When my son was 8 months old, we drove across the country on our way to my husband’s new job. We stayed with various friends and relations all along the way, setting up a portable crib in one guest room after another. When it was mealtime, we had a plastic milkcrate that we plopped the baby into, a strange but effective substitute for a highchair. Since we were traveling by car, it wasn’t hard to carry along all the things we needed. But it’s not always that easy.
Whether your grandchildren come to visit every day or but once a year, there are things you’ll want to have at your house to simplify visits for everyone. For babies and toddlers, a safe place to sleep and somewhere to sit during meals are both worth the investment. Portable cribs are relatively inexpensive when new, and can often be found at consignment stores specializing in children’s clothes and equipment.* Fold-up highchairs are easy to stash in a closet or basement when they aren’t needed, and invaluable when they are. (We've been really happy with the uber cheap Cosco Simple Fold High Chair.)
If your grandchild and her parents are arriving by plane, having a carseat already installed when you pick them up at the airport will earn you gold stars. Just make sure you’ve checked with the parents to confirm you get the right kind, and read the directions carefully to ensure you install it correctly. If you want to buy one, there are safe options available at all price points. If you don’t think the investment makes sense, ask around to see if a neighbor or friend has one you can borrow for the duration of the visit. I posted a request to my small circle on Facebook before my grandchildren’s first visit and had three offers within an hour!
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*Whenever you buy something used, be sure to check for recalls on the manufacturer’s website or with the Consumer Product Safety Commission. It is not recommended that you buy used car seats, as there is no way of knowing whether they’ve been compromised in a previous accident.
Do you want to be the grandfather wrestling with your grandkids, or the one who can’t lift them because of a bad back? Do you want to watch them play superheroes, or help them vanquish the bad guys? How many years of your grandchild’s life do you hope to be around for? If you haven’t been motivated to take good care of yourself, perhaps being a grandparent is the inspiration you need. Would you take up exercise to squeeze out a few extra years?
I’ve always hated exercise. That endorphin rush that you read about has never happened for me, and the only physical exertion I’ve ever actually enjoyed is kayaking in still waters. Which, since I don’t live near still waters, is not something I can pursue as a regular workout. I was lucky: my genetics meant that even without a vigorous exercise program, I stayed healthy and strong for the first fifty years of my life.
Eventually, however, my excellent genes began to age. I found myself having trouble lifting my suitcase into the overhead bin. I got stiff if I sat on the floor too long. And then my grandson arrived. I realized that to be part of his world I would need to be able to carry 30 pounds and spend long stretches sitting on the concrete with a fat piece of chalk in my hand. And I joined a gym for the first time in my life.
Pilates, yoga, weight training: these are all excellent ways for older adults to keep fit enough to play like a toddler. The average age that someone becomes a grandparent today is 50, hardly a senior citizen. No matter what your age, though, staying in shape is a powerful gift to your grandchildren. Getting down on the floor allows you to see the world from their vantage point and be a part of their world. Being able to get up again without difficulty is a bonus!