Babies Get All the Attention

‘I love kids. I used to be one myself’


My granddaughter is about to become a big sister. The first six years of her life she yearned for a sibling to play with. Her seventh? Not so much.

     “I thought you wanted a little brother or sister?” her mother, my middle daughter, asked when my granddaughter's response was less than enthusiastic.

     “That was before I knew babies get all the attention,” she groused.

     And that’s true. My youngest daughter always teases me about the day my granddaughter was born. Until then, she had been the baby of the family. We took her older sister to the hospital at FOUR in the morning. Two hours later, my youngest was starving. Unfortunately for her, six was when her sister’s cesarian was scheduled, so breakfast could be a matter of minutes or a matter of hours.

     “It’s not about you today,” I informed her.

     I wanted to be there when my first grandchild was born, but it was a life lesson I could have expressed more gently. Still, my conscience bothered me, so I took her for breakfast after all. That early, however, the only choice was a nearby burger place that was open 24/7. My plan was to eat there, but inside the restaurant was a homeless individual who was arguing with himself and punching at the air in front of him.

     “We’ll take it to go,” I told her. She agreed it was the prudent thing to do.

     We made it back just as a nurse was wheeling out my new granddaughter. She had the biggest eyes. My granddaughter, not the nurse.

     “She looks just like her mother,” I gushed to anybody who would listen. The janitor emptying the ashtrays seemed appreciative.

     The nurse stopped, but only for a few seconds. My granddaughter’s oxygen levels were low, so the nurse was taking her to an incubator, where she would spend the first few days of her life.

     And now, here we were, about to do it all over again.

     This past weekend, I started the job of replacing the carpet in all of the bedrooms in our home with tile. I’ve gone through four houses with my beautiful wife, the last two we had built for us. Now, at an age where my knees prefer watching I Dream Of Jeannie reruns over laying tile, she has me on them doing physical labor.

     My father, who used to fix his uncle’s car when he was twelve, gave me some practical advice. He said, “You’ll need a chalk line to find the center of the room,” and he was exactly right. If I had listened to him when I was younger, my life would have gone a whole lot smoother.

     I did the master bedroom on Saturday and started work on what we consider my granddaughter’s room on Sunday. When my middle daughter came by to visit, my granddaughter immediately converted the empty master bedroom into a racetrack for the electric scooter she got for Christmas.

     Later, after dinner, when we were talking around the table about how a new baby would change all our lives, it was obvious my granddaughter was feeling sensitive, thinking about what her place in the family would be.

     “What if you have TWO babies?” she complained. “First I’ll have to play with one, then I’ll have to play with the other. I’ll never get a break.” Then, being dramatic, she added, “What if the baby only speaks spanish? How will I talk to it?”

     She sat there, on the verge of tears.

     I leaned over and whispered in her ear.

     “You’ll always be my favorite,” I promised her.

     That made her smile.

     When she noticed the various cuts on my hands, my granddaughter, who is a doctor in her spare time, insisted on treating them. She got a Q-Tip, dripped some liquid hand soap on the cotton, and cleaned the blister in the middle of my right hand.

     “Does it burn?” she asked.

     “Give it a minute,” I answered.

     While I was recuperating, she showed me songs on her iPad that she downloaded from Spotify. I was happy to see “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie pop up on the screen. Recently, she asked me to buy her vinyl albums by Bowie, Bob Dylan, and Led Zeppelin. Until then, I didn’t think she knew who Dylan or Bowie were, but it pleased me that she was paying attention when I played my music.

     She chose a song. It was “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin. Before the pandemic, I used to play it for her as I drove her to school.

     “Listen to this,” I said.

     From the first guitar chords that powered “Whole Lotta Love,” she was riveted. We parked during the drum solo. Looking backward to see if she was enjoying it, I saw her pretending to play the drums. When the song ended, she said, “Wow, I’ve never heard THAT before!”

     And it was true. My wife only listens to Country, Christian, and Bobby Bones & the Raging Idiots, so my granddaughter’s musical education was severely lacking in classic rock & roll.

     When my youngest daughter was about the same age I would play Rick James’ “Super Freak” as I drove her to school. A high-energy song that I thought would power-start her day. I thought it was cute when she began growling the “yeow” part of “She’s super freaky, yeow!” In retrospect, perhaps I should have found something more kid-appropriate.

     “Whole Lotta Love” became a morning tradition with my granddaughter and I. Some of my fondest memories are of seeing her in her car seat, buried deep inside the oversized hoodie of her winter jacket. Looking like a turtle, wearing her glasses, her tiny mittened hands pretending to play all the instruments.

     I wonder what’s in store for me next.

Becoming a parent is easy. Being one is hard. theduchenebrothers@gmail.com; @JimDuchene