I’m not sure I’m ready for this. Yet it was my suggestion. “Shall I have Rose for a sleepover on her own?” I say.
“She’d love that,” says my daughter. “Which night would suit you?”
We’ve already had one sleepover since lockdown. But that was when Rose, George and mummy came over. The best bit for me was that I had fun without responsibility because my daughter was there.
Somehow, I feel much happier with her in charge of the children because she knows exactly what to do. (Every now and then, this still strikes me as being both amusing and also worrying, given that only 30 years ago, my little girl was the same age as her eldest.)
Yet I also feel the need to get back into the new normality of this corni virus world. And “solo grandchild sleepovers” are part of this.
The doorbell rings at 5.30pm…
“We’re here!” trills Rose with her overnight bag and beaming face.
Suddenly, being in charge of a four-year-old from tea time through to breakfast next day seems incredibly daunting. Not long ago, I was used to having them for 22 hours a week. But I’m out of practice.
“She’s already had tea,” says my daughter. “I thought that might make it easier for you. But she’s very excited so she might not want to go to bed until 8.”
Really? What shall I do with her until then? And why does this seem so much longer than my old granny days did? Maybe it’s because it’s the evening and not the day.
I pop my little granddaughter in the bath but that doesn’t take very long because like most of the country, I’d had a tidy up during lockdown and thrown out old bath toys. I do however find a plastic shark which had been lurking in her uncles’ room. “That’s scary, Gan Gan,” she says. (More of that later!)
Afterwards, we dance a bit round my bedroom to my grandmother’s music box. Then we do a bit of gluing and sticking. “It’s on my pyjamas,” points out Rose. Oh oh. Maybe I should have done that before the bath.
By now it’s supper time. So she joins us…
“Is she allowed to have two dinners?” asks my husband.
“Probably not,” says my eldest son. “But be careful what you say. She’s probably wired.”
He’s only joking. At least I think he is.
“Can I watch Peppa Pig please?” asks Rose. It’s a bit late (nearly 8.30pm). But I can’t put her to bed until the food has gone down.
My husband – who is far more technically aware than I am – has an all singing and dancing television which I can’t work. He sets us up and then goes off to do something in his study upstairs. Each ‘P P’ episode seems to lead into another without a break.
Where on earth is the Off switch? Ah, there it is. There’s a howl of protest. “No,” she sobs. “Put it back on again.”
I really don’t want tears. So I manage to locate the play button. For some reason, it goes back to the beginning. This means Peppa Pig is starting all over again.
Now my husband and I have started watching a very funny comedy on television every night. It helps to distract me from the news headlines. I was hoping to have a bit of downtime with this but it looks as though there is no chance with Rose still here in her dressing gown, grimly determined not to go to bed.
I ring my daughter. By now it’s 9.30…
“Sorry, Mum,” says my daughter. “She’s playing you up. Let me have a word with her.”
I put us all on speaker phone.
“Rose,” says my daughter, kindly but firmly. “I think it’s time for you to go to bed now, don’t you?”
It’s like magic! Rose goes upstairs quietly as a lamb. We read three bedtime stories. One dates back to my children’s days when they were this age. It’s about a mum who goes shopping.
“Look,” says Rose in a shocked voice. “She’s left her children alone in the car.”
She points to the illustration.
So she has. “Maybe there’s another grown up in the car,” I say.
“No there isn’t,” she says disapprovingly. “Can I have your iPad instead?”
“At night?” I say
“Why not?” says my husband coming down from the study. “It’s the modern equivalent of reading under the covers with a torch like we used to.”
But she’s not reading. She is watching Peter Rabbit videos. And nothing I can do will persuade her to turn it off and go to sleep. By now it’s nearly 10.
There’s only one thing to do. Ring my daughter.
“What shall I do?” I wail.
“Do you want me to come round?”
No. I’m not going to fail at the first hurdle.
“Then try leaving her with it for a short time and going downstairs. Make sure you’ve got the monitor next to you. She’ll probably fall asleep. Rose does take a long time to settle.”
