The Babysitter is Here. And it’s Grandpa.

by Kelcey Kintner

Three years ago, I was desperate for childcare. I had a 5 year old, a 3 year old and newborn twins. I needed someone to help me or else I was going to take the next plane to Paris just so I could nap on the flight. I have never been that exhausted in my life.

My 67 year old dad had recently retired after 30 years as a social worker and asked me if I wanted his help several days a week. He was great with my children and we couldn’t afford a lot of childcare. I said, “Absolutely. If you could help us for 6 months, we should be in good shape.”

That was three years ago. He’s still helping us. My husband and I had another baby this spring which means I now have five amazing children who have lots of needs and desires. Usually all at the same time. Although I have a babysitter a few afternoons a week, my dad is my primary source of childcare.

That means that my father can’t always be the typical grandparent who spoils his grandchildren with treats before dinner and lots of extra TV that mommy never finds out about. He actually has to follow our house rules, at least most of the time. But it’s a tricky balance because he’s not paid help.  Instead, I pay him in gratitude and the promise of a really stylin’ nursing home someday.

Sometimes I do insist that he follow my rules. Like the day I walked into the backyard and found him letting the kids take turns riding a go-cart type thing down the slide. Yes, down the slide. I nixed the activity because I had plans that night and it wasn’t at the ER.

And yes, he will still take them for a cookie run just an hour before dinner, despite my pleadings to not ruin their appetites but in general, we have worked out a pretty nice balance.

He’s a man who likes a clean kitchen and will help me with dinner clean up. But he doesn’t do laundry. He’ll bathe a few kids but five is too much. If he babysits at night, we can stay out until midnight. Then like Cinderella, we must hurry home. Granddad is done.

I realize my father (who I didn’t live with growing up) has given us this incredible gift. The gift of time. He has saved my sanity a million times when he has encouraged me to take a nap or go for a walk while he played with the kids. His presence means I can focus for a bit on one of my children, instead of just responding to the non-stop needs of five.

And my own children know him so deeply and so well. He’s part of the fabric of their lives. And my life. And that is truly an amazing thing.

Kelcey Kintner is the popular blogger behind The Mama Bird Diaries. Featured on Good Morning America, and published in  The New York Time’s “Motherlode” blog and Redbook, she’s also a mama to five children nine and under.

Posted in: Parental Wisdom, Family, Modern Parenting