Jilda and I keep him on Tuesdays and Thursdays while his mom is finishing up her college coursework in physical therapy.
My beard kept him at bay when he was younger, but once he got used to the hairy chin, he warmed right up, and now we’re thick as thieves.
He’s an outside kid. There are electronic games and portable DVD players in his toy box, but if given the choice, he’d rather play around the barn.
We use every excursion as a learning experience. This past week he learned about dirt dauber’s nests, deer poop, and how acorns turn into oak trees.
He looked a little skeptical as he held the tiny acorn in his hand and looked at the towering 100-year-old oak tree there in the barnyard. I assured him the tree came from an acorn just like that.
As he assimilated the idea of plant propagation, he climbed on the tractor and figured out in a matter of seconds how to turn on the flashers.
It took me almost a year to figure out how the stuff on that tractor worked. I have no doubt that if I’d given him the keys, he could have plowed all the tillable land on the farm in a matter of minutes.
I shook my head in amazement and told him to turn the flashers off because it would run down the battery.
He asked the required, why, why, why, to the fifth power, then he said OK Aunt Rick, and turned the flashers off.
I said with a mock stern tone, “I'm not Aunt Rick, I'm Uncle Rick!” He giggled. I wish I had recorded it, because there is nothing more delightful than the sound of a child laughing.
He then said, “you're not Uncle Rick, you're Aunt Rick!” And then laughed some more. We must have gone back and forth for twenty minutes.
I found a sunny spot in the barnyard, lay down on a utility trailer, and spent some quality time looking at the sky while Jordan explored. It felt good to be alive.
Every now and then I would call to him – “what do you hear.” He would stop, stand as still as a post and listen. He said, “I hear de wind,” or “I hear a bird,” and then he was off again examining everything.
I take my babysitting responsibilities seriously. When Jordan, or any of our nieces or nephews stay with us, they get my full attention. When they ask a question, I do my best to give them a good answer. Not a blow-off answer, but as good an answer as I can give.
When I don’t know the answer, we look it up in a book, Wikipedia, or some other place.
I’m trying to get him (them) to understand, nobody knows all the answers, but anyone can look them up.
Since he’s only 2, I wasn’t sure how much he retained of what I was teaching him. About a month ago we had a lengthy conversation about the types of trees we saw around the barn. Some time after that when his mom and grandma walked with us to the barn, I pointed to a tree and said, what kind of tree is that?
“It’s a PINE TREE!” he said proudly. His mom’s mouth fell open, and I just had to smile.
Who knows what he’ll remember when he gets older. If he holds on to a little of what I’ve taught him he will be ahead of a lot of kids.
And if he remembers with love how much fun we had together, I will consider my time well spent — as long as he stops calling me Aunt Rick.