“Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
It was a request I wasn’t about to turn down... Johanna lives almost two hours away. I hardly ever get to babysit her darling daughters, and never by myself. (I would have no much-more-fun-than-me aunts to compete with.) So I said yes. I would watch Katie and Victoria while Johanna joined her sisters at the party for their soon-to-be-sister-in-law.
We raced during the morning to prepare forty pounds of mashed potato casserole (there’s definitely going to be leftovers) for the rehearsal dinner, tried almost-done flower girl dresses on Ruby and Katie, and then I waved goodbye to all adults and turned back to a quiet house with two little girls taking naps. Maybe I could finish the hem on Katie’s dress before someone woke up.
Nope. Victoria was already awake when I walked back into the house. After cleaning up a doozer of a diaper, we had fun looking at books and playing with toys, and I even got a few pages read in Culture-Making while Victoria amused herself. Then Katie woke up in a strange, dark room.
She was crying when Victoria and I went in to greet her. I finally figured out how to hoist her out of the Pack-and-Play while I was holding Victoria, and mid-tears, Katie announced, “I need to put on a pretty dress or something.” So we went “shopping” in Nana’s stash of little people clothes, and came up with a size 6 dress that turned into an almost-princess dress on Katie’s two-year-old frame. She was satisfied. Shopping fixes everything.
We played, and at last Grandpa came home, and showed me how to turn on the DVD player (I never am the one to put a DVD in the player) to put in an old VHS of Aristocrats (a video pre-approved by Katie’s mama). Grandpa quickly became engrossed in the plot, while I grabbed the chance to run to the bathroom — alone. And then I worked on dinner while he fed Victoria her turkey-rice-baby-food-stuff whenever he remembered to quit watching Toulouse and Berlioz.
We managed to pull off dinner, and Grandpa graciously cleaned things up while I tried to get Victoria’s very wiggly arms and legs into her sleeper. Was it really only 8:30? It felt like midnight.
Katie and I pulled out my new fingerprinting art set and made a new mess to add to all the other ones all over the house. (I remember this. It only took about ten minutes to turn the entire house into a disaster zone when the kids were little. John used to actually like it, though, when he came home to a mess. It meant we were doing something creative!)
I made fingerprints and showed Katie how cute they were when you added little arms and legs and faces to them. Unimpressed, she thought it was much more fun to add fingerprints to our own arms and faces. She was quite pleased with the row of yellow stars she stamped up and down my arm, and she looked a bit like a puppy with her own little black smudged nose.
I thought I could sneak in a trip to the bathroom unnoticed, but Katie enthusiastically said she would join me. The luxury of being in the bathroom alone is a privilege I’ve taken for granted for too many years. We didn’t escape the room without Katie wanting one more fascinated glance at Nana’s lumpy, veiny, cellulite-riddled legs. (The innocent, humbling honesty of little ones!)
We played with old dolls and farm animals, kept identifying which kitty was happy, which was silly, and which was grumpy, and tried out Nana’s sippy cups. It was getting late. Katie was due to wear down and fall apart any minute. And Nana had already worn out. I texted Johanna. She wanted me to keep Katie awake so she would sleep on the two-hour drive back home.
Then the meltdown occurred. Katie remembered too late which cat was grumpy, and gasped and cried in my arms until she calmed down enough to snuggle for awhile. It was sweet, holding that little princess in my arms. And it was dangerous. Johanna was at least an hour away, and I was fading fast.
No worries. Katie suddenly came back to life, so I had to wake up, too. At last, while I was remembering to follow Johanna’s instructions and put Katie’s sleeper on backwards (so she couldn’t reach the zipper and undress during the night), her mama and the girls came in the door. My delightful but busy evening with my granddaughters was over, and I had a renewed appreciation for what young mothers do every day and every night, day after day, week after week.
At one point during the evening, Katie was trying the excuse, “I can’t,” in response to some direction I had given her. I told her, “Yes, you can. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.” She was satisfied with that answer, and decided she would do whatever I had asked her to do.
I was reminded that indeed, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. We can keep up with toddlers and babies. We can home school a house full of kids. We can deal with illness and fear and fatigue. We can speak words of wisdom to our teenagers. We can raise our children up and then let them go. God calls us to these tasks. And He is faithful to equip and sustain us, when we put our trust in Him.
(Photos by Miwaza, clear from Japan, here to help take pictures of the wedding this weekend, and by Susannah.)