Before every meal, my son and his wife stripped their baby down to a diaper and plopped her into a Bumbo seat. I found it a bit amusing. Really, a bib would work, right? But by the end of the meal with food on her hands, her face, round little belly and in her hair and I fully understood why they skipped clothes for those first months of solid food. Little kids are messy.
I should have remembered that last week.
Instead I forgot when I invited my two-year-old and four-year-old granddaughters along on a short trip out of town.
The first night my husband took them to the swimming pool while I fixed a kid-friendly meal of spaghetti. Spaghetti is quick and easy and kids always like it.
They came tumbling in with energy and enthusiasm, refreshed from their swim, ready to eat – just as soon as they prepared for bed. Looking as sweet as could be in their pajamas, they climbed up on their chairs to the dinner table. I put just a small pile of noodles on each plate with a bit of sauce and meat balls. The girls began slurping up spaghetti.
The little one managed just fine, but the four-year-old not so well. The first scoop of spaghetti sauce left her with a rosy red cheeks. Before I could remind her to use the napkin, she used her cuff. The next mouthful she swiped off the excess using the nightgown’s hem. She followed the next scoop with a wipe on her other sleeve. By the time she finished, she needed to change into something else for the night.
Once again fresh and clean, tummies full of spaghetti, we tucked the little ones into bed and the clothes into the wash machine.
The next morning, I offered them a novelty – straws filled with chocolate bits that dissolve as they sip to make chocolate milk coming out the top of the straw into the mouth. It sounded like a neat idea to me, but somehow the youngest managed to drench the front of her clean shirt with chocolate milk. She left the table with a big chocolate smile and a t-shirt redesigned with chocolate dribbles. I took her straight to the bedroom to change.
We quickly remembered that no matter how short a trip we took in the car, whether to the pool or to feed the fish, by the time we arrived, both had removed their sandals. At every stop, we had to unlock their safety belts and shove the sandals or shoes back on their feet. I had forgotten just how much time and effort it takes to arrive at any event with a clean, fully dressed child, let alone two children.
I also forgot that big kids know a few things that I don’t, such as: little sisters do not get to play with markers. As I handed one to the toddler, the four-year-old told me, “She doesn’t get markers.”
I thought I knew better.
I should have listened.
By the time the two-year-old looked up with satisfaction over her creation, she had marker fluid on her hands, face and clothes. I had more clothes for the washing machine – at least it was washable marker ink.
The next morning, to ensure they left in clean clothes. I grabbed a couple of kitchen towels and tied one on each child as a bib. They left the breakfast table clean. They watched television while we loaded the car, begged Grandpa to stay to the end of their show and stayed clean the whole time.
Fifteen minutes after we tucked them into their car seats for the trip home, they announced, “I’m hungry. I want something to eat.”
I tried to dissuade them, since we only had a bit more than hour of driving. They didn’t care. Every five minutes the call came for more food.
We stopped. I found an early lunch of cheese, chips and fruit.
Baked chips are healthy, and baked chips covered with orange powder really please little kids.
I watched the scenery as they quietly munched. When I turned to check on our guests, the two-year-old had nodded off to sleep. A wide, clown smear of orange surrounded her mouth and her chubby, little fingers wore gloves of orange, but her clothes were still clean.
I grabbed some water and paper towels to damp wash her as she slept. A short while later, her sister also dozed off in her car seat. Somehow she had managed to stay clean. An hour later we presented them to their mother, wide awake and clean.
I left to go shop wearing a very grown-up outfit with cream-colored slacks. However, the minute I stepped out of the car at the mall, the wind blew and I felt something damp on the back of my leg. I twisted around and caught a glimpse of a blue blob on my backside.
I looked at my car seat and discovered a widening blue stain on the cloth. I knew children left their stamp my life, I just never realized how literally they took the challenge. I changed into dark-colored slacks and promised myself that next time I would listen to the pre-schooler’s advice about those markers and her toddler sister.