I have a confession to make. I’m not sure I’m up to my job. In fact, I don’t know how my daughter and son-in-law do it. I’m not even sure how I did it all those years ago when I brought up three children.
Don’t get me wrong. I love doing it. It’s just that I’ve had a bit of a difficult week. For a start, my fractured elbow isn’t healing as fast as I hoped and every time I pick up little George, I get a pang.
But then yesterday, something happened which made the elbow seem like child’s play. “Rose had a bit of a loose tummy in the night,” my daughter during our brief crossover when I arrived on her doorstep at 7.15am just as she and her husband were setting off for work. “But I think she’s all right now.”
Famous last words!
Within five minutes of her mother’s exit, Rose announced, in a rather desperate tone, that she needed the potty. Help! Where was it? With two children, a mountain of toys and baby equipment – including a pram which takes up the entire hallway and a playpen which dwarfs the kitchen – it’s not always easy to find things even when they’re bright pink like this one. But there it is, hiding by the cat flap. Smirking.
Quickly, I whip it out – not a moment too soon. Oh dear. It looks like Rose’s tummy is definitely upset. However, she seems very happy and I don’t think she has a temperature except that I can’t find the thermometer.
It’s either in the kitchen or bathroom or our bedroom, texts my daughter when I What’s App for directions. But I can’t find it so I contact my childless husband – currently in the midst of a steep learning curve – and talk him through the location of our spare state-of-the-art digital spare.
Her temperature is normal. Great. So maybe I can send her to nursery after all. “Potty please,” she calls out a second time. My heart sinks. Much as I adore Rose, it’s definitely easier looking after one child rather than two during my granny days. And besides, it means she’ll miss ballet at the end of the day which she loves. We’ve been practising getting those pointed toes all week.
“You can’t let her go in,” says one of my new granny friends when I ring for advice. “You’ll be put on the naughty step and none of the mums will talk to you. Nowadays they have to be bug-free for at least 48 hours. There’s a gastro virus doing the rounds.”
Oh oh. My mind goes back twenty three years when I sent the youngest to nursery after being sick in the night because a) he seemed better and b) I had his sister’s nativity play to go to. But as soon as I took my seat, nursery rang to say my son had been sick. “I told them I was ill last night,” he declared. That was the end of my reputation. I daren’t make the same mistake twice.
But what am I going to do with them all day? Both children are going wild, desperate to get out. “I want to go to school,” wails my granddaughter.
“Never mind,” I say brightly. “Let’s go down to the sea instead.”
“Can we go swimming?” she asks hopefully.
At this time of the year? “It’s too cold, poppet.”
Her face creases into threatened tears. “Please!”
“Let’s see,” I say weakly in a bid to keep the peace.
It’s like steering a juggernaut through our narrow lanes
So off we set together with giant pink potty at the bottom of the double buggy. It’s like steering a juggernaut especially with our narrow lanes. Luckily my elbow seems to be holding up which is more than can be said for Rose’s tummy. We have to make quite a few emergency stops en route which makes me wonder if a walk was such a good idea after all.
Luckily, Rose doesn’t fancy swimming after all (just as well as the waves are ten foot high) but then she catches sight of her mother’s favourite coffee shop. “Hot chocolate,” she calls out. “Please!”
I’m not sure this is the right recipe for poorly tummies so I distract her with the toy shop. I seem to spend more money during my granny days than any other time! But what she really wants to do is run. So does George, who’s gathering speed daily. But how can I manage both while carrying the potty with my dodgy elbow?
Help, I text my husband. To his credit, he meets us in the park and Rose has a great time, kicking leaves and playing with our dog. Then he takes us back to the children’s house. “It’s so much easier with two of us,” I plead. “Can’t you stay all day?”
“Sorry,” he declares. “I’ve got things to do.” Roughly translated, this means listening to unlistenable music in the man cave. Meanwhile, I’ve got another six hours to go until clocking off…
So we get out the glue and glitter. All goes well until I realise the glitter lid is missing. Could George have swallowed it? I’m seized with panic. Frantically I search the kitchen floor. I find his missing sock, the remnants of breakfast, an upturned cat bowl, but no glitter lid.
Then Rose’s little triumphant voice rises into the air. “Got it!”
It was in the arts and crafts box all the time. Sometimes, I think my granddaughter is savvier than I am. (When I get confused about which baby seat belt goes where in the car, she always tells me.)
But gluing can only take up so many hours and the children are bored. So what now? My ideas for “how to keep them happy on a sick day” are running out. We try building blocks (George) and puzzles (Rose) but George prefers the latter. His sister howls with fury when he destroys her handiwork so we switch on Paw Patrol. Peace at last until George grabs the remote and the screen goes black. I can’t decipher the telly handsets so everyone starts crying. Including me.
Then the key turns in the lock. My son-in-law is back early. “I thought you might need some extra help,” he says. Thank you! Thank you! Miraculously peace is restored. Rose does what she is asked. George stops demolishing his sister’s artistic creations. I help out with bathtime. Rose’s tummy seems to have settled.
“How was your day?” asks my daughter when we meet up for yoga that evening.
“Fine,” I reply, crossing my fingers along with my ankles.
“Sure you’re still all right to have them this weekend?”
I think back to last January when she’d asked if I would babysit for a wedding. At the time, November seemed a long way off.
“Of course,” I say. My daughter and son-in-law need a break. But how am I going to cope for two days and two nights?
I’ll let you know next week!