As big as a whale’s tail

Dear Grandparents,

How’s that babysitting going for you? Is it a blast? Or are you a nervous wreck?

Relax. Little can go wrong when you’re in charge of precious cargo because a little love goes a long way. And more importantly, a little love usually places the right decision in your court.

Nonetheless, precarious problems can arise. When 5 year old Riley was spending the weekend with me, he was a bundle of energy … until about 6pm. He then began to run around in slow motion. He suddenly had a penchant for sitting—not what I expected.

So, we popped a movie into the old VCR.  As we watched The Lady and The Tramp kissing over a single strand of spaghetti, I tussled his hair, and Oh! He had a fever.

Well, no problem. I can handle administering a little Tylenol. I was prepared: I had bought some children’s Tylenol last month just for this type of emergency. As I opened the bottle of syrupy, red ooze, I checked the dosage: easy enough. It came with a tiny little measuring cup: even easier.

Well unfortunately, I suddenly learned how important it is to know the weight of my grandson: Children’s medicines are dispensed according to their weight, not age.

His weight? Who would ever have thought that knowing how much Riley weighed was important? I know what he likes to eat. I know what time he goes to bed. I know what pages in his book I have to read. But his weight? I never thought to ask Mommy, “Oh, by the way, before you take off for the weekend and slip into some pocket of rural no-man’s-land where there is no tower for cell phone reception, how much does Riley weigh?”

I could guess. Or, I could ask Baba (Grandpa). “Baba, how much do you think Riley weighs?”


“Well, I think he’s got a fever, and I’m going to give him something.”


“Oh, maybe some Tylenol.”


“Well, I need to bring his fever down.”


“Well ….”

On second thought, maybe Baba wasn’t the answer.

On second thought, maybe I shouldn’t be giving Riley anything at all. It’s just a little fever.

I go into the room, and sit next to Riley, who is covered up to his eyeballs in blankets and pillows … in July. Yeah, I need to give him some Tylenol.

Back to the bottle. I read it two more times. Guessing a kid’s weight just isn’t that hard. So, I go back to the bedroom and drag him out of his covers and pick him up—we have no bathroom scale—to feel how heavy he is. He’s certainly much heavier than I expected. He’s solid as a rock. He’s downright heavy.

I go back into the kitchen and read the bottle … again, as if staring at the directions will suddenly flash big numbers that reveal his correct weight.

Then, I got the most brilliant idea. Just ask Riley. He’s a smart kindergartener, and for a little kid, he knows a lot. He’s been talking all about all kinds of scientific things that he has been learning in school.

“Riley,” I coo, as I stroke his hair. “Do you know how much you weigh?


Thank goodness! Why didn’t I go straight to the horse’s mouth to begin with?

A long silence fills the puffy abyss, where somewhere down underneath, lay a sick little kid.

“Riley, how much do you weigh, honey?”

“Um ….”

He wipes his forehead and rubs his beet red cheeks.

“Um …. About as much as a whale’s tail.”


I go back to the kitchen, take a wild stab at the right dosage, and hope that all will end well.

Lesson # 1        When babysitting grandkids:
Know how much they weigh.

Well, Grandparents, I hope you get lots of chances to babysit. Keep some children’s Tylenol and peppermint on hand. And, you’ll do fine.

Yours truly,

Curly Grandma

Who is Curly Grandma? She is a real grandma with seven grandchildren. Her name comes from her first grandchild, Megan, who learned to distinguish her two grannies with adjectives (hence the Curly). Visit Curly Grandma at her website and learn all about writing letters to grandchildren. On her site, get lots of information and free stationery. And you can even buy her book Curly Grandma’s Letters: Writing to Kids and Capturing Your Autobiography (Tate Publishing; available on This blog and illustration is not to be copied or reproduced without express permission from Anita Bryce.


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