I’m an accomplished human being; how difficult could it be?

For nearly six years now I’ve been lucky enough to spend one day a week babysitting delightful grandchildren. Wednesdays are Gramma D day and off I go to Grey County where five little munchkins in two different households are ready stealers of my heart.

When you’ve raised your own kids, managed to change diapers (cloth) using safety pins, pureed healthy organic food, latched them into car seats, secured baby gates, tucked in bibs, answered the million questions posed by a four-year-old…well, you kind of expect to be able to do the same stuff with a new generation, mostly with success.

It’s not that I had an arrogance about my ability; I just didn’t expect the difficulties to surface as they have.

It’s not the kids that pose the problem.

It’s the equipment.

Portable sleeping arrangements for a toddler who’s not big enough for a bed and too small for a bassinette… a playpen. Now, back in the olden days, a playpen was a wooden structure with four folding sides that clipped easily into each other and stood erect from a wooden floor. You could drop a kid in there for a nap and the nap would happen.

The anxiety I have about today’s portable play pen is enormous. Legs slide through nylon sleeves and screw into feet and slip into an upper support mechanism and then a mattress goes down. You get the picture. I always get the thing almost put together and then I realize I’ve missed the nylon sleeves and have to start again.

Perhaps the greatest challenge–no, forget that! Forget the word ‘perhaps’. The greatest challenge for me these days is the #!*! stroller. I have to preface this by saying I had two baby-moving devices in the olden days. I had an umbroller (you remember–grab the wheels, grab the handle and separate.) Insert kid. Go for a walk. And I had a perego walking stroller (you remember–grab the handle, pull up, hit the safety latch.) Insert kid. Go for a walk.

But not today. My current challenge was made in Europe and has instruction numbers on it. No instructions. Just numbers. 1. unclasp the orange hook. That should separate the wheels from the rest of the mechanism. Oh! It’s upside down. Flip it over. What’s this big sack? The shopping bag holder? Wow! But now I can’t see the other numbers… 2, 3, and 4. Number 2 seems to be a pull or push type lever. Number 3 is pointing to a black disc. Doesn’t matter what I do, those two numbers don’t activate anything. And until I’ve had success with 2 and 3… well, 4 is just not worth looking at.

You might ask why I don’t get instruction from one of the kid’s parents. I have. Several times. Either Mom or Dad grabs the stroller out of the trunk. Zip, zip, zip and it’s up, cup holder pointing in the right direction and all ready for the kid. Parent jumps in their car and is off. I now have a fully functional stroller sitting in front of me, miles out in the country, and I have to take kid and stroller into town to pick up bigger kid after school.

Fully functional stroller won’t fit in my car in its operational form. It has to be folded down. So, now my problem is compounded.

The same challenges hold forth for the car seat, the baby gates, the high chair. Actually, last week 18-month old Fii (short form) had finished her lunch and I plopped her down on the kitchen floor while I figured out how to remove the high chair tray so I could wash it. I turned around for about 1/3 of a second and there she was, standing back up in the high chair, checking out the night light in the plug on the kitchen wall. How did she do that?

I can manage the bib.

Two weeks ago, myself, the car, the kid and the stroller were in town for errands in the morning. Same challenge with the stroller. I got it out of the car and onto the ground. Another older guy about my age pulled up and parked in front of me. He saw my puzzled face and came back to help.

Numbers 1, 2, 3, 4. He was puzzled. He was also unsuccessful. I decided if I wanted to ‘pick up’ older men, this might be a great approach! Aha! A 30-something woman zipped out of a nearby car. I called for help. She sped over. Zip. Zip. Zip.The stroller was up. Turns out 2 and 3 have to be activated simultaneously or they won’t cooperate. Then why are they 2 and 3? Why aren’t they 2 and 2?

See what I mean? Defeated!

Later that day while Fii was having her nap, I went back out to the driveway and took the stroller out of the car. Actually, count that as 1 for Donna. Maybe without pressure, without a kid sitting in a hot carseat, maybe I could figure this out. 1. Pull the orange tab. Flip the wheels to the ground so I can find 2 and 3. Simultaneously hold the lever (2) and push in the black disk (3). Aha! The handle swings into place. What’s 4, you ask? Well, four is the entire seat that holds the kid. The sleeves of the seat fit over the little arms that poke up when the black disks (3) are activated.

I actually had the stroller up in the yard. By myself. I reversed the order and put the stroller back in the car for older-kid pick up time. I felt like I’d won the lottery! I hope I can remember all this by next week.

The other set of grandchildren includes a pair of twins. I’m scared to death of that stroller!

Maybe it’s all in the DNA of young parents. It’s sure not in the DNA of Gramma D.