If I have learned one thing as a father and a grandfather, aside from the important fact that maturity is best left to young people, it’s that kids grow up fast. This is what happens when you feed them.
And if you think your kids grow up fast, wait until you have grandchildren.
That’s what my wife, Sue, and I discovered when we visited our older daughter, Katie; her husband, Dave; and their children, Xavier, Zoe and Quinn.
We hadn’t seen them in 10 months. And before that, we hadn’t seen them in a year and a half. Considering Xavier is about to turn 5 and Zoe and her twin brother, Quinn, will be 3 in July, Sue and I have missed a lot.
But we made up for lost time on this visit, a diary of which appears below.
Sue and I drive from Long Island, New York, to Washington, D.C., where we admire the beautiful and spacious house Katie and Dave just bought. It’s bright, which is more than I can say for myself, and is filled with toys, children’s books and other fun stuff to keep an immature grandfather entertained.
When the twins arrive home from the playground, Sue and I marvel at how much they have grown. They speak in complete sentences and actually make sense, which distinguishes them from yours truly. Our one similarity: We act silly. This entails running around the house, which depletes me so much that I need a nap. But I don’t take one because I know Xavier will soon be home from school.
When he walks in, he beams and exclaims, “Hi, Nini! Hi, Poppie!”
He’s tall, sweet and handsome. We hug and kiss him. Then I take all three kids downstairs to the play area and - you guessed it - play. So do the kids.
After dinner, everyone has ice cream. When the kids go to bed, the adults have wine.
It’s going to be a great week.
Sue, Katie and I walk Xavier to school. Then we walk back, get in Katie’s car and make an exciting trip to Costco, where I am the designated cart driver. It’s a physical challenge because the cart is filled to overflowing with approximately a ton and a half of groceries.
When we get to the checkout area, I ask loudly, “Where’s the express lane?”
At dinner, we play a guessing game involving animals, dinosaurs, trucks and planets, all of which Xavier knows by heart. I do pretty well in the prehistoric category because, as I explain to Xavier, I was his age when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
After another ice cream dessert, I go downstairs and play hide-and-seek with Zoe and Quinn, who tell me where to hide so they can find me.
“You have to hide in a very specific spot,” Dave informs me.
Before the kids go to bed, I sit with all of them and watch Xavier’s favorite show, “PAW Patrol,” an animated series about hero dogs. Over the course of a week, I see about 87 episodes. I still can’t get the theme song out of my otherwise empty skull.
We go to the zoo. Zoe brings a toy vacuum cleaner, which she uses in front of the great ape exhibit.
“She’ll have a lot to clean up when she gets inside,” the father of a baby says as we stand in line.
“Just wait until she sees the elephants,” I respond.
Unfortunately, the tusked titans are nowhere to be found because it’s too cold for them to be outside.
“They must have packed their trunks and gone to Florida,” I remark.
But we do see a bunch of creepy crawlers in the reptile house, where Quinn waves to a snake.
“I don’t think he can wave back,” I tell him.
Undeterred, Quinn says, “Hi, snake!”
He calls the turtles, crocodiles and lizards “cute.”
Back outside, Quinn is delighted by the ducks, cows, alpacas and otters, but he’s not too enamored of the seals and sea lions, which he says are “scary.”
As we are leaving, Zoe shouts, “See you later, alligator!”
When we get back, Xavier helps Sue bake cupcakes, expertly cracking eggs, pouring flour and mixing it all in a bowl. After the cupcakes come out of the oven, Xavier spreads chocolate icing on them and tops it all off with rainbow sprinkles.
“These cupcakes are delicious!” I exclaim, getting icing on my nose.
“Silly Poppie!” Xavier says with a giggle.
Zoe and Quinn concur.
It’s a sweet end to a busy day.
After breakfast, I take the twins downstairs and start playing with a soccer ball.
“That’s for outside,” Zoe says firmly. “This one,” she adds, handing me a smaller ball, “is for inside.”
“Despite evidence to the contrary,” Dave says, “they do listen.”
Both balls come in handy when we go to the playground, the first of two trips we make to the schoolyard facility. Each time, I push Zoe and Quinn in their double-seated stroller and go “super fast” on several stretches of sidewalk, stopping occasionally to catch my breath. It’s a miracle I don’t need CPR (Cardio Poppie Resuscitation).
In between playground trips, Dave beats me in Strat-O-Matic, a baseball board game. It’s a sad reminder of why I never made it past Little League.
Zoe is up at 5 a.m. Bright-tailed and bushy-eyed, so am I.
We color with crayons for a while. Xavier gets up at 6:30.
At 7 o’clock, Quinn is still sleeping.
“WE HAVE TO BE QUIET!” Zoe shouts.
Five minutes later, Quinn is wide awake.
I change the twins’ diapers - I’m a hands-on grandfather - before everyone gets dressed so we can go back to the playground.
This time, Zoe and Quinn are in their seats and Xavier is on the running board of the stroller, which I push - super fast! - with all three children aboard.
When we get back, I take a nap while Sue brings Xavier outside so he can use chalk to draw the solar system - including dwarf planet Pluto - on the front steps.
Later, we all go to a family-friendly brewery that has toys for the kids and beverages for the adults.
“Cheers!” I say, clinking glasses with Katie, Dave and Sue. “It’s too bad they don’t serve beer in sippy cups.”
Katie, Sue and I take Xavier to a nice pizzeria for lunch. Then we go to the National Children’s Museum.
“Are children on display?” I wonder.
“No,” Sue replies. “But you should be.”
It’s a fantastic place with interactive exhibits. Xavier has a ball, especially with the trains.
“What did you like best, buddy?” Katie asks him as we are leaving.
“All of it!” is his enthusiastic reply.
At bedtime, Katie gathers all three children and reads a hilarious book called “Dog Breath.”
Xavier turns to me and says, “Don’t forget to brush your teeth, Poppie.”
It’s the last day of our visit, which has gone by way too fast. As Xavier gets ready to go to day camp, he says to Sue, “You and Poppie won’t be here when I get back, will you?”
It brings a tear to the eye. We hug and kiss him. We do the same with Zoe and Quinn before they go to the playground.
But we’ve had a great time. Sue, who had a heart attack late last year, couldn’t pick up the kids or push them in the stroller, but she has enjoyed every minute. So have I.
We thank Katie and Dave and head out to the car.
Seeing them all again after such a long time has done Sue’s heart - and mine - a world of good.
Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Tribune News Service and is the author of six books. His latest is “One for the Ageless: How to Stay Young and Immature Even If You’re Really Old.” Reach him at [email protected] or via jerryzezima.blogspot.com.