We’re taking Rose to see the New Year amateur dramatic panto.
“Oh no, we’re not!” trills my husband, clearly chuffed by his own hilarity.
He’s made this joke so many times that I can’t be bothered to retort with the expected “Oh yes we are.”
Besides, I’m too busy looking for the tickets which I know I put somewhere safe back in October when I booked the seats. And now I can’t find them.
Instead, I come across all kinds of other things such as a spare passport picture from my daughter’s teenage years back in the millennium which makes me feel all nostalgic. To think she is a mummy now…
Ah, here they are. Oh dear. I appear to have only three tickets instead of four. We’d already been advised by the booking manager not to bring little George because it’s not suitable for his age. So instead, my son-in-law had offered to have him while my daughter, her step-father and I took Rose.
“So I don’t need to come after all?” declares my husband now.
He’s pretending to sound excited about having an afternoon of “p and q” after the turbulence of Christmas but I know he’s disappointed deep down. Part of him is really excited about Treasure Island. In fact, he’s been practising his “Hey ho, my hearties,” for weeks.
“No,” I say firmly. “You and I will take her. It will give us some grandparent time.”
“But we already have that twice a week.”
This is different. For a start, I’m in charge then (although my husband does help out with the nursery run). And secondly, this is fun! I won’t have to worry about the boring stuff like getting them dressed and fed. I just have to make sure we’re there before the curtain is up – and whether she’ll sit through a whole two and a half hour performance.
I get a rush of love watching them
Rose’s eyes are agog as she sits between us in the theatre. Whoops! She’s so light that the seat has flown backwards with her still inside. I put her on my knee but there’s a tall man in front so I transfer her to my husband. The two of them are mesmerized as a couple of pirates flounce onto the stage. Not for the first time, I get a rush of love as I watch my husband – who has never had children himself – see what it’s like in parent land.
Amazingly, Rose’s concentration doesn’t waver, which is down to the skill of the actors and the script although she does keep calling out “Where’s the parrot?” every time it goes missing. She and I polish off chocolate ice creams during the interval (my husband declines on the grounds that he’s over-dosed on mince pies). But the best bit happens at the end.
“Who’d like to come up on stage?” asks the chief lady pirate who happens to share the same name as my granddaughter.
No need to ask twice. Rose is off down the aisle, climbing up the side steps onto the platform. I follow suit, crouching down nearby in case she gets stage fright. She’s the smallest there but is clearly loving every minute – especially when they all get sweets at the end.
“Did you have a good time?” asks my daughter when we get back to their place.
“Brilliant,” says my husband beaming. “Can’t wait to go again next year.”
Meanwhile, I am babysitting that very evening while Rose and George’s parents go to a pre-New Year evening wedding reception.
“What time would you like us back?” asks my daughter.
I’m pretty tired after the panto but I don’t want to spoil their fun. It’s not often they get couple time. “Midnight?” I suggest, hoping I can stay awake that long.
Her face falls. “Would 1.30 be all right?”
We settle for Ipm.
My husband pops round during the evening with supper but is clearly itching to go home and watch Match of the Day on his own. So I grant him home leave and snuggle up on the sofa in my sleeping bag with my eye on both baby screens. When I became a granny, one of the many revelations was that monitors are all-singing, dancing contraptions which not only give a picture of the occupants upstairs but also show the temperature of the room.
Oh oh, someone’s awake…
It’s Rose. In fact, it sounds as though she’s talking to someone. “Where’s the parrot?” she calls out.
I nip up before she can wake her brother and give her a cuddle. “It’s all right,” I soothe. “The parrot is having a lovely time on the island.”
But no sooner does she go back to sleep than George wakes. I swear they’ve arranged to do this in tandem! I’m under firm instructions not to lift him out of the cot but to gently stroke his back without saying anything. “We’re trying to wean him off his nightly feed, Mum.”
Blow that. I give him an extra bottle of milk which he devours and then promptly goes back to sleep.
My daughter and son-in-law return flushed with the joy of having had time off. “It was lovely,” they say. “Thank you.”
I silently vow to do this more often. When I was a young mum, we didn’t have any help so I’m determined to be there for them.
“What time is it?” murmurs my husband as I slide into bed next to him after getting home.
“Shhh,” I say. “Go back to sleep.” I’m almost tempted to give him a bottle…
In the morning, my daughter sends a What’s App to say that George slept through the night. “You have a magic touch, Mum!”
It’s no good. I have to come clean. So I tell her about the milk. “Maybe he still needs that nightly feed,” she muses. Yes! It’s not often that Granny is right.
On New Year’s Eve, my husband and I have a quiet night in with a nice meal, a film and the dog on our knees. But then a What’s App pops up. The children? No.
Since looking after Rose and George, I’ve made numerous granny friends. In fact, I didn’t know that our seaside town was so full of “empty nesters” like me who suddenly find themselves in demand again!
This message is from a friend who’s about to join our “club”. Her daughter-in-law is due to have her baby today. “No news yet,” it says. “Looks like it will be a 2019 baby now.”
My heart goes out to her. I remember all too well how it feels to be a granny in waiting. You’re not only anxious about the baby but also about your own children and their partners.
So I say a little prayer. Then, as the clock chimes midnight, I count our blessings. How lucky I am to be a gran! As my darling mother used to say, you never know what lies ahead. But as long as you have love, it’s all right.