I can hardly believe this day has come. Our little granddaughter is starting a new pre-school! To be honest, I didn’t think it was for another two weeks but apparently I’ve got it wrong. (It wouldn’t be the first time.)
But most important, I have the honour (plus responsibility) of delivering Rose to the classroom.
“I’m gutted that I can’t take her myself,” says my daughter. My heart goes out to her. But as a teacher, she can’t take time off.
“She’ll be fine,” I reassure her. “I’ll send lots of pictures. Promise.”
But when it comes to leaving the house, Rose decides she doesn’t want to be photographed. I decide not to push it in case she also declares she doesn’t want to go to school at all. There’s plenty of time for rebellion later on in her education career but right now, I can’t handle it. Not when I’ve got little George to look after as well. So off we go.
It’s a twenty-minute drive. Mindful of my daughter’s plea not to be late (“like you always were for us, Mum”), I am there before anyone else. I’d like to point out that the reason I was sometimes tardy with my own children’s arrival was that one of them invariably lost a shoe or homework before leaving the house. Either that or we had to go back for left-behind sports kit.
“Why can’t we get out now?” demands Rose who is getting fidgety in the car park.
Luckily my mobile goes which distracts her…
It’s my eldest son who is writing and teaching in Spain. “No disrespect, Mum,” he says when I proudly announce we’re early, “But this has to be the first time you’ve got to a school before it’s even opened.”
Aren’t they ever going to forget? Anyone would think that those black marks were all my fault…
Fortunately, a few more mums with pushchairs are arriving now so I join them at the primary school gates which are automatically locked. Goodness, security has changed since my day. A good thing, too.
I’m the only gran in sight. Everyone else is at least thirty or forty years younger than me. Fortunately, I spot some of my daughter’s friends. One takes pity on me and helps me secure George’s pushchair hood which has come adrift. (By now it’s beginning to drizzle.) I clasp Rose’s hand firmly. She’s gone rather quiet. Me too. In fact, I’m not sure who is more apprehensive.
“You’ll love it,” I say, thinking of my own early school career which wasn’t the most favourite time of my life. In those days, girls were allowed to say unkind things to others and get away with it. At least today, it’s cool to be nice.
The gates click open and off we go
Rose makes a beeline for some exciting-looking play equipment outside. “We’d better go into the classroom first,” I say.
To my relief, she agrees. The teachers are wonderful. They welcome us all in and show us where to put the lunchboxes and hang coats. Then the hard part comes. The goodbye.
“Have a lovely time,” I say with a lump in my throat.
“Bye, Gan Gan,” she says, scooting off without a second look back.
“It’s always harder for us,” says another mum kindly as we all walk away together. “You’ll soon get used to it.”
Once more, I’m bowled over by my daughter’s contemporaries who go out of their way to make grans, like me, feel like part of the gang.
George meanwhile is thumping his little fists on the side of his pushchair. I’ve got a feeling that he’s telling me that he wants to stay too. It reminds me of the days when I took my eldest to school and my daughter used to cry because she wanted to join him.
So instead, we head for playgroup. Except that we can’t. Why? Because the seatbelt on his new car seat is playing up. Try as I do, I cannot extend it enough to coax little George’s legs inside. Now what? I can’t drive him home unsecured. I finally manage to just about click the lock into place but it’s so tight that I’m worried I might be jeopardising his manhood. So I head straight for a garage which can’t fix it either. Then I go to another where the mechanic – thank heavens – has a similar design for his toddler.
“I agree it’s fiddly,” he says. “But they have to be so careful nowadays to make sure it’s safe.”
I see that. But surely there’s got to be a balance!
When we finally get to playgroup, I make the mistake of checking my phone for messages. I generally have a rule not to do this on granny days but it isn’t easy when you work for yourself. And, as luck would have it, there’s a call I ought to return.
When my three were little, I might well have done exactly that. But I don’t dare. Not when I’m responsible for a child who isn’t my own. It will have to wait until George’s nap time.
There’s only one problem. George has no intention of having his midday sleep. This completely scuppers my plans as I’d booked a nail appointment at a point in the day when I’d relied on him snoozing in his pushchair next to me. Instead he has a whale of a time rifling through the beauty samples on display and then munching his way through my secret stash of digestive biscuits which I keep in my floral granny backpack exactly for emergencies like this. The young girl doing my nails, looks decidedly broody by the time she finishes.
Goodness. Is that the time!
Once more, I’m determined to arrive early for school pick up to make up for my late record in the past with my own children. This was usually due to the fact that as a freelance journalist, there was always “one more quick phone call” to make. But no more! I’ve learnt my lesson and today George and I are first in line at the gate.
My heart is beating. I do hope Rose had a good time. School is such a big thing. You remember it all your life…
“Gan Gan,” she says, flinging her arms around me when we’re allowed in. “Look at my book bag! Can we read this story when we get home?”
We walk with a spring in our steps back to the car with Rose babbling excitedly. I get her into her seat and then try to put George in his.
Not again! The strap refuses to let me lengthen it. This time a young dad parked next to me tries. But he can’t do it either. Through sheer brute combined force, we just about stretch it to accommodate my grandson’s little legs but it clearly isn’t comfortable. It strikes me, not for the first time, that life for parents nowadays is both harder and also easier than it was in our day.
As soon as we’re home, I What’s App my daughter. “She had a great time,” I say.
“Really?” she says wistfully.
“Hand on heart,” I say. “There’s just one thing…”
“What?” she says quickly.
“I can’t lengthen George’s car strap.”
“I had problems too. There’s a bit of a knack.”
Now she’s telling me! Frankly, it’s easier dealing with the children than coping with all the equipment that comes with them. Maybe someone should start a crash course in grandparent mechanics. Or perhaps it’s me who should go back to the classroom. Second thoughts, no thanks.
Meanwhile, I need an early night. It’s school again tomorrow. And I cannot – will not – be late. After all, according to my grown up offspring, I’ve got a lot of making up to do.
It’s only when I go to bed that I remember. Whoops! I never returned that work call…
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