Earlier this year, I active the “About” account on my Facebook folio with a new access aloft the blow of the abrupt claimed and able descriptions — jobs, education, family, cities lived in, etc. — that account the basics of our lives. “Professional Grandfather,” I typed in smugly to reflect the actuality that now, in semiretirement, I absorb about as abundant time arena with our seven grandchildren as I do reading, writing, exercising, chairing a acceptable government nonprofit lath and disturbing on the golf course.
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Andy Shaw celebrates a altogether in June with grandchildren Juliet, 8, Sam, 6, and Charlie, 3, all of Chicago. (David Campbell)
Did I say “almost as abundant time?” Whoops! That was afore shelter-in-place orders afflicted our lives and circadian routines so badly — so far above annihilation my wife, Mary, and I could accept absurd — we would accept gasped, hyperventilated or maybe alike screamed if we’d had added time. But we didn’t.
In mid-March, afterwards Gov. J.B. Pritzker shut bottomward Illinois, one of our two Chicago-based daughters abutting us at our Michigan country abode so we could advice affliction for their kids, a toddler and an infant, while she and her bedmate formed accidentally in quieter genitalia of the house. And so began our kid-care odyssey: Nearly three months of circadian on-and-off affectionate albatross — their parents adequate us intermittently — for a 3-year-old who needs to be fed, supervised, calmed, down-covered and played with, and a 6-month-old who needs to be fed, changed, calmed, napped, played with and, in contempo weeks, carefully monitored as he crawls into everything.
It has been noisy, chaotic, backbreaking … and conspicuously necessary. Our added Chicago-based babe with accouchement ages 6 and 8, forth with a big, affable accomplishment dog, accept been with us allotment of the time so she and her bedmate additionally accept advancement adolescent affliction while they assignment remotely.
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Last month, as Chicago’s accessible academy year anguish down, the babe with the adolescent kids went to appointment her husband’s ancestors in Champaign for 2½ weeks so Mary could apply on allowance the added daughter’s 6-year-old son get through his frequently arresting online assignments, and I could accomplish abiding their 8-year-old babe was on top of her mostly self-directed academy work.
Afternoons I’d booty them on attributes walks or bottomward to the bank while Mary kept the abode running. We additionally handled some of the kids’ bedtimes, refereed abounding of their disagreements, able best of their commons — mac and cheese, peanut adulate and jelly, quesadillas, angle sticks, craven nuggets and added “haute cuisine”— and managed a lot of their calm activities.
Our third babe is apartment in the New York breadth with her husband, their three kids and a nanny, so they’ve been out of the Michigan mix. But we afresh collection beeline to their abode in one 13-hour day so we could advice them get through a brace of acute workweeks and the final canicule of their kids’ alien acquirements academy year.
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As you ability expect, this hasty and adventitious four-month acquaintance has been demanding — c’mon, we aloft our own kids and alone accepted to be caring for grandchildren occasionally in our aureate years — but accuracy be told, it’s been a admirable befalling to strengthen our ancestors bonds as we all cross these afflicted amnion together.
In fact, it has been a gift, a different befalling for us during a aeon of acute all-overs and uncertainty, to be able to accommodate the kiddos with an added band of abundance and predictability. Mary and I are over 70 years old — geezers, as I like to alarm us — but we’re both active and in acceptable health. We’re additionally defended abundant financially to accept a ample country home to abstract in. So our experience, as arduous as it has been and continues to be, is a breeze compared with families with beneath space, beneath assets and no kid-care help.
My affection goes out to the millions of alive parents with baby accouchement and no “professional grandparents” to advice them administer this bottomless acclimation act. I convulse at the anticipation of how unimaginably adamantine it has been, and how alarmingly important for us, as a society, to alpha accouterment added acceptable ancestors leave and adolescent affliction assets to every alive ancestors in America. That should be a top aldermanic antecedence back this daydream is abaft us. It’s a must.
Meanwhile, Mary and I will “keep on keepin’ on” until the grandkids eventually acknowledgment to their approved academy and day affliction routines and our lives acknowledgment to a affinity of normalcy. At that point I may adapt my top Facebook access so it says, simply, “Grandfather.”
If I do that it’ll be with a smile of satisfaction. And a blow of relief.
Andy Shaw is a above ABC 7 political reporter, above arch of the Better Government Association and currently chairs the CHANGE Illinois Action Fund.
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