As I write this, the past three days have been grandchildren-free days because both Caleb and Izzy went to visit with Gran and Aunt Jan for a long weekend. They were both giddy with excitement.
As were Susie and I. Because the first thing you notice when they’re both gone is there’s no noise. There’s no one running around the house.
There’s no one screaming, “Caleb, STOP!”
Pretty much Susie, myself and Izzy all equally say this, over and over and nearly nonstop. We get a break when he’s asleep. Thank God he doesn’t sleepwalk. Or sleep-tease. Or sleep-constantly look for new and creative ways to get into trouble. But that’s a subject for another column.
There’s no one saying, “Papa.”
At first, you want them to say it. You can’t wait to hear them say it. You coach them constantly to learn the name you want them to call you.
And they learn it. Oh boy, do they learn it. Then they become consumed with the need to say it.
Like in the car, for instance. It’s almost like sitting in the car seat reminds them that they have several hundred questions that need asking. And every single one beginning with, “Papa?”
Or if I’m doing my nightly paperwork. This is when it becomes apparent that they have almost no short-term memory. Because every night it’s the same thing.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m working. Like I do every night.”
“Are you almost done?”
Sigh. “What, Caleb?”
“When are you going to be done working?”
“In just a little while. Now leave me alone so I can finish.”
Now, the words “Leave me alone” must sound like “Climb in the chair behind me and then throw yourself over my shoulder” because that’s exactly what he does. He giggles the whole time so he obviously enjoys it. I do, too. For the first four or five times, anyway. After that it’s a little annoying.
When the kids are here, 15 minutes of paperwork can take an hour. When they’re not here it takes 15 minutes.
Weird how that works.
When they’re gone there’s also no sounds of them wrestling or jumping on beds. These are two indoor rules that I have to enforce. Because every time they do either, one of them ends up crying. Every time. So I tell them not to do it.
Again, apparently the words “Don’t do it” translates in toddler minds to “It’s OK to do it.” Either that or, as I wrote earlier, they have short-term memory issues. Because they do it, literally, every single night. Sometimes they wrestle on my bed before they begin jumping on it. And it’s hard to hide this from Papa when you’re giggling hysterically the whole time. That and the sound of a toddler’s body hitting the floor from a couple of feet up, followed by the inevitable crying, is hard to miss.
So, for three days, none of these sounds or activities have been occurring. And the silence is so much more than golden. It’s downright heavenly.
But, to be honest, I miss them. I love hearing Caleb say every morning, while grinning that grin of his and pointing at his bedroom window, “Look, Papa! The sun’s up!” That’s another rule we have. When the sun’s up, he can get up. And he actually follows this one.
Or on Sunday mornings, the only day I don’t work, I especially look forward to Izzy getting up. Normally she’ll noiselessly walk from her room, and I sense her standing beside me as I’m writing this column. I swing my chair around and there she is.
Man, there’s something special about a 4-year-old, in Peppa Pig pajamas and wackadoodle hair, smiling sleepily and wanting nothing more than to climb in your lap and snuggle for a few minutes. The house is quiet and it’s just me and her.
It’s the calm before the storm. The eye of the hurricane. Whatever you want to call it.
And it makes everything else, and everything I do, worthwhile.
RICK JACOBS is a local author, columnist, process server and family man who lives in Bartlett with his wife and grandchildren. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.