Grandmothers and Grandchildren
The school holidays have started and grandmothers all over the world hold their breath. You can hear it. You can hear the big intake of breath and the semi-resigned semi-pleased sigh as off-spring phone to announce the children will be over soon.
A girlfriend said to me recently: “I love my children and grandchildren, I really do – but preferably not in the same house!”
I know how she feels !
Bruce and I are totally devoted to our two grandchildren and have been very hands-on grandparents. As a single mother our daughter needed a lot of help, especially during the early years when there was nursery and school and fetching and carrying to be dealt with. I am sure there were times when our daughter felt we were far too hands-on, but she was caught in that trap between needing our help and being an independent mother.
We had to start all over again with fishing toddlers out of the bath, washing their hair, persuading them to brush their teeth, propping them up on the loo, wiping their little pink bottoms …
We started all over again with buying little clothes and getting shoes fitted and holding little puddies to cross the road. All that business we had forgotten about trying to get them to eat what they asked for (I am totally against forcing them to eat something they didn’t ask for and don’t like) and then the homework – oh, the homework!
But on the whole it has been the greatest joy – and still is. Because there was no dad in the scene, we found we took on roles that were vastly more profound than they would perhaps otherwise have been. And the children, in turn, relate to us in a way our children never related to either my parents or my in-laws. Being the grandmother, and not the mother, I get instant obedience and very good manners. It is so much easier than being the mother. In fact, there is no comparison.
Now, the bit that I find difficult these days is what to do with them when they come to us in the school holidays. Isn’t it extraordinary how a programme on the TV is “oh but Nonnie*!! I HAVE TO watch it ! It is the LAST ONE and I haven’t seen it since LAST YEAR!!” or if it is a computer-thingy of some kind “oh but Nonnie*! It’ll be finished – I’m just about to get a point, just about to kill the aliens – I HAVE to finish this bit !!”
There is a path to find (but I cannot find it) somewhere between them watching TV/being on the computer and Going To The Beach. On the one hand the TV/computer keeps them quiet and out of the way (what did mothers do before?!!) but on the other hand we want them to play the healthy outdoor games we used to play. For most of my childhood we had no TV – in fact, almost all of my childhood, because they were impossible to get hold of in darkest Africa.
We have a pool, a really big pool, solar-heated, and both our grandchildren will spend hours in that. It is funny how well they get on with each other when they are in the pool. But as soon as they are back in the house it is “that’s mine! Don’t touch it! I’ll kill you! Nonnie, TELL HIM!!!”
Ho hum. As I so often say about children, there is no recipe. You just handle it – whatever it is – the best way you can at that particular moment. And hope for the best.
Catherine Broughton is a novelist, a poet and an artist. She is widely travelled and writes regularly for magazines and blog sites. Her sketches are on her web site http://www.turquoisemoon.co.uk . Her books are available from Amazon and on Kindle, or can be ordered from several leading book stores.