When I was bringing up my three children, I sometimes worried about what would happen to them if I got ill or injured or worse. My then-husband had a demanding job with long hours. Who would step in? My mother had died young and my friends had their hands full with their own children.
But as my brood grew up and left home, I forgot these worries. Until, that is, I became a carer for my two small grandchildren, two days a week.
“What if you can’t do it one day?” asked a well-meaning acquaintance. “We’ll manage,” I said airily.
And then it happened.
I was cycling home from “granny duty” when one of the shoelaces from my new “cool” trainers suddenly got caught up in the front wheel of my bike. The whole thing suddenly seized up, sending me crashing to the ground with a horrible pain in my left arm. Three hours later, in A & E, I learned that I had fractured something called the radial head in my elbow. Ouch!
Luckily, they couldn’t plaster it because of the position but I was given a sling and told to let it mend on its own – a process which will take three to six weeks.
“Try to take it easy,” said the doctor. But I had little George (just one) and Rose (almost three) the next day!
On the odd occasion when I’ve had to swap days for work events – I’m a full-time novelist – my daughter has managed to change her hours. But by the time I left hospital at 10pm, it was too late to arrange this for the following day.
“You’ll have to help me,” I said to my husband. I should explain here, if you haven’t been reading these columns before, that S isn’t the father of my children and was a childless bachelor until we married in our fifties. But he is an adoring grandad when it comes to playing silly games, just so long as they don’t touch his CD collection. He also leaves the room hastily if I change a nappy in his presence.
Shall I come round after lunch?
“All right,” he said warily. “Shall I come round after lunch?”
Was he joking?
“You know I start at 7.15,” I reminded him. “I must have someone there because I can’t pick George up with my left arm. And if Rose runs off, I don’t know if I’ll be able to catch her.”
I should point out here that S is retired and that one of his enjoyments is a long leisurely breakfast. So the early start didn’t go down well. However, the excited cries of “Grandad” from Rose and enthusiastic gurgles from little George when we walked through the door, instantly boosted his ego. Within seconds I felt as if I had three children to look after.
“Please,” I said flapping my sling to attract their attention. Ouch again! “No more horsey games. We’ve got to give them breakfast, get them dressed and then drive Rose to nursery.”
The last challenge was the most complicated, mainly due to the fiendish pushchair in the boot which has a complex assembly system designed to fox anyone born before 1960. Then it was off to the Bounce and Rhyme session at the library with George, but by the time we got there, S was visibly wilting.
“How much longer?” he pleaded. His question reminded me of the times when my own children used to ask the same question during a car journey!
By lunchtime, I released S from grandfatherly duties as George was having his afternoon nap. Naturally, I was still nervous in case he woke and I had to pick him up. Luckily, my eldest son is home for a bit so he came round to lend a hand and do the nursery collection.
“Uncle Will!” yelled Rose with delight. I couldn’t help feeling a bit neglected. She was clearly far more thrilled to see him (just as she had been to see S earlier) than me!
Chill out, Mum. Kids just want to have fun…
But my son was much keener on playing riotous games in the sitting room than having the nice quiet time we usually do just before tea.
“Chill out, Mum,” he kept telling me. “Kids just want to have fun. Besides, you’re always telling me it’s time to settle down and have a family of my own. This is good practice. Whoops! Watch out for the ball.”
Somehow we got through the day but it’s made me wonder. My injury is painful but it isn’t that serious. How do parents manage with a broken leg or worse? Meanwhile, I’ve got at least three weeks before I’m an up-and-running granny again.
Watch this space!