“She’s behind you!”
“Oh no, she isn’t.”
“Oh yes, she is!”
Yes! It’s panto time already. One of the best things about being a granny is taking little Rose and George to all the fun kids’ stuff that I haven’t been able to do since my three grew up.
This year we decide to go early to get into the festive spirit. But my granddaughter isn’t so sure. And I don’t blame her! The wicked queen on stage might seem funny to the adults but she’s also pretty terrifying. No wonder four-year-old Rose is hiding her face in daddy’s chest. Two-year-old George, on the other hand, is leaping around with such gusto that he almost falls over into the row in front.
“I don’t think we’ll see Father Christmas this year,” says my daughter, when we leave. “Rose is scared of him.”
Not see Santa? I can’t help feeling like a disappointed child. But at the same time, I can see my daughter’s point. We spend the whole year telling our children not to speak to people they don’t know. And then at Christmas, we plonk them on the knee of a bearded stranger. It confirms my suspicions that there is no logic to this parenting business.
Meanwhile, this is my last week on granny duty before my daughter finishes work for the holidays. In a few days’ time, I’ll be footloose and fancy free!
Except that I don’t want to be. How ironic is that? In one way, I can’t wait to get back to my Friday morning tennis sessions with my friends. But in another I’m really going to miss those whoops of “Gan Gan” when I arrive for “work” and the little warm arms around me.
A sense of history
So I’m determined to make the most of my end of term. And what better way of doing it than casting my vote? I know that by the time you read this, the election will be over. But I wanted to describe my sense of history and pride as I push little George into our Victorian community hall. After all, when this place was first built, women didn’t have the right to do what we are doing now.
“This,’ I say, as we go into the polling booth, “is where we help to decide our future. Not just mine and grandad’s or your parents’ or yours and your children’s and your children’s children. What do you think of that?”
“Pencil,” he demands. George loves drawing.
“Sorry,” I say, “You have to be grown up to vote.”
“PENCIL,” he yells.
Just as well I have my granny stash of bribes on me. So I divert him with a biscuit instead while I make my cross on the sheet.
Then on we trundle to playgroup. On the way, we pass a mother trying to negotiate with her toddler who doesn’t want to get out of her car seat.
“No,” shrieks the toddler, her face red with fury.
“But you’ve got to,” says the mother desperately. “We’re going to be late for the dentist.”
George looks on with a mixture of interest and admiration. I feel sorry for the poor woman who looks distraught. We’ve all been there!
On our way back from playgroup – where George has a great time playing with a large Pilates ball from last night’s Keep Fit class which has somehow got mixed up with the toy box – I bump into the same mother who is now walking down the high street with a totally different child. Actually it’s the same one but much happier.
“I’m so sorry you had to see our argument,” she says to me.
“Please don’t apologise,” I say. “I felt for you. I had three children under seven and they were always having tantrums. And now my grandchildren do the same.” (Actually Rose and George are much better behaved than their mother and her brothers were but I didn’t think it would help to say so.)
“This is my first,” she says. “Does it get better?”
“There are different issues at different ages,” I say carefully, thinking about some of the things we’ve been through. “But there are so many wonderful moments too. The trick is to remember that you’re not alone. Bringing up children is one of the hardest jobs in the world. Yet it’s also one of the most rewarding.”
“Thank you,” she says.
“Bribery helps too,” I add. “I always keep a few treats on me.”
Maybe I shouldn’t have said that…
Since becoming a granny, I’ve found myself reassuring some of the younger ones around me about various topics from feeding to tantrums. That’s the great thing about having done it all before! You know that a public meltdown doesn’t really mean you’re a bad parent or grandparent. It’s part of growing up. Besides, I like to think it shows your children have character!
Back to the house for lunch to keep an eye on husband with crutches and the kitchen floor. The good news is that one of them is being replaced. And yes, I am talking about the floor! I can’t wait to get rid of the one that was here when we moved in ten years ago and shows all the dirt. I know it seems like a small thing but I’ve been “negotiating” with my other half about this for ages. (He wanted to keep the old one.) It’s funny how small things can make such a difference to the way you feel.
Now where’s George? In the dog basket of course. My grandson loves coming to our house because he adores our lab/springer. The feeling is mutual and they’re the best of friends. Then the young men doing our floor take a break for lunch. “Oh dear,” says one of them worriedly. “I seem to have lost a shoe.” The obvious culprits are George, who likes trying out adult shoes or his four-legged friend. Both look equally guilty when we ask. Eventually we find it in my grandson’s changing bag. I reckon it was a dual effort.
It’s little things like this which make up my granny days. On their own, they might not seem much but they’re all part of the rich tapestry of family life.
The rest of the day is taken up with a walk in the park (“Look! A squirrel!”), the nursery school run to collect Rose, dance class and tea back at their place. Then my son-in-law returns from work to take over and I head home on my bicycle.
Tonight, I’m going to do an “all-nighter” writing my Christmas cards which I should have done weeks ago. This is my time for updating old friends on the year we’ve just had. In fact, it could be summed up in one sentence. Busy, fun, exhausting and full of love.
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