We’re out of shape. Not fitness shape, but watching a 2½-year-old boy shape. That shape makes regular shape look like it’s out of shape.

“I’m tired,” Sue said recently.

I knew what she meant. It was 7 p.m., we’d put a 2½-year-old down and we were crashing into walls.

While his parents are on vacation, we’ve had Andrew staying with us for a few days. We did the same thing a year ago, but what a difference 12 months make. His energy level has tripled and Mimi's and Papa’s has not.

Containment used to be a viable strategy but now that he’s been climbing out of his crib, it has become less dependable. During Thanksgiving, sort of a dry run for watching him most recently, we came into his room after his nap and he was wearing his cowboy boots in his crib. He’d crawled out of his crib, pulled on his boots and then crawled back into bed as if nothing had happened and was smiling as if he had been there all along.

At his mother’s request, we ordered a canopy that could be attached to the top of the crib and then zipped shut.

“Andrew, it’s like having your own tent,” we said, trying to sell it as sort of an indoor camping experience.

I’m not sure he bought it but at least he hasn’t ended up in his cowboy boots after naps.

When awake, play has become more elaborate and involves an astonishing amount of gear — step stools, tennis racquets, playing cards, dominos, dice, salad spinners, spatulas and pecans from the tree across the street.

The temptation is to clean up the pile as soon as he makes the mess, but the mountain is daunting. It’s also hard to know where to start so it seems to make more sense to let it ride to the end of the day when the whirling dervish has retired to his tent.

When you’re on duty, work becomes a mirage. The smallest household task seems insurmountable. I could have sworn I emptied the dish rack and those three wine glasses.

Didn’t I? They’re still sitting there. Am I losing my mind?

Thank goodness he still takes a nap. The smart thing would be to lie down yourself after he does, but that’s when you put the three wine glasses away, wipe off the counter and remove the cute step stool from the flight path so nobody windmills off the top of it.

Meals are fun and also the sort of free-for-all in which grandparents specialize. Bacon every morning called “shaken bacon,” because it rhymes. I introduced him to bacon with maple syrup poured over it and he upped the ante by dipping the sweet bacon into vanilla yogurt.

Repeat after me: We’re the grandparents. Anything goes, including salted caramel ice cream after dinner whether he eats every piece of cauliflower or not.

We take a Jacuzzi every night, something he calls the “hot pool.” We pretend it’s a boat. We pretend a lot of things, and I’ve remembered how much fun pretending can be.

How much fun, fun can be too. I didn’t know this as a parent but when a child starts playing — cook, conductor, and teacher — they don’t need help from adults who do nothing but break the spell.

We’ve been hitting the play equipment at Beach Park almost every day. That’s a godsend but tricky nonetheless. You want them to explore, stretch and climb the small climbing wall because that’s what boys, and probably girls, do but you’d rather not be the grandparent who takes them to the emergency room for their first broken arm.

A fire in the morning, a Jacuzzi at night, do you think he wants to go home? Would anybody? He cried when I told him that he was going to be reunited with his parents a few days from now. Those mean old, no-fun parents.

At night, his grandmother reads him a story and says goodnight. His grandfather sings two songs finishing with “My Ramblin’ Boy” by Tom Paxton.

I sing the chorus twice:

“And here's to you my ramblin' boy

“May all your ramblin' bring you joy

“And here's to you my ramblin' boy

“May all your ramblin' bring you joy.”

Herb Benham is a columnist for The Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or 395-7279.

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