Something to think about: Granny Brain

By From page A6 | August 23, 2013

I’ve heard a lot about “Mommy Brain”— the condition which adversely affects the cognitive processes of new mothers and is supposedly due to vast amounts of hormones still running through their systems after giving birth. I think the condition lasts far longer than a few months after birth and has more to do with the frenetic activity level of preschoolers than hormone levels. And grandmas get it too.

I love my two granddaughters and we have a lot of fun together, but after five days I have Grandma Brain, which is a lot like Mommy Brain but without the hormones or the immunity of daily exposure.

From 6:32 a.m. to 8:27 p.m. they are ON. There is no dimmer switch on a 4-year-old, no moderation, no half-speed and not much predictability. Trying to work out and circumvent all the possibilities of what they will do that are dangerous or involve damage is like little steel balls firing off inside a pinball machine. After days of this, the adult brain goes on Tilt.

At 6:32 a.m. I can hear the wake-up whine: “Haylee, stop it. I don’t want to …” Imagine this in a tiny voice like Cindy Lou Who’s that manages to pierce the adult brain through two closed doors and a hallway and wake it from a sound sleep. Then imagine the effect on your brain of  hearing it 11,000 times over a five-day span like the endless drip, drip of Chinese water torture. If you’re a parent or a grandparent, you already know this well and I apologize if this is too graphic.

I haven’t seen my husband or the dog for hours — maybe days — I’ve lost track. One of them is hiding out behind the tomato plants pretending to garden and the other one is lying downstairs under the pool table. GrandBob promises he will return one day — when his granddaughters are just a little older and the youngest one has stopped doing that whining thing.

My daughter and I left our little cherubs in the care of father and grandfather for two hours while we went to the Craft Faire. We’d scheduled them to take the girls and dogs to the park and then meet us downtown. They felt staying home watching TV was a better idea. They won’t make that mistake again — ever.

Checking in, I suggest to my husband that he give them the little rakes we bought — they can help him in the garden raking up leaves and burning off a little energy. A flat, dull-sounding “no” is the unequivocal reply. He thinks they will turn the rakes upon each other (a distinct possibility) or perhaps use them to cut a swath through his beloved tomato plants (a definite probability). He needs a nap.

The granddaughters have been on four walks, a trip to Funderland and Fairy Tale Town, played badminton and bubble catching, chased the dogs, listened to five new books, played their way through breakfast, lunch, dinner and 300 snacks. That was yesterday. We four adults have more fun things planned for tomorrow to wear out two children under the age of six, but whether our energy levels can keep up with them is questionable.

Decisions are becoming more difficult. Do we take the lawn chairs with us to the lake or not? What do we want for dinner? We can no longer make those kinds of decisions — it uses up too much brain power that we desperately need for survival.

We did this once before, earlier in our lives, when we didn’t know any better and were still in our 20s. Our brains recovered. This time around, I’m not so sure.

Wendy Schultz is a staff writer and columnist for the Mountain Democrat. Her column appears bi-weekly.

Wendy Schultz

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