I consider myself a “purpose-driven” person. I’ve got a mission statement, an organizer with a calendar and “to do” list of goals and projects, plus pretty good self-discipline to pull it all off. But when Lois and I baby sit three-month-old granddaughter Hannah each Tuesday, forget anything purpose-driven. The day is “papoose-driven.”
Grandma is not a morning person, so I’m in charge of Hannah the first part of the day. Did I say “in charge” of Hannah? Ha! How delusional. No, the papoose is the chief in the tribe.
Occasionally she’s asleep when Faith brings her by on her way to work, so I’m able to get some office work done as she sleeps in her car seat by my bookcases. But once Princess Hannah lets out a war cry, it’s time to concentrate on her demands and not my deadlines. I was in the middle of this very column when Hannah awoke and launched one of her infamous WMDs: Weapon-grade Messy Diaper.
I had almost forgotten how the miracle of parenting (and now grand-parenting) makes one immune to the normal revulsion of pooping and puking. Don’t put me near someone else’s pooping and puking papoose, but it doesn’t bother me when the perpetrator is a part of my flesh and blood.
Once she has clean diapers, it’s time for breakfast and the floor show while the milk is heating. Hannah looks at me as if I’ve completely lost my mind when I break into my homemade parody of Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana”:
Her name is Hannah, from Indiana,
The cutest girl north of Havana,
Yes, it’s Hannah from Indiana,
In her cabana she’s eating bananas.
Yes, it’s Hannah, from Indiana . . .
As young as three months, she’s learned to roll her eyes just like her mom did as a teen. But my singing provides enough misdirection to keep her occupied until breakfast is served at the precise temperature.
I watch “Good Morning, America” while Hannah enjoys her bottle, but I know my power to determine what programs we watch will soon come to an end. Before I know it, we’ll be watching “Teletubbies” and “Barnie” because, again, it’s a papoose-driven life. “I love you, You love me, I’ll lose all my sanity!”
Then it’s a half-hour play time under her mobile of colorful, plastic fish and an octopus that makes underwater sounds and electronic music. I love it when she smiles and laughs and squeals with joy as Grandpa entertains her. But when this ceases to be entertaining, Hannah subtly suggests it’s time to go out back to the porch swing by letting out a blood-curdling war cry and turning as red as a drug store Indian. We swing, and swing, and swing some more until she’s back to sleep and I can once again become “purpose-driven.”
Right now, I’m typing this paragraph while rocking her car seat with my foot. As long as I sit just right so the office chair doesn’t squeak and keep my foot moving, I may just have time to finish this column.
Let the record show that I love my granddaughter and am grateful to be able to baby sit her once a week.
But I have had to adjust my “purpose-driven” perspective to a “papoose-driven” mindset. On “Survivor” the tribe may speak, but in real world a little squalling squaw has the final decisions. (I’m just thankful that Hannah goes home to her own teepee during the night!)
But there is purpose to this papoose-driven stage: to allow my daughter and son-in-law to use their talents and passions in social work and law enforcement, to have the privilege of influencing this precious little person, to make her laugh with silly songs (I need to find some more words that rhyme with Hannah though) and to let her know that she’s loved unconditionally (even if she’s turning red and launching multiple WMDs).
And that is a much greater purpose than writing newspaper columns.
Copyright © 2005 James N. Watkins