Diary Of A First Time Gran has moved to My Weekly!

I’ve got some exciting news. My granny column  is now being run online by My Weekly magazine. You don’t have to pay anything. Simply click on this link and it will take you through. It will be appearing every week from now on.

Please contact me if you have any details logging on.

Do hope you will continue to follow our adventures!

Warm regards,
Jane

August

Apologies! This post was meant to have gone out in the middle of July but I was so busy finishing the deadline for next year’s novel that it was written but not sent!

Anyway, here it is. Hope you enjoy!

 

I’m back in the saddle so to speak. My daughter has now gone back to work for two days a week, leaving me with 10 month old George as well as Rose. The good news is that she goes to nursery on my granny days – well-planned, don’t you think? The bad news is that I arrive at 7:15 am so I need to get them both dressed and breakfasted first.

‘A doddle,’ says my Not So Newish Husband. He must be joking! For a start, Rose is being potty trained and I’m not allowed to put any nappies during my granny days or else it will put her out.  However, as I learnt this morning, there’s nothing like a well-placed poo in the middle of the sitting room floor to put me out.

The second tricky bit about having two at the same time is that Rose adores George to the extent that she insists on waving that magic wand of hers perilously close to his head. I can’t leave that to them alone at any time – not even to go to the loo. This has created hilarious results.

Seriously, I really do love looking after them. But the practicalities of working at the same time isn’t easy. I feel as if I returned to my 20s and 30s when I wrote a regular column for a weekly women’s magazine at home while bringing up three children amongst domestic chaos.

Looking back, I can see I was doing the impossible. But am I doing the same now? So I resist the temptation to check my texts and emails and instead put out an auto alert that I am away from the office or in a meeting. The fact that the latter involves tense negotiations with a toddler is neither here nor there.

Meanwhile, I’m still recovering from yesterday. This wasn’t meant to be a granny day. I’d put it aside to check the final version of my novel which is due to be delivered pronto for publication next year. Either way, just in case you’re interested, this year’s novel – The Dead Ex – has just come out with Penguin. It’s also available in paperback, kindle and audio.

Anyway, back to yesterday. Just as I’m settling down to work, the phone goes. It’s my daughter. She’s been given a last-minute hospital appointment and needs to be there to help out with the children. ‘Of course,’ I say leaping up from my computer and into the car. I remember all too well how difficult it was to cope with situations like this. Regular readers might remember that my own mother died when my two older children were little so I I feel very blessed that I have this chance to help.

The hospital is nearly an hour away. When I get there, my daughter presses a screaming Rose and a car key into my hand. ‘Can you get me a car parking ticket,’ she says. ‘I was in such a rush that I couldn’t do it and I don’t want to get a fine.’

So off I go with a screaming granddaughter in my arms, searching this enormous hospital car park for my daughter’s car. Panic makes me forget the number plate. Rose is beating my chest with her little fists and ‘I want Mummy’. Everyone is looking at me as though I am abducting her.

I eventually find the said vehicle but I don’t have the right change for the machine so I give the wretched thing much more than it needs.

Meanwhile, Rose is making herself sick with screams. Reasoning is futile so I tuck her under one arm, I dash back into the hospital to track down my daughter who has to have more tests.

Eventually it’s over and everyone calms down. We drive home in our separate cars – my daughter and wonderful son-in-law are now five minutes away from me (something we planned years ago so I could help out)

Then I get a panic phone call from my daughter. ‘Mum? Have you seen Ribbit?’

The latter is Rose’s soft fluffy rabbit. It was put in her incubator at two hours old and she won’t be parted from it. I have a vague memory of her playing with it in the hospital Wendy house. Frantic phone calls are made and Ribbit is tracked down underneath a giant teddy bear.

However there is a problem. (Isn’t there always?) The hospital reception desk is closing in 15 minutes 30 minutes. There isn’t time to go and get it and Rose won’t sleep without it. So I order a taxi to pick it up at a cost of £38.

‘Absolutely ridiculous,’ protests NSNH. ‘Can’t she wait until the morning when we can pick it up ourselves?’

This leads to a fairly heated discussion during which I point out that if he’d had children he would understand.