So we watch short bursts of our favourite comedy but it isn’t the same. Although I can see a blurred outline of Rose on the screen, I feel the need to nip up every 15 minutes or so to see if I can get her down to sleep.
“No thanks, Gan Gan,” she chirps as Peter Rabbit burrows his way out of yet another adventure. “I’m not tired.”
It’s time for me to get ready for bed now…
But I can’t take the monitor into the shower and my husband is having his bath. So I get her to sit on our bed while I nip into the ensuite. It’s the quickest wash-down I’ve had in my life. Out again.
We want to go to bed now. But she doesn’t.
“Shall I lie down next to you,” I suggest.
“No. I just want to watch Peter Rabbit.”
“Was there anything in the food you gave her?” asks my husband. “I hear that additives can perk them up.”
What? A banana?
“I give up,” I say.
Amazingly, this seems to do the trick
“All right,” sighs Rose as if she is doing me a massive favour. “Just go,” she says firmly. “But please keep the light on.”
So I do. I also place the monitor on my side of the bed and try to read. Naturally I can’t concentrate. But within five minutes, she’s fast asleep.
That’s the good news. They’re not so good part is that she’s lying on top of the covers and I don’t want her to get cold.
So I ring my more experienced “boss” for instructions. ‘Leave her 10 minutes,” advises my daughter. “Then she’ll be in a deep sleep. After that, you can cover her up.”
Of course. It’s what I used to do to my children. How can I have forgotten?
At last. Sleep!
But at 1.30am, I wake with a start. “Gan Gan!” calls out Rose from the monitor. I rush in. She’s talking in her sleep. I can’t wake her and she seems quite distressed. What do I do now? I’m on the verge of calling my daughter when she suddenly stops.
I get back to bed. Two hours later there is another cry. I swear I hear the word “shark”. Oh dear. Did that bath toy freak her out? I’m up before I know it. But in the three seconds it takes to reach her bedroom, she’s stopped.
I wake again at 6.30. Silence. I can’t see much on the monitor. Has she moved? Gingerly, I lift one leg over the stairgate – yes I know that’s dangerous. She was asleep but hearing me has woken her up. “Shall we go for a walk?” she suggests brightly as if she’s been awake for ages.
So my eldest son, Rose, the dog and I have a lovely stroll through our local park. There’s a surprising number of people out and about at 7am. We have a lovely time. Then we go back to eat although she turns down my offer of omelettes or cereal. I’m trying to think what else would work. We don’t eat bread apart from my husband who has a rather unusual make. I suspect this might not go down too well with a four-year-old.
“Would you like some strawberries and a hot chocolate?” I ask rashly.
“Yes please,” she says.
Anything for a quiet life!
“You’ve forgotten the hot chocolate,” she reminds me when I put the strawberries on the table.
Actually, I was hoping she might have forgotten just in case it revs her up again.
“I give up,” she says dramatically.
Whoops. She obviously picked up that phrase from me last night!
We walk her back home. She is jumping and chattering all the way. There is no sign of the distressed child from last night who wouldn’t go to sleep.
My daughter is already at the window
They run into each other’s arms as if they haven’t seen each other for months. Little George gives his sister a hug. “You smell lovely,” says my daughter.
“Gan Gan sprayed her channel on my arm,” says Rose.
I’ll have to teach her how to pronounce Chanel.
“Sorry you didn’t get much sleep, Mum. It’s because she was at your place. Maybe she needs more practice. How about tonight?”
I think she’s joking. (There’s a rather mischievous glint in her eye which reminds me of Rose’s.) But just in case, I need to make it quite clear.
“Sorry,” I say. “I loved having her round. I really did. But I’m doing something else.”
That’s right. I’m going to bed at 6pm!
Jane Corry is the author of the bestselling I Made A Mistake about a daughter-in-law and her much-loved mother-in-law. Published by Penguin, £6.99 in paperback and also available as an e-book and audio, narrated by Emilia Fox. http://bit.ly/IMadeaMistake OR https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Jane-Corry/I-Made-a-Mistake/24376830