It’s the day after Rose’s birthday party. Today is her real birthday. But because it’s a Monday and some of her friends are at nursery school – they all seem to do different days – my daughter decides it would be nice if we go out somewhere on our own.
She gives Rose a choice. This appears to be a modern parenting technique! In my day, we told our children what to do. Nowadays it seems common to offer a choice of outfit, a choice of meal, and at this rate, a choice of parent – or should that be a grandparent? I can’t quite work out which approach is best…
Anyway, Rose has decided that she would like to watch a children’s film in a town some fifteen miles away. Just before we’re about to go, my daughter rings. “Rose has changed her mind.”
Apparently it’s a birthday girl’s prerogative. I must remember that one when it’s my turn!
“She’d like to go trampolining instead,” says my daughter. “Would you like to come too?”
My heart sinks…
It’s ages since I went on a trampoline, 50 odd years to be precise. Since then, I’ve known a few children who’ve had accidents, including a very serious one.
“Don’t worry,” says my daughter. “It’s very safe. You’ll see when we get there.”
She’s right. After a noisy car journey with music story tapes and potty stops, we arrive at the trampoline centre in the middle of nowhere. When we go in, a pony-tailed young thing instructs us to listen to a safety video about how there shouldn’t be more than one person on a trampoline at a time. Nor are we allowed to take photographs. There are several other rules and we also have to sign a disclaimer clause. I’m beginning to feel uneasy.
We’re just in time for the toddler session. I stare with wonder at about ten small trampolines set in the ground with plastic aisles in between so you can go from one to the other. “You have that square, Mum,” says my daughter. “George. You go there. Rose can be on that one and I’ll be on this. Ready steady go!”
I start bouncing. Good thing I’m wearing safety underwear if you know what I mean. Wow! This is much better fun than I remember.
“Look at Gan Gan,” squeals Rose, giggling.
“Well done Mum,” says my daughter as though I’m ancient. Hah! I’ll show them. I then try the starfish pose. Rose copies. It’s huge fun.
What a great way to celebrate a birthday! It makes me feel young. And it’s also great exercise for the legs.
Afterwards we go to a well-known fast-food chain for pizza. I let slip to our waitress that it’s Rose’s birthday and the music breaks out into a ‘Happy birthday’ song just as ice cream arrives with a candle in the middle. Rose positively glows!
When we get home, she opens some of the presents my daughter has been holding back so they can “appreciate them”. I have to hand it to my daughter and son-in-law. Between them, they form a great team. When my three were growing up, they all used to tear open their birthday gifts first thing in the morning while I scurried around, trying to read the cards on the torn wrapping paper so we could send thank you notes to the correct giver.
Of course there is only one present I could give Rose. As I mentioned before, she is very imaginative and we often make up stories on the way to school and back. So I’ve bought her a child’s laptop. It’s actually very educational because it will help her learn the shape of letters. Rose has already started to read so I’m hoping that she’ll have written a short story by the time she’s five. I’m only half joking…
The next day, my daughter’s back to work and I’m on duty for the day. When I arrive at 7.30am, the sitting room looks suspiciously tidy. “I had a blitz,” says my daughter as she grabs her school bag and heads for the front door. “We packed up some of their old toys for the charity shop.”
She’s had these purges before but this time I can’t help thinking she might just have gone too far
Regular readers might recall George’s police car with its scarily real-life siren. (On one occasion we came back home after playgroup to find it screaming in the kitchen and I thought there was a real emergency.)
“I sold it on eBay for a fiver,” says my daughter now. “I thought George wouldn’t notice but he’s been looking for it everywhere. When I told him it had gone, he looked really sad. I feel rather bad about it now. So if he asks where it is, just distract him.”
My heart aches for my grandson. I can still remember moving house at the age of 11 and discovering that my dressing table was missing from my new bedroom. Apparently there hadn’t been room for it so my mother had given it to the removal men. My father had originally made it out of orange fruit boxes and my mother had made a pale blue frilly curtain to go round it. But I loved it and even though I have a proper wooden one now, the loss still aches to this day.
Luckily I manage to get George and Rose dressed, breakfasted and into the car for the nursery school run without any reference to the missing police car. But then, just as we’re all strapped in – along with all the accompanying paraphernalia – I suddenly realise that I don’t have my grandson’s woolly hat which is essential with weather like this.
I don’t dare leave them alone in the car. So out we all get to collect the said hat and then back again!
After taking Rose to nursery, George and I go onto a toddler activity class. We actually have two sets of twins in the group. I take my hat off to their mums. Usually, one of them has her own mother to help but today she’s not there. “It’s the first time I’ve brought them here on my own,” she says. We all clap. She deserves a medal.
At the end of the day, the three of us are all feeling rather tired and slightly fractious. It would be easy to stick on the television but instead Rose wants to play doctors and nurses. Apparently I’m the patient. “Lie down on the ground,” she instructs imperiously. Then she brings her play stethoscope and tickles my chest. George starts to giggle and then so do I. Before long, it’s infectious and we can’t stop. My daughter comes back and videos us. Then she puts it on the family WhatsApp group.
“You all look as though you’re having lots of fun,” texts one of my grown-up boys. We are. But I’m also shattered. That’s the thing about looking after children, isn’t it? At times it’s absolutely magic. And at other times you’re on your knees.
Talking of magic, both Rose and George are hyper with excitement over Elf on the Shelf
If you haven’t come across one of these, it’s a little figure which you hide around the house on different days and children have to find him.
“I’ve got a great story about him,” says one of my granny friends when we ring for a catch up chat over the weekend. “I had all five of mine yesterday(!) but they got upset because I’d forgotten to put out the elf for them to find. Then a robin flew in through the window. While they were distracted, I put the elf on the bookshelf. The children were gobsmacked. ‘Look!’ they said to me. ‘The robin must have brought him in!’ I couldn’t help thinking that someone must have sent the robin in to help me out.”
Why not? This is the time of the year when almost anything can happen! Perhaps that’s why I can feel a bounce in my step. Or maybe it’s because of all that trampolining! In fact, I’m thinking of booking an adult lesson for myself…
I Looked Away by Jane Corry is published by Penguin Viking. To buy, go to https://amzn.to/2Lq2rew and https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Jane-Corry/I-Looked-Away/23635139