I use the taxi firm I’ve never had before and I have to say the driver sounds dubious. I get increasingly worried when I ring back to check I need to be told that extension such and such isn’t working. Has Ribbet gone missing for ever?

Fifteen minutes later there is a ring at the doorbell. The prodigal rabbit is home and dry. I cycle him over to Rose who is ecstatic. ‘Thank you, Gan Gan,’ she says, giving me a big cuddle.

NSNH still thinks we’re all making a fuss.

Then he sees Rose the next morning to help out with nursery. She is cuddling Ribbit. I see what you mean,’ he says with a soft look in his eyes.

Peace is restored.

MAY

Rose is still insisting on referring to herself in the third person. ‘Rose wants snack’ or ‘Rose says no’ are two of her favourite phrases. Is this normal or is my granddaughter preparing herself for a career as a prima donna? I don’t recall any of my own three children doing this and I can’t work out whether to be worried or deeply impressed. I decide on the latter.

At the same time, Rose’s vocabulary is increasing at an alarming rate. I use the adjective intentionally because she has clearly been recruited by a nanny surveillance service to report on my comings and goings to her parents. ‘Gan Gan took Rose to shops and gave Rose chocolate buttons,’ she declared after one of our Granny Sunday morning afternoons. Naturally I tried to get out of it but the evidence was there in the form of a brown smudge on her dress.

‘Maybe it’s poo,’ suggests Newish Husband, backing off. I’m not sure if he’s genuinely freaked out or whether he’s trying to get me off the hook.

I’ve often thought it was rather ironic that we spend hours trying to get our children to talk – only to find that they answer back with aplomb worthy of a barrister. Rose seems to have cottoned on to this pretty fast. ‘Would you like this?’ I suggest, pointing out a pretty pair of green trousers in a shop.

‘No way,’’ she says firmly.

My daughter steps in. ‘No way, thank you,’ she says.

Rose tightens her lips. Silence.

‘Then we’re not moving,’ says my daughter, ‘until you say thank you.’

I feel mortified, conscious of an audience by the till.  This isn’t the first time it’s happened. And I’ve a feeling it won’t be the last. ‘How about ‘Rose says ‘thank you,’ I suggest in a diplomatic bid to keep the peace.

My granddaughter grudgingly mumbles something. To save face, I persuade everyone to accept this for the apology it clearly isn’t.

Meanwhile, it’s nearly time for my daughter to go back to work and for me to resume my two full days a week. At least in some ways, I’ll know where I am. During my ‘gran-ternity leave’ as it were, I’ve been nipping in and out of their place every day – but only for short periods. This is because I am also writing a novel and promoting the new one, besides seeing an elderly father once a month at the other end of the country. And that’s not even taking into account my overloaded Inbox.

Consequently, I’m often late for my daughter which doesn’t go down well. I used to work as a writer in prison where five minutes felt as long as an hour. It’s the same in sleep-deprived motherland. ‘You said you’d be here ages ago,’ says my daughter when I get there for the supper and bedtime routine at 4.47 instead of 4.30.

I can’t help worrying about what’s going to happen if I have a work event which I simply have to go to when my daughter is back at work. That’s why I suggested my daughter and son in law found some back- up ‘just in case’.

Nothing happens for a bit. In fact, I completely forgot about it. But then my daughter rings. ‘I’ve found the perfect replacement,’ she says.

‘A replacement for who?’ I ask.

‘You,’ she trills.

My stand-in is a fully-qualified nanny and nurse. She comes highly recommended and sounds absolutely perfect. There’s only one problem. What if I walk down the street and seeing someone else pushing ‘my babies’.

‘It was your idea,’ points out my daughter. ‘So don’t get huffy. Anyway, you won’t be walking past them down the street because the whole point is that she’ll be covering you when you’re not there. Rose likes her, don’t you darling?’

My granddaughter – turncoat! – nods her head. ‘Rose likes her,’ she repeats.

But what if she and George (the baby) prefer her to me? Suddenly all my work pales into insignificance compared to ‘my babies’.

‘I might even ask her to babysit every Friday night,’ adds my daughter. ‘It would be nice for us to have some couple time.’

