Twice in the past month, I’ve spent a day with my 5-year-old granddaughter. Professional development days for teachers mean parents must find alternate care. In our family, that means a day when grandmother duties take precedence over other events in my calendar.
Bleary-eyed and tired when I pick her up in the morning, she proposes an agenda that includes all her favourite activities. Eager to take charge and plan the day, she reminds me of previous outings that she likes to repeat. Regardless of what we choose, the day must end with a trip to the park near our house with its array of playground equipment for all ages
Her favourite outing with me is a visit to the bulk food store with barrels of candy and baking goods to admire. In recent months she has developed a keen interest in baking shows, especially shows featuring fancy cake decorating. Many of the shows include a contest or competition.
We often decide to bake and decorate sugar cookies as our main activity. With early reading skills, she is keen to read the recipe before we shop for the cookie ingredients. We rush through the grocery store buying the flour, sugar, butter, and eggs. The pressure for a quick finish at the grocery store occurs to allow plenty of time for shopping at the bulk store for the icing, food colouring, sprinkles, other decorations. As we look for these items, we wander along each aisle where she marvels at various cake decorating paraphernalia, and ornaments for cakes made of icing. She carefully looks at pictures at various types of moulds for cakes. Cookie-cutters in various shapes for every imaginable festivity always precipitate commentary; likewise for the brightly coloured tubes of icing. We look at the various shapes of cookie cutters and decide which we will use.
As with most children her age, she has a memory like a trap. She recounts our past successes and longs to re-create designs and colours previously used.
Mixing the dough brings a barrage of chatter. This is the time to hear the important details in her life. She recounts highlights of recent birthday parties that she’s attended, describes the antics of her one-year-old brother, and proudly gives a run-down of accomplishments in kindergarten.
While the dough cools in the fridge, we have lunch. The menu is always the same — carrot sticks and tuna salad made with, sweet green relish, lemon juice, and mayonnaise. She mixes the ingredients and tastes while proclaiming that tuna is a healthy choice. Who knew a five-year-old would love tuna!
After lunch, it’s time to roll the dough and cut cookie shapes. Using a rolling pin remains a challenge as her rambunctious inclination to exert too much pressure usually takes over. With my help, the dough is rolled and the shaped. A few minutes later, cookies emerge from the oven — gently browned and ready for decorating.
Each cookie gets special decorating attention. We discuss seasonally appropriate colours and coordinate with seasonal holidays. Valentine’s Day cookies had red and white designs. We used bright green for St. Patrick’s Day. For Easter, we did bunny and egg-shaped cookies in lavenders, pinks, and yellows. What fun to see the care and attention given to each cookie along with ideas of who in the family or at her school should receive each cookie.
We place the cookies on a rack to dry, do a quick clean-up and end the day with a walk to the children’s playground in a nearby park where the energy stores from tasting cookie dough, icing, and the finished cookies are dissipated on swings, monkey bars, and climbing spiders. With each passing year, her height and strength allow her to reach higher bars and navigate more complex moves on the equipment. What fun to watch her learning through play in the warm sunshine!
What do I learn from such days?
- Time spent with a grand-child is like putting relationship money in the bank. She’s precious to me; in turn, I believe that I’m precious in her life.
- Grandchildren provide a second chance. When our son was young, I was too busy building a career and taking care of a household to give undivided attention to a day-long activity like making and decorating cookies.
- Since I never had the privilege of parenting a daughter, I’m intrigued by my grand daughter’s ‘girlie’ interests. She’s interested in what I wore to a recent luncheon and she discusses which clothes she will wear to birthday parties or piano recitals.
- Attention to detail is important to children. My granddaughter’s ideas of designs for cookie decorations show how closely she has observed birds, flowers, leaves, and animals. The frustration comes when her five-year-old hands don’t yet have enough fine motor control to execute; that’s when she asks for help!
- There’s great pride in accomplishing a task. When the cookies go home at the end of the day, her face lights up with the praise and admiration from parents.
- Unstructured playtime is important. Mimicking other children’s play, taking risks on the climbing equipment, challenging herself to go higher and faster are important ways to gain a sense of mastery.
Spending time with my granddaughter provides a unique opportunity to nurture and support another generation. Busy parents often don’t have time or patience to spend hours teaching skills like cooking or baking. Sharing activities that I love means that I get quality time to listen to her, teach her, and tell her some of the family stories. I’m creating memories — for both of us!
Thanks for reading my post. I’m interested to hear reader comments about experiences and joys in grandparenting roles!