I’ve had a whole year off while my daughter has been on maternity leave. During that time, I have to admit that I’ve fallen into my old way of life again pre-grandchildren. I run the dog along the beach, have a swim, eat a leisurely breakfast with my retired husband and then write all morning. In the afternoon, I catch up with emails, friends and – of course – I pop into my daughter’s (a mere five minutes away by bike) to help out with little Rose and George.
But now all that’s come to an end. My daughter has gone back to work two days a week and I am on “grannie duty” from 7.15am until any time from 6pm onwards. Usually, I begin by taking Rose to nursery which involves a great deal of pleading on my part to get her dressed. Rose, I’ve decided, is going to choose a career in fashion because no, she won’t wear the practical leggings and sweatshirt which Mummy has put out for her. “I want a dress,” she declares imperiously.
So she takes me by one hand – while I’m holding George in the other arm – and leads me up to her bedroom where she selects an apple-green sleeveless summer shift which is entirely inappropriate for this nippy weather.
“Don’t let her get away with things, mum,” my daughter is always saying. “She winds you up.”
Be that as it may, I can’t win and besides, we’re going to be late for nursery. So Rose and I compromise by adding a warm fluffy jumper with a picture on a rabbit on the front (her current favourite animal). George, meanwhile, has slithered out of my arms and is attempting to haul himself up, using the bottom handle of his sister’s chest of drawers. I grab him just before he topples backwards but he stiffens his body in fury and throws his head back on the carpet. Oh dear. He’s bumped his head – and through no fault of mine. I can’t see an obvious bruise and George stopped crying seconds later but supposing he’s got some kind of internal damage?
“You’ll have to compile an accident book,” says my husband, who used to be very hot on health and safety when he was at work. “Just to cover yourself.”
Haven’t heard from you. Everything all right?
Meanwhile, a What’s App flashes up on my screen from my daughter who’s just got to work. “Haven’t heard from you. Everything all right?”
I should mention here that my job description includes clocking in with regular emails and pictures to reassure her that the children are in one piece. But it’s hard to fit everything in.
“I think so,” I type back, wondering about George’s bump. No. She’ll see through that. So I delete it and write “Great.”
Then I tog the two of them up and we walk to nursery school which is up a very steep hill about fifteen minutes away. Rose stands regally on a special toddler board which is attached to the foot of the pram, demanding that I sing Horsey Horsey en route. I like to think I’m fairly fit but by the time we get there, I’m virtually hoarse and my upper arm muscles feel as though they’ve been practising for the next Olympics.
Rose starts to trot in happily but then her face crumples. “Where’s Rabbit?” she suddenly says plaintively.
My heart sinks. Out of all the things, I had to remember to bring to nursery (apart from Rose herself), I’d forgotten this floppy-eared “comfort” toy who’d been with her since her early days in intensive care. “Can you manage without it?” I beg, thinking how we’re going to be late for the baby Bounce & Rhyme session at the library which George loves so much.
“No,” she howls.
Then I have a sudden memory – going back sixty odd years – of when I was in hospital having my tonsils out and a nurse took away my teddy because I wouldn’t eat a sloppy bowl of mince. (A contributing factor towards why I then went veggie in later life.) “Of course I’ll go back and get it,” I reassure her.
So George and I run down the hill in the pram only to find that we can’t see Rabbit anywhere. I text my daughter who is luckily on a break. “Try the chest of drawers in her room,” comes back the reply. “She’s started tidying everything away.”
Yes! There it is.
You want me to pick up a toy rabbit and deliver it to nursery school?
But we’re going to be late for George’s social date. The one thing I remember from second children is that they don’t have a parent’s undivided attention. So I ring my husband.
“You want me to pick up a toy rabbit and deliver it to nursery school?” he repeats. “But I’m doing the crossword. Why can’t she find something else to cuddle?”
“This is an emergency,” I retort tersely. Why can’t he understand? “See you at lunchtime.”
He signs off with mutterings of ‘I thought I was having a quiet day’ but when George and I go round after Bounce and Rhyme for a catch-up bowl of home-made tomato soup, we find him with a big smile on his face. “Rose gave me a hug when I handed over Rabbit,” he tells me with a soft smile on his face. “Maybe there’s something to this comfort toy stuff after all.”
I think he’s beginning to get this grandparent business. But something also tells me that we both have a long way to go…