It’s the day before Valentine’s Day! (I write my columns a week ahead to fit in with publication deadlines.) And love is in the air. In fact, it starts at church playgroup when George and I make a paper heart studded with scrunched up tissue roses. Actually the vicar’s wife has already cut out the shapes and George is too busy trying to wriggle off the toddler chair to get on the slide. So I do quite a lot of the rose gluing for him. But it doesn’t matter!
As I said to one of my granny friends, it’s evidence that we’ve attained our “aims and objectives” in playgroup today. I even manage to guide his little hand to write, To Mummy and Daddy, Love George. Then I put the date on the back because it will go into the “Keep Safe” folder which, like many mums, my daughter is compiling. I’ve got a whole cupboard’s worth of things she made as a child and my second husband is always asking if we really need it. Yes we do. It’s something to look back on in years ahead.
Meanwhile, little Rose has been busy at nursery making a Valentine’s card for her parents with a big chocolate in shiny-red wrapping in the middle. “Look!” she beams when I collect her. “Can I eat it now?”
“I think it’s for Mummy and Daddy,” I say.
Her face crumples. “No. I want it.”
Oh, oh. We haven’t even got out of the gates yet and I have a toddler tantrum on my hands. Then I remember. Valentine’s Day is meant to celebrate love. Not to mention peace. And of course compromise. So in the interest of the latter, I distract my granddaughter with a piece of my emergency cheese – she loves a snack on the way back – and then hide the chocolate card behind the piano lid for when the “children” come home.
“Very devious,” says my second husband approvingly when I get back to our place. It’s nearly 7pm and after dinner, I zip up to my study to catch up with work emails. By the time I come down, I’m ready for bed. Like many of my granny friends, I need to be up at 6.20am. In fact, I often meet one of my mates on the way and we exchange cheery waves across the street!
“As you’ve got an early start, I thought we’d open our cards tonight,” says my husband. To be honest, I’m so exhausted, I’d rather leave it. But I don’t want to hurt him. He pretends to be pleased when I give him a jumper which is identical to one I gave him two years ago. (Whoops! I’d forgotten.) And he gives me a book, some lavender smellies (my favourite) and a voucher for a long weekend away next month. I am bowled over…
Uncle Wow offers to help
“Would you like a hand with nursery pick up?” asks my eldest son on Valentine’s Day itself. He’s at home briefly before going off to work abroad. The children love their uncles because they play silly games. This one is known as Uncle Wow because he’s such fun and makes them go “wow!”
“Please don’t do that,” I say when eldest son tips back the double buggy so the children squeal with delight. “I don’t think it’s safe.”
“Of course it is Mum! Besides, it’s inflight entertainment!”
“More, more, Uncle Wow,” demands Rose thumping her little fists on the side of the buggy.
But I put my foot down and ban it which leads to tears. Sometimes you just have to be unpopular in order to keep them in one piece. When we get home, George produces a nappy which (don’t read this if you’re squeamish) is a mini-version of a brown Niagara Falls. Even worse, I discover this when he’s on his sister’s cream bedroom carpet. “Quick!” I call out to my son. “Find the changing mat!”
“What does it look like?” he yells back.
George is like a slippery fish
I can’t explain. I’m too busy trying to keep George still (he’s wriggling like a slippery fish) and saving the carpet. I need four hands for this! Somehow I manage to clean him up although there are one or two dubious stains in the room. I’m hoping my daughter won’t notice. By now I’m feeling so stressed that I almost want to burst into tears. But then George give me one of his lovely wonky smiles and it’s all worthwhile.
Meanwhile, I am babysitting tonight. “On Valentine’s Day?” questions a friend whose own children haven’t “produced” yet. “Don’t you want to go out with your husband?”
Actually, we’re having lunch out the day after instead. I don’t like going out in the dark and besides, it’s important for my daughter and son-in-law to have some time together as well.
My husband comes with me for company and we just about manage to work their state of their art television to catch up with Shetland. But I’m only half-watching it because my neck is swivelling between both baby screens. George is decidedly restless and keeps moving right up against the bars of the cot. And at one point I can’t even see Rose so have to tiptoe up and check. (She’d emigrated to the other end of the bed out of screen vision.)
“Are they OK?” asks my wonderful childless husband when I tiptoe down. I love the fact that he cares too. It’s all part of this extraordinary tapestry of love. Parent love. Uncle love. Cousin love. Sibling love. Grandchildren love. I wouldn’t be without it for the world. There’s nothing like the slobbery kiss that George plants on my cheek or the hug that I get from Rose when I collect her from nursery.
So Happy Valentine’s Day to you all. It doesn’t matter that it’s a week old by the time you’re reading it. Because true family love goes on for ever.