The last few days, C and I were hosting one of his nieces. She is eleven years old and his God-daughter. He had brought up several times over the past year how he would like to host her and do something special, given their special relationship, and we finally made it work.
She came up with her family for C's graduation party and stayed out late with us on Saturday. Sunday began by Cand her running a 4-mile race through Cleveland, which ended in the baseball stadium. C said he could have done better himself, but their 5K time was about 35 minutes, and he was really proud of her. Later that day we went swimming for a few hours in my parents pool. She left her swim-suit in her parents' car, so we had to make an emergency run to the store. Trying to find a swimsuit at the end of the season, that is appropriate for a girl just entering Middle School, who is going through a slightly awkward phase of pudginess and is in-between kid and adult sizes, was slightly stressful to say the least. After the pool, we made dinner and she helped with the cutting and putting together kabobs. It turns out she is not a fan of most of the usual vegetables that go on kabobs, but did make an attempt at mushrooms and a red onion. She also attempted to put on a slice of cucumber and a strawberry... We finished the night with a campfire and s'mores.
On Monday, we started off the day with a kayak trip. She has previously gone canoeing, but only in a canoe with her parents. I remember kayaking being so much cooler because you were in complete control of your own boat. I was right. She was in heaven. Her skills were actually pretty good and she enjoyed exploring the river. We only had one dramatic incident of a "bug" falling into kayak, prompting her to try to stand up to shake it off (for non-kayakers - NEVER stand up in a boat!), then ended up jumping out to bathe herself in the river-water, then refusing to get back in her boat but agreeing to stitch boats with me. C responded very well - calm yet empathetic. I was just trying not to laugh at her drama.
We also watched a few classic movies, Jaws and My Girl, and had pizza dinner in Little Italy at an authentic Italian restaurant. The following day, we went to a famous pancake diner for breakfast, one of largest candy stores in the world to pick out some good-bye goodies, and then drove her to the meeting point two-hours away and half-way between our home and her parents'.
She was superbly behaved and one of the most well-mannered kids I've ever seen. The visit was exhausting. At one point on her last night here, C was in a bathroom and I was enjoying a moment of piece and quiet, when she appeared and said, "What are we going to do now?" in her sweet little voice. I wanted to laugh and cry.
At one point, C gave her a choice when I would have just given her one option instead. I pointed this out and he became concerned and asked, "Was that bad parenting?" I laughed and responded that it was just different approaches. I think he was genuinely concerned, but he was so sweet with her. He woke her up in the morning, got her breakfast, dried her wet swimsuit, and made sure she had everything packed up on her last day. He was exactly the kind of uncle/father I would expect from him.
After she left, we both commented how well it went. She seemed to really enjoy herself and we successfully tired her (and us) out. Before climbing into bed, at the end of our long day of transporting her back, C remarked, "Being a parent for two-and-a-half days in exhausting."
In all fairness, it was more difficult because she is not our child and we didn't know all of her likes/dislikes/etc. and also this wasn't her house so she couldn't just entertain herself at any time. On the flip side, she was eleven and relatively self-sufficient. We got her food ready, but didn't have to feed her. She bathed and dressed herself. She got herself in and out of the car and generally packed up her own clothes. So yes, being a parent for two-and-a-half days was exhausting, and fun, and exhausting.