Two pairs of hands are better than one!
I’ve decided it’s time that my husband (who doesn’t have children) plays a more active role in looking after Rose and George.
Don’t get me wrong. He’s very good at bouncing them on his knee and helping out with pre-school jigsaws. But he’s not in charge for eleven hours a day like I am. Nor does he get involved with the discipline side (“Yes, Rose – you do have to hold my hand when we’re crossing the road”). All of this means he’s the Good Guy who can do no wrong.
So I suggest that he comes with us for a whole day out to the local farm adventure centre.
“Really?” he says, looking up from his favourite chair where he’s listening to a band from the 70s whose name I’m not familiar with. “I thought I’d re-order my music collection.”
I’d been expecting something like this so I have my answer ready. “But Dennis helps his wife with the grandchildren,” I say, naming one of his friends. “He’s with them all day.”
Then I play my trump card. “Besides,” I add, “there’s a steam train to ride on. And adults can go on it too!”
What are we waiting for?
“Great,” he says, jumping up and flinging on his jacket. “What are we waiting for?”
Little Rose (traitor!) is ecstatic at having grandad as company. She takes him straight to the gift shop where he promptly caves in. “Giant chocolate buttons? Of course!”
“Not before lunch,” I say firmly.
“Spoilsport,” says my husband who has an eye on the chocolate himself.
“Listen,” I hiss. “If you’re going to help, you have to support me. We need to be a team.”
“Man U or Newcastle United?” he jokes.
I give up. Just then there’s the sound of a whistle. The train is about to leave and the next one isn’t for two hours. But we haven’t fed the children. According to the instructions my daughter has left (they run to three and a half pages), both Rose and George have to fed at precisely 12 midday. Otherwise they get “hangry” – a mixture of hungry and upset. In fact, they’re getting like that right now.
So we buy some sandwiches from the shop and head for the train. “Oh no,” I say.
“George has fallen asleep.”
“Fantastic,” says my husband. “We’ll get some peace and quiet.”
I sigh. This learning to look after the children from scratch business isn’t easy to explain. “It means that he’ll get upset when we get him out of the pushchair and into the train.”
“Can’t we leave him asleep on the platform until we’re back?”
He sees my face. “I’m just joking. Seriously, we’ll just lift the pushchair into the train.”
I’ve tried that before on my own and there isn’t enough width. The train isn’t a miniature design but it’s not full-size either.
Husband flexes his muscles .”But you’ve got me to help!”
There… job done!
There’s no stopping him. Rose and I watch, heart in our mouths as he lifts a sleeping George, still strapped in, over the train half-door. “There,” he says, placing his step-grandson down safely with all the aplomb of a pilot who’s achieved a perfect smooth landing. “Job done.”
“I want a lift too,” demands Rose, jumping up and down.
I wait with interest to see how my husband will handle a touch of sibling rivalry.
“Ah, but you’re a big girl and you don’t need a pushchair. Besides, we’re off! Look – the train is moving.”
It is too. My heart melts as I watch him pointing out the ducks in the passing lake and the different trees. Rose listens attentively in a way she doesn’t always do with me. I’m beginning to feel a bit jealous myself…
After the train ride, he continues to prove his worth by looking after George for me (now wide awake) while I take Rose to the loo. It’s so much easier when there are two pairs of hands!
“That was brilliant,” I say as we drive home. “Do you think you could help out tomorrow?”
You know what the doctor said about resting my back… in fact, I can feel a distinct twinge
“Sorry,” he says. “I’m exhausted. Anyway, you know what the doctor said about resting my back. If fact, I can feel a distinct twinge after lifting that pushchair into the train.”
So Rose, George and I go back to their place for tea and bathtime. George is over-tired. The only thing that seems to calm him down is allowing him to beat the rubbish bin with a wooden spoon. But then he decided to investigate the contents while my back is turned for all of five seconds (big mistake) and there are broken egg shells all over the kitchen floor.
Rose refuses to sit in her highchair and wants a “big girl’s” chair instead. But she won’t sit still and keeps getting up and down, demanding to watch cartoons on television instead. My mobile pings to say that my daughter is going to be late because she has a meeting and then I receive a similar message from my son-in-law. Bang goes my yoga class.
“I want grandad,” says Rose plaintively.
Then there’s a knock on the door. He’s come to help after all! But no. It’s the Amazon man with this week’s delivery of nappies.
“I don’t suppose you’d like to stay to help out with teatime?” I say.
I’m only joking. But he can’t get out fast enough. Maybe the grandchildren – wonderful as they are – have addled my brain. As the office saying goes, you don’t have to be mad to work here. But it helps!