‘You don’t have to do that,’ I say quickly. ‘We’re happy to babysit.’ I nudge Newish Husband in the ribs. ‘Aren’t we? And you won’t need to pay us.’

‘Great,’ says my daughter quickly.

Looks like I’ve walked straight into that one. Still, I love looking after them. And we can also watch ’The Crown’ on Netflicks (something we don’t have at home).So we’re all happy now.

 

GRAN-TERNITY LEAVE

Have you recently resumed granny or granddad duties after maternity leave? If so, please mail me your experiences.

I’d also love to hear your stories about looking after more than one grandchild at the same time.

 

BOOK LAUNCH

Some of you know that I write psychological suspense as Jane Corry. If you’d like to come to my London launch on June 11 at 2.30, please email me. My new novel is called The Dead Ex. Vicki is an aromatherapist. One dark windy night, the police come knocking on her door, wanting to know when she last saw her ex-husband David who is missing. Vicki tells them she hasn’t seen him for five years when they got divorced. Then she picks up the phone and rings him…

Published by Penguin on June 28, £7.99.

You can also follow me on Twitter @janecorryauthor

Jane Corry

Website: https://www.janecorryauthor.com

APRIL

I’m coming to the end of my maternity leave, as it were. My teacher daughter is shortly going back to work for two days a week. And I will be in charge of not one baby but two. Of course, theoretically Rose is actually a toddler but if you ask me, this is the most lethal stage of all. One minute she seems the cutest little darling in the entire world (‘Love you, Gan Gan’). And the next, it’s like having a tyrannical megalomaniac in charge of the house whose favourite word is ‘No’ or ‘Go away’.
To add to this, Rose (whose favourite current state of dress involves a witch’s hat, a ballet tutu and the household broom) has started to speak about herself in the third person which is slightly disconcerting. At times I feel I am in a Hedda Gabler play crossed with a Disney film.
George meanwhile regards his sister with an air of awe and terror – it’s hard to tell which. This brings me back to my original point. How am I going to manage both? It’s clearly a question which has been troubling my daughter. ‘I think you need to practice, mum,’ she declares when I am mid-way through the edits for my next novel.
The following day, she despatches me down the high street with a double buggy ‘just for an hour’ while she prepares her lesson plans. Frankly, I’m amazed you don’t need a driving licence for this monstrosity which takes up the entire width of the pavement. My polite ‘Excuse me’s’ are either met with hostile stares or raised eyebrows. ‘I didn’t know you’d had another,’ says someone I haven’t seen for a bit.
We both know that she doesn’t mean I’ve given birth myself but the responsibility feels as if I’ve done just that..
‘Rose wants down,’ demands my granddaughter imperiously when we reach the seafront. In pre-George days, I’d have gaily got her out of the chassis and we’d have had a gay old time, sprinting along the beach. But I can hardly leave the baby unattended or I’ll get the equivalent of a parking ticket from social services. And if I take him too, it means carrying him while running after a toddler at the same time. One, if not two, is bound to get away.
So I get tough. ‘Gan Gan says no,’ I say apologetically. (Amazing how easy it is to lapse into their language. )
Rose promptly bursts into tears. This sets off George. Help! No amount of cajoling on my part succeeds in silencing either of them. In the end, I resort to bribery with an ice lolly for Rose. George is trickier as he’s still being weaned. Despite my daughter’s earlier insistence that he wouldn’t need anything because he’d ‘just been fed’, my grandson definitely wants something. So I give him a swig of water out of his sister’s mug after breaking a finger nail in my attempt to get the lid off.
‘Not easy is it?’ says my daughter when I take them back, both howling with fury (Rose had wanted a second lolly and George was livid when he discovered that the lip on the mug was plastic rather than a warm nipple.) She almost looks pleased as if I haven’t been through this stuff before. ‘You didn’t give him that, did you? He might get Rose’s germs.’
I attempt to point out that a) they live together so it’s pretty hard to eliminate close contact and b) Rose doesn’t have any obvious coughs or colds at the moment.
Meanwhile, my daughter is setting up my next challenge. ‘Why don’t you bath George on your own? You haven’t done that yet, have you?’
I don’t know who is more terrified – him or me. The ‘children’ have bought their new son a contraption that looks like a mini bath chair which I remember my great aunt using. My task, should I chose to accept it (try getting out!), is to strip him off; dump him in it; wash with one hand while holding the victim round the back and under the arm with the other and then dry him off.
All goes well until the final stage when I have the subject lying prostrate on a towel on the bathroom floor. It should be said that George’s legs are always on the go even though he’s not quite crawling. He thumps both feet on the ground which reverberates down through the ceiling and into the kitchen where my daughter is cooking tea.
‘What’s happened?’ screams my daughter from below.
She’s at the top of the stairs in seconds, her little face creased with panic. ‘Did you drop him?’
‘No,’ I say, putting my arms around her. ‘He’s just practising his football skills.’
‘Careful,’ she says. ‘You almost stepped on him.’
Whoops. I forgot George was still on the floor there.
‘Where’s Rose?’ I ask.
‘On the potty in front of Paw Patrol. Didn’t I tell you? We thought it was time we started training her. You don’t mind taking over on your grannie days, do you?’
Come back maternity leave! I can’t believe I’m going back to (unpaid) work again….

