I don’t get a chance to use the phrase “Run Amuck” much, but sometimes it seems the best description of the actions of my three grandchildren. I thought it meant “out-of-control,” but the Internet dictionary says it means “a state of murderous frenzy”—even more perfect.
We’ll it happened again. The cosmos suddenly changed and my wife and two daughters had to leave town for a long weekend to attend a wedding in Las Vegas. That left the three bandoleros—now ages 4,6, and 8 to be cared for by their father. I could have faked it and said I needed to lay low because of the possibility of a brain tumor or the like, but I knew Ed was extremely busy with his job and so decided to volunteer to take the kids for one day.
My plan for the kids was to immediately bring them into the house, set them down on the couch, and spell out all to the rules to them. I guess the problem was that these kids who cannot yet tell their right hand from their left have not problem whatsoever completely and happily mocking me about most everything I do. Or they just use the catchall, “We’re not in trouble, G-Pa’s in trouble.” In the end, I explained the house laws, they laughed and basically said “No way Jose.”
I guess my grandkids are like a lot of grandkids, but to me they are unique and getting a bit scary. Mia is 8 and by all standards very smart. Now I don’t know if getting older has made me stupider or if I just feel I should take my time making my mind up these days, but Mia always seems to be a step or two out in front of me. Marley at 6 is the imaginative one who I think sees me as somewhat of an oddity or at least on old fuddy-duddy. She feels she can solve all her problems herself and I feel I get in the way if I try to make suggestions. Max is 4 and the go-with-the-flow guy who lacks any focus whatsoever, but is always ready for action. Let your guard down with him and something is going to happen (it usually involves something smashing into hundreds of pieces)—good or bad, Max just goes his way with a smile on his face.
After our meeting, they all went their own way. In other words, each went to a television, computer, or iPod to watch cartoons or play games. I could have left well enough alone, but I felt they shouldn’t just watch electronic gadgets all day and since they needed lunch anyway, I offered to take them to McD’s. Somehow, I had totally forgotten my last adventure (http://justageezer.com/2014/10/29/grandkids-g-pa-babysits/) when I took them by myself to this old standby that is both extremely effective and evil in their targeting of kids. So far, I guess this pretty well describes what most grandfathers would do if put in complete charge of his grandkids for an entire day.
Knowing that there is always the chance that physical activity could cause immediate chaos or tears, I went ahead anyway and told them we would go to a McD’s with a play area. They immediately informed me that there was a requirement that anyone going into the maze of tubes and ladders had to wear only socks (and why not shoes?). Of course as they all had on sandals, no one was wearing socks. I was stunned into silence by yet another insurmountable problem, but they were already raiding my wife’s sock drawer in order to find the required footwear. It was here that I began to realize how little I was prepared for this adventure.
Coming into the parking lot at McD’s, I told them, “Upon exiting the vehicle, everyone will remain planted firmly in place until I tell you to go inside. Understand?” I stopped, the doors opened, and immediately the three kids spread out over 10 acres. All I had going with me was that I knew there were very few gorillas lurking about in what was actually a parking lot for an adjacent Wal-Mart.
Luckily, they all eventually zeroed in on McD’s where I told them if they were to have any hope of getting lunch, I needed their full attention in letting me know what it was they wanted to eat. In unison, “Happy Meal.”
From my earlier exploit with them, I knew that Happy Meals were not just one thing, but included a massive possible combination of nearly all fast food items available. I took the lead and said “Ok, and so everyone wants chicken nuggets with Ranch sauce.” I got one yes and two “And I want a toy too.” Settled, everyone will get chicken and the automatically accompanying toy (God, I hoped they only had one toy selection).
I looked up at the menu over the counter and when I looked back, I was the only one standing there. I hoped they had gone into the play area, but I was more worried about my own semi-panic mode I was now in. I went up to order.
“Three Happy Meals with chicken and ranch sauce, please.” “And to drink?” “Aw nuts. What are the choices?” “Milk, apple juice or water.” Instinct told me apple juice. “Juice please.” “And French fries, apple slices, or yogurt?” This one was a crapshoot, but I responded, “Yogurt.” There it’s done. Now it only remained to find out how many screw-ups I had made.
I went to look for the kids, but all I found was a long bench with four tall chairs along one wall. On the seat of each of the three chairs was what I recognized as a pair shoes from each of them. I guess this was our campsite.
In a few minutes, I gathered up my order and placed it on the table. I went to find the kids and located two of them easily, and then spent several minutes looking for Max. You wouldn’t think a child could totally disappear in a room only 20 X 50, but he was nowhere to be found. Just as the feeling of panic returned, Max comes around the corner. How in the world do they time it so perfectly?
Back to the lunch table and surprise, surprise, no one wants apple juice. They all want water. They all decide to handle this problem themselves (faith in G-Pa is dwindling quickly) and all of them head back to the counter. Soon everyone comes back with water except for Max. I track Max down at the soda machine and find he has filled his cup with several kinds of pop. His problem is the lid won’t go on and after I fix that he returns to the table.
I think maybe I should go back and pay for the combo pop, but then I remember that although I should have been given a drink with my value meal, I wasn’t given one. I decide McD’s and I are even.
I returned to the table where, thank God, all the toys were the same. The toys were little unknown creatures made of plastic that when a button is pushed, twirl a lariat. What life form this represents, I have no idea. Most importantly, however, is everyone is happy with their toy. As we prepare to leave, only Max leaves his toy behind for me to corral.
Just before leaving, Mia asks if we can go to the Dollar Store. Apparently, this is a place her parents take them on a regular basis (probably because a Toys-r-us store is a many dollar store). I hesitate, but say “yes.” Mia asks “ Can we get something” “Again, yes.” Can we get two things, that’s what dad gets us.” “Does he really get you two things?” Marley chimes in, “Yes, two things.”
“Ok” I ask Max, “How many things does your dad get you at the dollar store?” “One thing.” Mia tells Max she has something to tell him under the table. Max resurfaces and states, “He gets us two things.” They are real con artists, just not yet very good ones.
We head to the store with the instruction, “Now everyone stay together.” It’s instantaneous—they all head in a different direction. From then on, as soon as I find one, I lose another. I really do sympathize with that woman in the newspaper whose boy made it into the gorilla’s cage. Lessoned learned: Never, ever take kids to a zoo or any place without at least three responsible adults and a bloodhound assigned to each one.
Their selection of toys is very predictable. For the beyond-her-years Mia, Pokémon cards to add to her collection. For the imaginative Marley, a small, Star War’s-type light wand and gum. And for the jokester Max, big fake teeth and bug-eyed glasses.
We go through the checkout line and, as I am paying, the kids pull their stuff out of the bag and head for the door. I hurry to catch up only to find that Max had not retrieved his things. New dilemma—round everyone back up and return to the store or teach Max a life lesson and leave. Yea right! Everyone returns to the store to find the bag with Max’s things sitting on the floor where the two girls left it.
Finally, we head home. Once there, I use the one thing G-Pa can do to insure instant harmony. “You all want ice cream?” “Do you have chocolate?” “No.” “Do you have sprinkles?” I give up.