I recently took care of my nearly two-year-old grandson on my own, for the first time and for a record five hours.
It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
It even included removing his nappy when it became hard on the nose; cleaning him up well and putting a new nappy on him, for the first time again after a gap of 50 years since I last changed a nappy.
I was terribly proud of my achievement and I am looking forward now with confidence to further nappy changes with my other, 10 weeks old baby grandson too.
My grandson and I spent our precious five hours together mainly immersed in just playing with carefree abundance.
He was the boss generally and I gladly followed his lead.
Stepping out to the balcony from the house I go ahead to undo the safety latch on the gate at the balcony steps leading down to the garden.
I go ahead of him walking down backwards just before him to catch him in case he falls.
He insists on making, on his own, the coming down on the steps to the backyard.
He is very careful and holds on to the steel strings forming the outside wall to the balcony and then the lattice on the side of the stairs, as he is still too short to reach and grab the side rails of the balcony.
One foot after the other and sometimes on all fours backward, he manages to come down the stairs, all on his own.
As he reaches the garden ground, he bursts into a proud smile.
Then he and I give him a big clap for his achievement.
First, he insists on scoring “slam dunks” into his mini basketball hoop on the backyard fence.
Whenever he gets the ball through, I shout – “Well done!”– and we both clap.
Then he gives me the balls to score. Sometimes it is a tennis ball, other times a reduced-size basketball that we try to sink in the hoop.
Then I start to innovate: let’s see if we can throw two tennis balls in the loop at the same time, then three, then four, then throw with both the left and the right hands.
At one point I lower myself into a squat to try to match his height, but the gorgeously innocent fellow then moves into an effortless squat to imitate me.
He looks so sweet – I could eat him.
Then he picks up his mini-tennis racket and it is time for new games. Now he points to the long brick path between the wooden fence with the neighbour and his house’s wall, leading up to the front entrance gate.
I ask him if he wanted me to hit the tennis ball along the path to the front gate. He nods with an approving “Ye” sound, as he cannot yet construct sentences well.
But he is very vocal, saying one or two words at any given time and gesticulating vigorously to communicate what he wants.
Having played for two hours, we return to the balcony for his morning snack and without any prompting, he takes a seat at his mini-table waiting for me to make and bring out his food.
Having gulped down some cheese, bread bits and tons of watermelon, he follows me into the house and brings me several children’s books.
He flawlessly identifies and says the names of all animals in the picture books and can count up to eight, though he keeps leaving out the number 6.
So we practice and eventually, he gets it right.
Then we are back downstairs to play for another couple of hours before I serve him lunch. After lunch comes the nappy change and swapping his day clothes to his one-piece pyjamas.
First I put it on him the wrong way but he lies on his back patiently until I manage to zip him up properly. I put him in his cot, he lies down with open eyes while I begin to read a fairy tale to him.
After a minute his eyes begin to roll up, his eyelids shut closed and he is off to snooze land.
No wonder he conked out quickly after nearly five hours of full-on running around. His energy to play and his discipline to keep practising a variety of ball skills are enormous. Just mention the word “ball” to him and he grabs your hand and drags you down to the backyard.
When we played various ball games in the garden, I wondered what I might have been doing at his age.
My father was already 44 years old when I was born and ever since I remember him he had an aching right leg and he leaned on a walking stick whenever he walked.
So he would not have been able to run around with me to play ball games, nor could my only living grandfather, who was around my present age in the late seventies when I was born.
I feel a great sense of gratitude that I can still run around with my grandkid and cannot wait to see when my second baby grandson will be old enough to kick the ball around with his two years older cousin.
And then hopefully I might still be fit enough to play soccer, basketball or volleyball with them, with their parents also joining us occasionally.