It’s my first day at nursery school. And, to be honest, I’m not sure if I really want to be here.
You see, I usually play tennis on a Friday morning. It’s my only two hours of “me time” once a week, when I get together with a group of other grans.
As one of them said, it’s more like a coffee morning on court – in other words, lots of chat with a few strokes in between!
But my daughter’s working days have changed. And now I am needed on a Friday to stay with little George at nursery until he gets used to it.
My just-two-year-old grandson is what we used to call clingy.
It’s actually rather flattering to be wanted. But I also know that at some stage, he needs to learn to be independent. It’s a hard lesson for us all.
Last week, when he started, he screamed blue murder and had to be picked up within half an hour.
The nursery staff have been absolutely brilliant about it. ‘Just stay with him until he gets used to his new surroundings,’ suggests one.
So here I am. And guess what? I’m playing tennis already. Well, it’s not exactly tennis. But it’s pretty close to it.
Twice a week, there is a session in the gym for the nursery children. So I am helping George to throw balls and even do mini press-ups.
Gym was never as much fun as this in my day! In fact, I never used to be sporty but the older I get, the more I enjoy exercise.
Then it’s back to the classroom where we learn about dates and seasons and counting the days. Audience participation is encouraged but George sits on my knee and refuses to budge.
I’m beginning to wonder if he’ll be doing this by the time he gets to secondary school….
But then he spots a tractor.
My grandson is totally and utterly obsessed with the “t” word (we often have to spell it or else he gets very agitated if there isn’t one in sight). He’s also crazy about diggers, planes, keys (they’ve already had to have a new set made for the back door because the last lot went missing – only to turn up eventually in the toy box) and anything mechanical.
George seems quite happy now, so I retreat to the edge of the classroom, pull up a mini-size chair and am about to check my emails when I discover mobile phones aren’t allowed. I just hope there isn’t anything urgent from my editor…
Instead, I read the coloured displays on the walls. Some are about animals. Some are about letters and sounds. And some describe different learning and teaching methods so parents and other carers can see what’s going on.
Again, how wonderfully different this is from my day! But suddenly, I hear panic in a familiar voice. George is looking up and can’t see me.
“I’m here,” I call out and he rushes towards me, flinging his arms around my neck as he hasn’t seen me for a fortnight.
“Gan Gan,” he sobs.
The morning continues in much the same vein. A bit of space; a reassuring hug; and then independent play again.
“It doesn’t matter how long it takes,” says one of the nursery staff. “We just want to make sure that he feels happy about being here.”
Suddenly, my mind shoots back to when I was five and was banished to the cold, dark school cloakroom for speaking when I shouldn’t have.
The teacher forgot I was there and when my mother came to collect me, they couldn’t find me.
I still remember that sick feeling of panic when I thought I’d been left at school for the night.
“Don’t feel you have to stay for the whole morning session,” says one of the helpers. “Feel free to go when you want.”
Yet the funny thing is that I don’t want to leave. And nor does George. It’s so warm, interesting and welcoming here!
Finally, we tear ourselves away and go back to our place for lunch.
“How was school?” asks my husband who is now waiting for another operation – this time, for his hip.
“We loved it,” I said. “And George is beginning to settle.”
“Sounds like you’ll soon be going back to tennis then.”
Goodness. I’d forgotten all about that. How time flies when you’re having fun! I almost wish I could have my school days all over again. Just as long as they’re like this.
Everything all right? asks my daughter on What’s App during her lunch hour.
Game, set and almost match, I reply.
I Looked Away. Penguin Viking. Number 3 in the Sunday Times July 2019. You can order through https://amzn.to/2Lq2rew and https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Jane-Corry/I-Looked-Away/23635139