I’ve decided we are all too serious. Well, at least I am. I’ve become so worried about making sure that the children are safe when I hand them back at the end of the day, that I’ve forgotten how to have fun with them.
So when I arrive on my next granny day at 7.15am (on the dot so the “children” aren’t late for work), I put a hand round the door. I’ve got a sock on it with jazzy pattern. Then I make a snapping gesture. With my index finger and thumb. “Look,” I say in a silly voice. “I’m a crocodile!”
George instantly bursts into tears. Rose ignores me because she’s watching Peter Rabbit on the television and my daughter is rushing around, trying to get everything ready for the day. “Can’t you do that later, Mum? It would be great if you could put on the washing machine. Oh and Rose’s ballet shoes have arrived in the post but they need the elastic sewn on.”
Now sewing really isn’t my idea of having a good time. I did Latin instead of domestic science at school and it shows. I can read ancient gravestones but even loose buttons are a challenge.
Nevertheless, I carry on trying to introduce a note of levity into our day. “Shall we do some disco dancing?” I say to Rose when her parents have gone and we have a whole hour before going to nursery.
They’re usually very good at being cuddled, but not today…
She says nothing, still engrossed in Peter Rabbit. So I switch off the box – amidst howls of protest – and ask Alexa to play nursery music. George loves it! But then one of the cats comes in. There are two of them and usually they’re very good at being cuddled. Not today.
“Aaagh,” he yells. My heart almost stops. There is blood running down his face. Thank heavens, the cat didn’t get his right eye but there’s a smattering of puncture marks around it.
Now what do I do? Hadn’t there been a story in the paper the other month about a child who was seriously ill after being scratched by a cat? So I ring the doctor. But the practice is in “staff training” and there’s a message telling me to call out of hours. I have to hold on for nearly ten minutes and am then told that someone will ring me back.
Meanwhile, I take Rose to nursery with George in my arms. He’s quite happy but his face is drawing attention from parents and staff. There are several “What happened?” questions. I feel as though I’m guilty of neglect even though I was right next to him when the spat took place.
George and I then head to our new toddler music and prance session. I really get into the spirit there along with several other grans. The kids enjoy it too. When we get home, my grandson is still full of beans. So much so that he decides to stand on the push-along car (which my husband bought him last Christmas) with his hands in the air like a circus acrobat. “No,” I say. “Don’t.” This makes him laugh even more.
“Are we insured for child liability?” asks my husband who’s popped in to see how we are doing. I don’t think he’s joking.
The next day is one of my non-working granny days. But my daughter has a doctor’s appointment first thing and I can remember all too well what that’s like with two small children in tow. No fun at all! So I offer to go round. It’s easier than having them in our house which is old and hard to make child-proof.
“Don’t let them watch television,” instructs my daughter firmly.
“I wasn’t going to,” I protest, crossing my fingers. “I thought we’d do some painting instead.”
“Please make sure you put the cover on the kitchen table.”
All goes well at first
We do as instructed. All goes well for all of fifteen and a half minutes. We make five cards as late thank-you notes for Christmas presents. Then Rose demands extra yellow poster paint even though she’s got more than enough to paint the walls. George gets bored and start to nibble the potato I’ve given him to do prints. In my attempt to get the bits out of his mouth, I spill yellow paint on his highchair tray and can’t scrub it off. “Want to watch television,” declares Rose, getting down.
“We can’t,” I try to reason. “Your mother would kill me.”
She bursts in tears. “Tel-er-vision.”
Distraction is clearly needed. So we play hide and seek with Shaun the sheep (my granddaughter is much better at this than me) and try to stop George from climbing on to the window seat and peering through the shutters. “Don’t,” I say feebly. “That’s dangerous.” Suddenly all this play stuff is becoming rather like hard work.
I could take the children out for a walk in the double buggy with the rain cover over them but is it worth it? My daughter will be home soon.
Here she is!
“Did you have fun?” she asks.
“Yes!” Rose is jumping up and down with excitement at seeing Mummy. “George ate a yellow potato and Gan Gan painted the highchair.’’
“Sorry about that,” I say, waiting to be told off.
But my daughter gives me a hug. “It doesn’t matter. Just so long as you had a good time.”
We did. But now I’m going to have to lie down for an hour to get over it…