ALL PLAY AND NO WORK?
OK. I’ve got a confession to make. I’m not very good at getting down on my knees and playing when it comes to being a granny. Maybe it’s because I was always dashing around with three children trying to make sure they remained in one piece while juggling my journalist deadlines at the same time.
Don’t get me wrong. I love doing jigsaws with Rose and I’m getting quite good at playing witches with that pointed hat and broom (see above). . But part of me would rather use the said broom to sweep the kitchen floor and make sure that everything is tidy before the parents get home.

‘You need to do more play,’ instructs my daughter. ‘Rose’s little friend Minty’s Gran has stations round the house.’
What? They have a train set in each room?
‘Don’t be silly, Mum. Minty’s Gran used to be a teacher. So she’s used to dealing with little ones. She’s set up a sand play area in one room and a soft play area in another and a colouring corner and….’
I feel increasingly inadequate as the list gets longer.
So now I need some more ideas. Can you tell me what kind of creative play you do with your grandchildren? Please send me your suggestions and I’ll print some of them in the next blog. Meanwhile it’s great to know you’re all out there. Bye for now!

MARCH

There are two reasons I’ve always wanted to have a grandchild. One was to take it to a show. Readers of my old Daily Telegraph column might recall the comedy that ensued when we took two year old Rose to the local panto back at Christmas. It’s fair to say that the combination of her seat-tipping, her enthusiasm for ice cream (another trip to the dry cleaners!) and her determination to join the cast on stage, more than rivaled the official script.

So when one of the grannie mafia asked if we were taking Rose to a cartoon called Early Man, I retorted with a firm negative. Besides, surely she was too young?

‘Nonsense,’ declares my sleep-deprived daughter who would be happy for me to take Rose to an X certificate (do they still have such a rating?) if it meant she could have a quick kip. ‘She’d love it?’

Newish husband was also surprisingly enthusiastic. ‘Why not?’ he demanded. ‘It will be easier than taking her to the playground.’

He has a point. The slide at our local park is designed in such a way that if you don’t turn right at the top, you go straight onto a monkey run. Rose has already fallen off (not on my watch, thank goodness) and I’m determined she’s not having second helpings.

So off we go to the film with Rose chanting ‘Sin Eee Ma’ all the way, having been coached by her teacher parents to break each word up into bite-sized bits.

We’re running a little late due to a particularly noxious nappy. (Nowadays, apparently, they start toilet training when the child feels ready which, in my view, isn’t a bit like allowing you to pay your tax on a voluntary basis.)

So NH forks out for the tickets while Rose and I dash through the doors to take our seats. The Sin Eee Ma is empty apart from two families, probably because it’s a glorious Sunday afternoon and all the other kids are breaking their arms on the Monkey run. The good news is that the last of the trailers is still on. The bad news is that it’s Journey’s End and a bloody mélange of World War I innards from the British Army are being blasted across the screen.

I take one look and rush the buggy plus occupant out to the booking desk. ‘So sorry,’ says the nice girl on duty. I’ll take it off immediately.’

‘You’ll get into real trouble if Rose has nightmares tonight,’ warns my husband as we return to our seats.

