Camp Grandma

Niki said, “Mom, would you mind having Ben, Luke and Jake stay with you the week that I’ll be working at the girl’s camp?”

Looking up from the recipe book my daughter had handed me a few moments earlier, I said, “Sure, but won’t they feel left out, not being able to go camping, too? Where will Jon, Gemma and Blaise be that week?”

Each summer the church my daughter attends holds two weeks of camp. The first week is for the boys in the parish who are ten years old or older. Girls aged ten and up attend the following week. At ages fifteen and eleven, Jon and Ben are eligible. Anne and Claire may participate since they are sixteen and twelve years old.

Shrugging, Niki said, “I’m going to keep the two little ones with me. Jon will spend the week with his friend Noah. That leaves the three younger boys. They know that when they are old enough they’ll be able to go to camp, too.”

The first time people meet Ben, Luke and Jake, they remark on how strongly my grandsons resemble each other. Since the three are close in age, they do everything together. Some friends have jokingly referred to them as the Three Musketeers or as Donald Duck’s nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie. Like other threesomes they have each other’s back.

On the first day of girl’s camp, I picked up my grandsons and when we walked into my house, I said, “Welcome to Camp Grandma.” They politely smiled. They were feeling shy and I guessed uncertain about what they would be doing for a whole week while with me. Paper, scissors and crayons at the dining room table got us off to a good start.

Some weeks I don’t have many appointments, but the week the boys were with me was a busy one. I had scheduled a perm with my hair stylist, a visit with a nutritionist, meetings at church and normal errands like grocery shopped. Fortunately, my grandsons travel well.

Aspects of parenting that I’d forgotten quickly came back to me. One was the constant meal making. Children are hungry every few hours. When I am by myself meal times are very irregular. Anything editable that’s around will do for me. That doesn’t fly very well with three little boys.

I am from a mostly-girl family and Arnie and I had two daughters. My sister, the mother of three boys once told me that boys play differently than girls. She was right. They engage in a lot of playful combat, kicking, punching each other and shooting imaginary enemies. Inevitably, a blow here and there would land harder than intended. Poked eyes and bloodied lips happened, but were quickly forgotten.

My daughter wisely sent a list of strongly suggested activities for the boys to do. Ben picked pickles for me from the garden every day. Luke vacuumed the gravel and grit from the car. We routinely said prayers, brushed teeth, did at least fifteen minutes of reading each day and in the cool evenings, played outdoors.

I consulted with my daughter Tammie, saying, “I want some fun, but easy crafts for me to do with your nephews. Would you please look around in Pinterest for me?”

Being an accomplished reference librarian who loves Pinterest, Tammie quickly sent me two ideas that were easy enough to do for the youngest child, a six-year-old.

Doing projects together was a part of raising children that I always enjoyed. To do the first craft I demonstrated how to cut and fold colored paper to make segmented paper fish. The boys watched closely and copied me. I prepared our next meal while the boys made a whole school of segmented fish that wiggled and bent in their hands.

The second craft I made without the boys seeing what I was doing, as a funny surprise. I drew a cute little fish and a bunny on folded paper. Inside the folds I drew the fish’s inner barracuda and the bunny’s inner insatiable carnivorous persona. The boys loved my cute creatures, but when I opened the paper Ben, Luke and Jake yelled with delight. They immediately sat down to make some sweet animals that would also transform into ferocious creatures with barred teeth.

That evening I told Tammie, “The craft ideas that you sent me were a smash hit. Thanks for helping me give the boys a bright sparkle to remember from their stay at Camp Grandma!”

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