shriek. The park is full of people and a crowd quickly gathers.
Advice comes from all the observers. “She’s tired, let her rest!” someone shouts. “She’s hungry,” says another. “She must have been bitten by a bee!” yells a third.
Finally, I pull my ace and tell her she won’t be able to see the new video I just bought. She quiets down immediately and informs me in a soft voice that she had been crying because a drop of pee had fallen on her shorts. I quickly promised to change her as soon as we got home. Problem solved.
5 p.m. We arrive at the bus stop. I am very, very tired. The bus arrives, the kids scramble on, and as usual I follow, struggling with the stroller.
Suddenly the driver informs me, in a very officious tone, that unless I fold the stroller flat (an impossibility, given my load), I cannot get on the bus. The passengers begin to boo the driver, but she won’t change her mind.
I wearily retrieve the kids, get off and wait for the next bus. Thankfully, a gracious young driver welcomes me aboard with the open stroller and kids in tow.
5:30 p.m. Home at last. I’m exhausted, but the kids are still energetic and insist on seeing the video after dinner. They promise to be good. This is an offer I can’t refuse. Then the phone rings. It is my son. His very first words to me are, “Didn’t you have a wonderful day?”
I mumble something about getting dinner for the kids and quickly hang up, while in the background Zac and Sabine are loudly chanting: “Video! Video! Video!”
Was the experience worth it? Absolutely. To my grandchildren, I have joined the ranks of legendary superheroes like Superman and Batman.
I will be known, now and forever, as “Zaidy Daycare.”
Josh Fedder lives in Gravenhurst, Ont.