“Mum,” says my daughter. “Do you mind taking George for his one year jabs? It’s one of my working days and they can’t change the appointment.”
Oh dear. I used to dread it when my own children had their routine baby injections. One of mine was born during the height of the MMR debate and I must admit that I agonised about whether I should give it to him or not. In the end I did – and all was fine.
But now it’s time for me for me to go through all this again. “Can you come too?” I ask my retired (childless) husband.
He makes a face. “Really? I’m not that keen on injections myself.”
“But I might need a spare pair of hands,” I say.
In the end, we compromise…
He drives us there (my fractured elbow still isn’t quite right) and stays in the waiting room, minding the baby bag while George and I go into the nurse’s surgery. It’s not difficult to see who’s drawn the short straw…
Nothing is ever the same as it was in my day as a young mum. And jabs it seems are no exception. The nurse explains to me that they now give several injections together instead of spanning them out. Then she produces the biggest needle I have ever seen. George takes one look at my face and bursts into tears. “It’s fine,” I lie.
At the same time, my eye falls on one of those Why you should have your baby innoculated posters on the wall and I realise that it really is fine because we’re lucky to have the means to protect our children. I have a much-loved cousin of my age who grew up in Malaysia. When his mother took him to the polio clinic back in the 1950s, they’d just run out of the vaccine. They were told to come back but by that time, he’d contracted polio and has had to live with a stick ever since.
Did everything go all right? texts my daughter as we return to the waiting room. My heart goes out to her. Of course she wants to be here herself. It can’t be easy. Not for the first time, I remind myself how lucky I was to freelance from home when mine were growing up.
All fine, I text back, handing over a yelling puce-faced George to his step-grandfather. And it is. Yes, he had a slight temperature that night but by the morning he was his usual self. Phew! One more granny hurdle over and done with.
Purple and pink delight
Meanwhile, little Rose is in a state of high excitement. Her birthday is just three weeks before Christmas so she is convinced that all the lights in our seaside town (recently switched on!) are for her benefit. She’s also mesmerised by the relentless toy advertisements on television. But when we ask her what she’d like for a present, her reply is always the same. “Purple and pink.”
“Purple and pink what?” we ask.
It doesn’t seem to matter. The point is that these are her favourite colours. And, with her unique toddler logic, no one else is allowed to have them. When I tell her that I’m rather partial to purple too, I am firmly put in my place. “No, Gan Gan. You like brown.”
No way! I was put off this particular shade for life after wearing a brown school uniform for eleven years! According to Rose-logic, no one else is allowed to have a Christmas birthday. My eldest son (her uncle) will be celebrating his 35th shortly but when we point this out, she imperiously announces, “No. Just me.”
“She’ll make a great politician,” declares my husband.
Meanwhile, my daughter is busy getting ready for Rose’s party. In our day (here I go again), we had modest affairs with pass the parcel and oranges & lemons. “We can’t do that,” says my daughter shocked. “Everyone has entertainers.”
She spends ages ringing around and getting costs. It turns out that they are either booked up or too expensive. “What am I going to do?” she asks.
“How about fancy dress?” I say.
She has her thinking face on which is always dangerous. “Mmm. I suppose we could have a Ben and Holly theme.”
“Who are Ben and Holly?” asks my bemused husband.
“You know,” I remind him. “Those cartoon characters on television that keep the children quiet.”
The following day, when he comes over to help me out with the grandchildren, we play it for him. “Great idea,” he says. “Can I be the King?”
“Silly grandad,” says Rose. “You’re too big.”
Then her eye falls on her wand. “I could magic you! Just like the nurse magicked George with injections.”
I get a big lump in my throat. And I can tell from my husband’s face that he feels the same.
The party goes down a storm. We give Rose a purple kite. I do not wear a brown dress. Everyone gets into the spirit of the fancy dress and my husband sports a gold paper crown. My daughter has tracked down a children’s DJ who plays old-fashioned games. The guests think it’s “cool” – and so do the parents.
“Thanks, Mum,” says my daughter afterwards, flushed with hostess success.
“I’m glad you liked my fancy dress suggestion,” I say, scooping up soggy marshmallows from the village hall floor.
“What?” she retorts. “That was my idea!”
I don’t argue back. Sometimes, in the spirit of family peace, a granny has to hold her tongue…