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INSTRUCTION LIST by Susan J. Decuir

My daughter handed the baby to me, along with an instruction list she obviously hastily scribbled on a church bulletin she found in the car on the way to our house. Sarah and her husband, Scot, were off to celebrate their second wedding anniversary with dinner at their favorite Mexican restaurant and a night in a luxury Dallas hotel. Their first night alone since Evan’s birth five months ago.

I must confess. I requested the instruction list. It had been a long time since a baby spent the night in our house.

The coveted ‘list’ thoroughly covered naptime, bottle time, and bedtime. However; hugs, kisses, rocking chair and play time were not on Sarah’s list—confident Evan wouldn’t lack in those areas with Nana and Pop babysitting.

“Evan should be ready for a nap around 5:00 or 5.15ish,” Sarah said over her shoulder on her way out the door.

“Okay,” I said, then followed Ron heading for the backyard with Evan.

“Evan, this is God’s creation,” Pop said as the cool autumn wind whipped through the trees, turning Evan’s sky-blue eyes (so like Pop’s) toward red, yellow, and orange leaves waving to him from tall branches. “God causes His wind to blow,” (Psalm 147:18) I whispered in his ear when, suddenly, a mockingbird’s flight caught his attention—his sparkling eyes following until the Texas state bird flew out of sight.

When the mosquitoes found us, we quickly retreated to the house. What to do for a fussy baby with itchy mosquito bites was not on the ‘list.’ But it did indicate it was bottle time, becoming more obvious as Evan hungrily chewed his fingers.

Per the ‘list,’ I meticulously measured six ounces of filtered water into the bottle, added three scoops of powdered formula, then gave the bottle a thorough shaking. Whew! I made it before he turned on the tears.

Contented and playful after his bottle, I laid Evan on a blanket on the floor and joined him. We giggled and played-peek-a-boo until Pop brought out his guitar. Evan’s eyes never left Pop’s fingers as they effortlessly glided over the strings while he serenaded us in his deep Johnny Cash voice.

Before we knew it, it was nearly 7:00 p.m. In our excitement, we missed Evan’s 5:00 to 5:15ish nap, evidenced by Evan rubbing his little fist over his eyes and becoming increasingly fussy. I checked my list. Nothing about missing nap time. I’ll just have to wing it, I thought, my maternal instincts taking over. It was too late for a long nap, but too early for bedtime. Opting for a short nap, I cradled Evan in my arms and headed for the rocking chair. He quickly fell asleep. By 7:30 pm Ron and I made the executive decision to wake him up. He greeted us with the sweetest smile, just like his mommy used to do.

It wasn’t long before we wore him out with all of our attention. The list said to slather his bottom with a generous amount of diaper rash cream before putting on his bedtime diaper and pajamas then rock him in a quiet, dark room while giving him his bedtime bottle. My own list included: rocking, cuddling, and softly singing “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so,” into his that sweet little guys ear tucked against my heart. That downy soft, fuzzy head of his was guaranteed to receive an abundance of Nana kisses as well.

Soon, Evan was fast asleep and I gently lowered him in the little crib in the guest room. He slept through the night until 7:30 a.m. and greeted us with a contented smile. I checked my list: change his diaper, dress him for the day, and give him a 7 oz. Bottle.

With disposable diapers and disposable baby wipes to take the fuss and muss out of baby bottom clean ups, Evan was ready for Mommy and Daddy when they came.

“Well, Evan. What do we do now? My instruction list has run out.” Evan scrunched that serious brow of his—so like Pop’s. Love, cuddle, kiss his chubby little cheeks, and play until Mommy and Daddy came. That’s what we did.

“Ron, how did we do this when we were raising our children?” I asked. One look at his gray hair and beard was all the answer I needed as we collapsed into our recliners.


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