I’m sitting at a kitchen table – what a pretty table cloth! – drinking tea and having a good old natter. I’m getting lots of tips on games to play and nutritious snacks for little ones. (I didn’t realise you could get chocolate rice cakes!) Around us, my little grandson is playing tractors with two other toddlers of his age.
It’s so nice to have the company. And I am particularly flattered because the mum who asked me over to her place along with one of her chums, is actually one of my daughter’s friends.
Being a granny can be quite a lonely business. Although I do have contemporaries who look after their grandchildren, their “work” days aren’t always the same as mine. And the ones who don’t have tiny feet to look after (yet) are busy doing their own retirement thing like playing tennis or going on cruises.
So I was thrilled to receive this invitation to a coffee play date.
It’s also rather heart-warming to know that the same issues which used to worry me and my best friend Jane from the old days – who has sadly passed on – are not that different from the worries that trouble today’s young mum.
“What did you do about bedtime?” asks my daughter’s friend.
“I am probably the worst person to give you advice on that,” I reply honestly. “I was really strict with my eldest son and practised controlled crying which eventually worked. My daughter was really easy. But the baby refused to go to sleep. I spent hours lying down with him trying to sneak away when his eyes closed. It never worked. Now he’s a 28 year old night owl and goes to bed at about 2am!”
“It’s good to know that there isn’t a right and wrong answer,” she says.
Very true. I only wish I’d known that at the time.
In fact, there is something else on the news at the moment which makes me hark back to the old days. Miscarriage – and how it’s handled emotionally – is very much in the news.
Before I had my eldest son, I lost my first pregnancy at almost 12 weeks. I was utterly devastated and feared I would never have a baby. In those days, we were advised to wait three months until trying again. I was lucky in that I conceived my eldest son. Then I had another miscarriage between my second and third child.
I consider myself very lucky to have my three children but I will never forget the two I lost – or the pain when I was sent to the antenatal department for my medical follow up and had to sit with expectant mums.
I mentioned this recently during a Twitter discussion on the subject and received countless messages back. Some were from grannies of my age. Others were from younger women who said that hearing our stories made them feel a little better because it gave them hope.
It all shows how important it is for us to share our ups and downs with other generations, whatever our age. I will never forget the wonderful woman from the Miscarriage Association who “held my hand” down the phone line and told me that she too had had a miscarriage but had gone on to have a family. I only wish I could say thank you to her and tell her that I am now a granny.
Thinking about this makes me count my blessings. So when – the next day – I arrive at the children’s house at 7am in the dark and the rain, I remind myself how lucky I am.
Hang on. What an earth is my granddaughter wearing?
“Where is Rose’s skirt?” I ask my daughter.
“She doesn’t need one, Mum. She’s wearing a top and leggings.”
“But the top barely covers her bottom!” I point out.
“It’s not meant to.”
“That might be alright for summer but it’s 6 degrees outside.”
“Mum,” says my daughter tightly. “I am the mother here. She’s fine as she is.”
I say nothing. I know my place!
But when we come to do the school run, Rose shivers as we get into the car. “I’m freezing, Gan Gan,” she cries.
So back we go to get a pinafore dress. That’s better. However, I do feel rather guilty about going against my daughter’s wishes. I remember thinking I knew better than my mother at that age too. And who’s to say that there is a right answer? My daughter will no doubt have something to say about this when she reads my column to check she is happy with the content! (We always do every week. I wouldn’t want to say something that she disapproves of.)
Yet it seems to me that Motherhood and Grannyhood is a question of muddling through, with the right amount of humour, practicality and safety awareness.
Mind you, I wish I’d had an iPad in my day. It’s really helped George to learn his colours especially during Rose’s dance lessons when we have a 45-minute wait. There’s not enough time to go home so George and I sit in the car outside while he learns the difference between red and blue and I do my daily Spanish lesson on my language app!
Afterwards, the three of us make our way back home – the wind and rain are really beating down now – and snuggle up on the sofa having tea in front of Hey Duggee.
I try to forget about my book proofs which must be done by tomorrow. I’ll work late tonight to finish them. Wow! What was that? George has suddenly flung himself into my arms and given me the biggest impromptu cuddle. I hang onto him tightly, breathing him in. This is what it’s all about. Thank you.
PS I usually write my column at the beginning of the weekend but something really funny happened which I must add on. I’ve started taking both grandchildren to Sunday school at our local church where there is a fantastic supportive network for all ages. It also allows my daughter and son-in-law to have an hour to themselves – something that my first husband and I could have done with all those years ago.
“Thanks, Mum,” says my daughter when they collect the little ones. “We had a brilliant time at the coffee shop. Just as we were going, we both needed to go to the loo but agreed to do it in turns so one of us could look after the children. We were so used to having them that we’d forgotten they weren’t there!”
That made me chuckle. Meanwhile, I am really looking forward to my next play date with the younger generation. Who knows what I’ll learn?!
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