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My View: Being a grandparent is a learning experience

By Tom Kirkpatrick

Our youngest grandchild, Alex, recently celebrated his first birthday. Born on April 15, he will never have an excuse for forgetting to pay his taxes.

For the last seven months his grandmother and I have been making the trip to Orchard Park to assist with babysitting Alex and his big sister Ella.

While I think Alex is exceptional, like all newborns he came into the world nearly blind and totally dependent on others. Like all babies he kept irregular hours and so, of course, did his Mom and Dad. Like all humans in training his most effective means of communicating hunger, a wet diaper or general dissatisfaction was to cry, loudly, particularly late at night.

In February Alex began trying to crawl. At first his progress was impeded by his left leg that he had difficulty getting into crawling mode. In the meantime, he did gain some forward motion by sitting on the floor and bouncing along on his rear end, a trick I think he learned from Ella.

In his explorations Alex, like most toddlers, developed a penchant for picking things off the floor and attempting to put them in his mouth. This wasn’t the best thing to do but as I told my wife, a little dirt wouldn’t do him much harm and might even strengthen his immune system. I read that somewhere, I think.

Now Alex crawls at light speed and is taking those first steps as he lurches from place to place. He enjoys his new freedom but it also means that grandparents and parents have to be more alert. I have this recurring dream where I have to explain to our son or daughter-in-law how Alex broke his leg or burned his hand while I was in charge.

The worst part of the dream is then being unceremoniously drummed out of the grandparents’ babysitting corps.

Like his dad, Alex is going to be a lefty. My first reaction was that he might have a career as a left-handed pitcher in the majors but then I noticed that most of what he threw ended up several feet behind him. Someday he’ll figure it out.

It’s funny how family members say of a newborn that he looks like great-uncle Charlie or aunt Sadie.

What I think is that as humans grow up we exhibit some of the features of our forbears in the family gene pool. In the last year Alex has had his grandpa Al’s mouth, his dad’s chin and my fingers.

In the coming months and years as Alex’s features change he will likely have someone else’s eyes, hair, feet or, heaven forbid, my waistline.

His baby food days at a close, Alex is becoming more discerning about food. Recently my wife fed him some deli roast beef for lunch that he promptly dropped on the floor with a look on his face saying “don’t ever feed me that again!” While discerning, he does eat most things, and if you aren’t vigilant, he thinks nothing of eating what you have.

His language skills are developing quickly. Like many young children, he makes his own additions to the language. A favorite of his is the word “cackkoos.” It sounds like a combination of cookie and cracker and is probably what it means, but maybe it means, “Who are these people?”

I’ve recently noticed that he is picking up slang when he responded to something I had said with what sounded distinctly like “yeah.”

My advice is that if you ever have the opportunity to babysit a grandchild, do it. You won’t regret it.


Tom Kirkpatrick is grandfather to seven wonderful grandchildren.
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