“Make sure you enjoy those children of yours!”
How many times did well-meaning older mothers say that to me when I was bringing up my three? But to be honest, I was too busy learning the parenting ropes to actually relax.
As a new mum, it all seemed extremely daunting with all those do’s and don’ts of bringing up little ones.
Ironically, I’d been features editor on a childcare magazine before having children. I knew the theory but none of the practice. Even so, I was convinced I knew more than my mother. Indeed, to my shame, I remember refusing to follow her advice and give my two-year-old son tea at 4pm (even though he was peckish) because I thought I ought to stick to the regime of 5 pm.
Tragically, she died a year later.
Maybe it’s because of this loss that my journey through motherhood was more of survival than laughter. But this time round with the grandchildren, I’m determined to relax and inject a bit more humour into the situation.
I have to say that George and Rose were each born with a wicked sense of humour – a bit like their mother who, at the age of two, decided it would be fun to hide behind a sitting room chair. (It took me half an hour to find her, by which time I was a nervous wreck.)
Rose loves hiding too which has scared the wits out of all of us. In fact, the other day while shopping with her mother, she managed to get lost in one of those circular clothes shop rails.
“It was only for a few seconds, Mum, but I was so frightened,” says my daughter.
That was when I reminded her of the chair incident. “I’m sorry,” she says, thirty-one years too late. “I just thought I was playing a joke.”
On a lighter note (sensitive readers might like to turn away here), Rose thinks it’s absolutely hilarious when she passes wind or does a ‘farty pops’ as she calls it. In vain, have we explained it’s not really socially acceptable. I’m just hoping she’ll grow out of it by the time she’s older…
Meanwhile, George roars with laughter when I sneeze. So now, on the few occasions that he’s grumpy, I pretend to go “achoo” and domestic contentment is instantly restored. If only I’d tried that trick when his mother and uncles were small…
In fact, I’m beginning to tune into my grandchildren’s humour. Regular readers will know that I send What’s App messages throughout the day to inform the parents that all is well and give them updates of what we’re doing and where. It reassures them that the “nanny” is doing her job.
But recently I’ve been sending them funny videos such as George dancing to “Baby will you drive my car” and Rose up to her elbows in glue. (I’ve been inspired to get crafty after the My Weekly reader weekend earlier this year when we made cards.)
Remembering childhood memories…
The other day, I remembered something that my father and I used to do when I was small. I would stand on his maroon slippers, facing him while holding his hands. Then he would walk slowly forwards and backwards, taking me with him to the sound of the radio.
I loved this when I was little so I’ve continued the tradition with George and Rose too! “Can we ride on your feet!” pleads my little granddaughter. “Please, Gan Gan!”
Having a sense of humour is a useful tool for sticky moments. Literally. One of the toughest times of the day is when I collect Rose from nursery in the afternoon. We’re all a bit tired and fractious. So I try to bring a special treat.
This week, I bought three ice lollies, hoping that they wouldn’t melt during the 15 minute walk up the hill. (Quite a workout with that buggy!)
But I couldn’t resist starting my own lolly en route. (Strawberry pink, since you ask!) George – never one to miss out when food is involved – started yelling for his too. Then I realised that the remaining lolly was a different colour from his. Oh oh! There’s bound to be trouble. And I’m right!
Rose’s little face caves in when she sees today’s treat. “I want one like George’s!” she sobs.
Oh oh. I need to think quickly on my feet!
“Look,” I say, pasting a big smile on my face to hide my apprehension. “The fairies have made yours yellow to match your dress!”
Now Rose is big on magic. But even so, she frowns suspiciously. “How did they do it?” she demands.
“They wave a magic wand,” I tell her.
Phew! She’s swallowed it. And my excuse too..!
I’m in big trouble!
But the next morning when I turn up for “work”, I’m in big trouble. “Mum,” says my daughter sternly. “The double buggy is really sticky. All over! What did you give them to eat?”
“Just an ice lolly each,” I admit.
“Well please don’t. I don’t know what was in them but the children were absolutely buzzing last night. I couldn’t get them to bed.”
Where is her sense of fun? If you can’t spoil the kids, what’s the point of being a grandparent? (I’m only half joking.)
Meanwhile, it’s off to see my elderly father again. It’s a long train journey and my determination to look on the brighter side of life is sorely tested by a two-hour delay and various unscheduled train changes between London and Sussex.
When I finally get there, my poor father is wracked with his usual pain thanks to that horrid sciatica. I need to cheer him up.
“Do you remember how I used to ride on your feet?” I ask him.
His eyes light up. “I do indeed,” he says, dreamily. “Those were the days, weren’t they?”
I like to think that in years to come, George and Rose will be reminiscing about feet rides, magic lollies and funny phone videos. Because if there’s one thing that’s certain about children, it’s that they help you see the sunny side of life!