It’s so lovely to be back with my grandchildren after a whole week without them. When I arrive for my “working day” at 7am, they both fly into my arms, giving me big sloppy kisses. It more than makes up for the fact that I’d only returned from Spain five hours earlier and am still rather bleary eyed!
“Gan Gan,” squeals Rose. “We made you this. Look!” She presses a painting of a purple triangle (for a dress) and a yellow blob (my hair) into my hands. “It’s you!”
“She did it all by herself,” says my daughter, as she grabs her coat. “We missed you. See you tonight. By the way, is there any chance you can come with me to the dentist tomorrow? They’ve both got to have their first check up.”
I should say here that Rose should have had hers a year ago. But she refused to open her mouth. Honestly. We all tried to make her see sense but my granddaughter kept her jaws firmly clenched while shaking her head in a determined fashion. So we were advised to wait a bit until she was ready.
But will it be any different this time?
“You can have an ice cream if you’re a good girl,” I whisper on the way.
“Mum!” says my daughter, shocked. “You can’t say things like that. You’re meant to set an example.”
Oh dear. Still, as my much-missed, rather eccentric grandmother used to say, the whole fun of being a granny is that you can open up their minds to all the possibilities in life.
When we arrive, the surgery is packed with older patients, all looking rather apprehensive. “Can we go home now,” says Rose, sensing tension.
“Not yet,” says my daughter. “The dentist needs to put a stick in your mouth to check that your teeth are growing in the right way.”
I have to say that, along with many of the other young parents I’ve been observing in playgroup, my daughter and son-in-law are absolutely brilliant at reasoning with their children. In my day, we just told them they had to do something and that was it.
Rose frowns. “Will it hurt?”
The other patients begin to shuffle nervously.
“Of course not,” says my daughter brightly.
“It might later on in life,” mutters an elderly gentleman on the chair next to us.
Luckily Rose doesn’t seem to have heard as we are being summoned up the stairs. I scoop George out of his pushchair and follow.
What a difference a year makes!
Rose is entranced by the dental chair and clambers into it without any need for coercion. She opens her mouth obediently and the dentist – who is brilliant – does a quick “look and see” and declares her nashers to be in tip-top condition.
George however, who now wants to do everything that his sister does, is squirming in my arms, desperate to get into the chair too. In his enthusiasm, he knocks over the cup of antiseptic, attempts to reassemble the machine and then grabs the wooden stick out of the dentist’s hand.
Oh dear, he’s bitten her…
Still at least it was after she’d had time to see that everything is growing in the right place.
My daughter and I stagger down the stairs feeling as though we’ve each had a root canal treatment.
“Can I have my ice cream now?” trills Rose as we pass the reception desk. “Yes,” says my daughter, forgetting her earlier concerns. We’re at the stage where we’ll do anything to keep the peace.
“Sounds like it’s the adults who needed a pain injection,” jokes my husband when we get back. Too true. A bit of fun is now needed. So Rose and I go swimming at the local pool. It takes a while to tog her up in her costume but just as we get into the footbath, one of the young mums touches me on the shoulder. “Er,” she says blushing, “I think you’ve forgotten something.”
Whoops! I’d put on my own costume earlier that day to save time and then slipped my undies on over it. I’d forgotten to take off the latter!
Rose thinks it’s very funny…
“Silly Gan Gan.” But I’m a little worried. I do hope I’m not losing my memory…
“Nonsense,” says my husband when I tell him. “You’ve just got a lot to do, that’s all.”
He’s right. Like many grannies, I work as well. And although I’m lucky to be a self-employed writer, there are always deadlines and texts and emails to juggle. But I try to ignore these while I’m looking after Rose and George. As my long-deceased mother once said to me, “the trick with children is to pretend that you have all the time in the world – even if you don’t. It helps you feel calmer”.
So the following day, after collecting Rose from nursery, we have a chill-out session in front of the television before tea. I’d got the latter all ready and George was playing nicely with a puzzle by my feet. We are a picture of contentment. Then suddenly Rose gets bored with her programme and begins leaping on and off the sofa onto some cushions on the floor. “Don’t do that,” I say. “You might hurt yourself.”
“No,” she retorts. “I want to.”
I attempt to reason like my daughter but she ignores me. I try to pick her up but she squirms out of my arms. Then she takes another jump, lands on one of the cushions and opens her mouth to scream. Except that no noise comes out. “Rose,” I shout. “Are you all right?”
Even though I am a novelist, I cannot find the words to describe the panic inside me. All my first aid knowledge flies out of the window. I suddenly remember that she did this a year earlier after colliding with a door handle. My husband had blown onto her face then so I do the same. She starts to yell. I’m so relieved that I begin to cry myself. Within minutes Rose has stopped crying and is back to running around as normal. When I get her checked out, the doctor says she is fine but to keep an eye on her.
It’s one more reminder that being a granny is the most wonderful – and terrifying – job in the world.