‘It wasn’t my fault,’ I hiss back.

‘Since when did that make a difference?’

I knew the Sin Eee Ma was a bad idea. My premonitions get worse when the film starts with a crew of beefy pre-historic characters who get a kick out of beating each other up. Since when did children’s cartoons get so violent? What if Rose starts doing the same to baby George?

‘Don’t fuss,’ whispers NH loudly. ‘Look – she’s loving it!’

She is too! Rose’s eyes are glued to the screen and she bursts out into a running commentary. ‘Rabbit,’ she screams, thumping the back of the seat in front with excitement. ‘Carrot. Football. Gruffalo.’ It’s actually a different kind of monster but I don’t bother explaining because of the ‘hush’ sounds coming from the couple behind us.

‘Spoilsports,’ fumes NH who is back in prosecuting mode in line with his former legal career. ‘Can’t they see she’s enjoying herself? Whatever happened to freedom of speech?’

I make an ‘I’m sorry’ glance on the grounds at the complainants, horribly aware that this is a small town and that when the lights go on, I might find I know them. Anyway, I console myself with the fact that this is a longish film and that there’s no way Rose can last the distance.

But she remains hooked – continuing with her own little voiceover – until the final credits roll. When they finally finish, she runs down to the blank screen indignantly. ‘Sin Eee Ma,’ she demands. ‘More. More.’

The miserable couple behind have gone but the other family come up to congratulate us. ‘We thought it was lovely that your daughter got into the spirit.’

Yes! That brings my ‘mistaken for mother’ total up to seven. Can’t wait to tell Bad Gran who’s seriously lagging behind now.

‘Did you have a bit of a rest?’ I ask my daughter when we deliver a rather hyper Rose back home. (Did I mention that she and NH got through a tub of popcorn each?)

‘Not really,’ she says, dumping a screaming baby in my arms. ‘The television’s stopped working.’

‘Never mind,’ I say cheerily. ‘It will do them good to be without it for a bit.’

My daughter shoots me an ‘Are you crazy?’ look. ‘How am I going to keep Rose quiet in the morning while I dress George?’

‘How about playing?’ I suggest. Actually, that’s unfair of me. Millie spends a lot of time with her toys, as indicated by the toy-strewn sitting room. Her latest acquisition is ‘Wandy’ – a magician’s wand which she brandishes with great gusto in the conviction that it really can do magic.

For a variety of reasons not unrelated to quotes from repair men, searches on the internet for an affordable replacement and then the wrong wall bracket being delivered), Rose has to make do without a television for four whole weeks. We do a lot of sticking coloured shapes, jigsaws and blackboard scribbling.

Meanwhile George has constipation so Rose tries to magic him with Wandy into performing. Amazingly it works big-time (what a smell!) so she then turns her attention to the space on the wall. ‘Telly Vish Un,’ she orders with a flourish. As she speaks, there’s a knock on the door (honestly) and the new tv is delivered.

‘Clever girl!’ we say, only half in jest.

The following day, comes the snow. The second reason I’ve always wanted a grandchild was to take it tobogganing. But then my daughter rings. ‘Can you come and look after the baby so I can go out on the sledge with Rose?’

How can I say no? But I can’t help feeling like a granny Cinderella left at home with the kitchen floor to sweep while George snoozes.

When they return, both my girls’ cheeks are flushed and their eyes bright. ‘Snow! Wet. Cold. ‘Magic!’ bursts out Rose.

The first three are true enough but the fourth? Why not? If Rose thinks that Wandy has brought about the snow, I’m not going to disillusion her. It’s what childhood is all about.

Not long after that, I’m standing behind a miserable looking woman in the supermarket, complaining about an acrobatic toddler who’s gaily chucking tins of chickpeas into the trolley while the tearing-his-hair-out father (grandad?) is trying to put them back.

‘Honestly,’ she says, turning round to engage my support. ‘It’s just like that rowdy kid in the cinema the other day. She kept talking all through the film. Why can’t parents control their children?’

‘I know,’ I say. ‘Awful, isn’t it?’

WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
Last week, I got a call from Full-time Working Gran. ‘I’ve got a whole two days off at Easter,’ she confides. ‘But I don’t want to tell my son or he’ll ask if I can help out. I just need a bit of a life. Do you think that’s bad of me?’

My personal feeling is that I would tell my daughter because I don’t like to lie. Besides, I love having my grandchildren. Yet on the other hand, most grandparents have got to a stage where they need some leisure time too.

Let me know your views and I’ll put them on the next blog.

February: Grannie Makes A Few Slip Ups

It’s been four weeks since I wrote the last blog but a lot has happened. For a start, I gave George cranial carpet burn. Unfortunately, there were witnesses.

‘Mum!’ squealed my daughter with horror as I placed my grandson on his back and then pulled me towards him by his feet in order to ease him into his all-in-one. ‘You can’t do that.’

Of course it was an accident. I simply forgot how difficult it was to dress a nearly five-month-old baby.

At least someone has a sense of humour – namely, the victim who is chuckling from ear to ear. Clearly he thinks that this new game of grannie’s is utterly hilarious, despite the red patch on his head.

Meanwhile, Rose is still giving me the cold shoulder simply because I was good enough to look after her when mummy was giving birth. How long is this going to go on for? Every time I arrive at the front door (about twice a day), she screams as though I am the White Witch from Narnia about to drug her.

(By the way, am I the only one who’s shocked by how frequently today’s young parents dish out a certain painkiller which makes their offspring sleepy?)

Taking of sleep, I’ve discovered that the best way of helping out as a gran and writing my novel is to get up at 5.30 and do a chapter. By the time I’ve finished, I can go round to help them get dressed. But one day a week, I play an early game of tennis instead. And of course it happened to be then that I got the lurgy phone call.

‘Mum,’ wailed my daughter. ‘Rose has been sick all night. I can’t clean her up and look after George as well.’

Of course I’ll help but part of me can’t help feeling rather disappointed. ‘I’m sorry I’ve disrupted your plans,’ says my daughter when I’m stupid enough to let this slip.

Instantly I feel guilty. Time with my grandchildren is far more important. So I go with her to the doctor who declares there’s nothing obviously wrong apart from a red throat and how about ice lollies. So we nip into a supermarket to stock up and Rose is promptly sick all over the floor. There’s not much – mainly watery bile – but the entire aisle is evacuated. It takes ages for someone to clean it up because they have to find a member of the ‘health and safety‘ team. The four of us (under threes included) stand by, feeling like criminals.

On the way home, my daughter has a Good Idea. ‘It’s not long now until June when you’re going to have both of them,’ she points out. ‘I think you need some practice. How about Thursday? Rose is at nursery then and I need to have my hair dyed. It will only take an hour or so.’

But what do I do if the baby yells? He isn’t at all keen on taking a bottle. ‘Just walk him round town. You’ll manage.’

I suggest to Newish Husband that he might like to come too as a distraction but apparently he has to stay in for an urgent Amazon parcel. Nice one. So I nervously take the handlebars and start walking. George eyes me apprehensively. ‘Go to sleep,’ I tell him. But he keeps his sight riveted on me like a driving instructor who fears for his life.

I do all the jobs round town that I can’t usually do because I’m writing. ‘We’re on a trial run,’ I tell the lady at the post office.

Her face creases with sympathy. ‘Just keep walking.’

‘It’s our first day,’ I tell the girl at the bank. ‘Just keep walking,’ she says.

‘On your own?’ asks the hairdresser when I pop in to make an appointment. ‘Just keep…’

‘ I know,’ I say. ‘Walking.’

‘Actually I was going to say keep your hair on.’

She roars with laughter at her own joke. ’Well done,’ says my daughter when we meet up two hours later. (I knew her hair would take longer than she said.) ‘Could you do me a favour? I wonder if you’d look after both of them next week. Just for an hour while I get my nails done.’

I can’t say no. My daughter is exhausted. She exists on snatches of one to two hours sleep between nightly feeds. So we agree to meet in town after – yes – my deferred game of tennis. Both children are in the massive buggy which should have an ‘extra wide load’ sign on it plus ‘learner driver’.

Rose yells when she sees me (nothing new there) and my tennis friends try to console her with chocolate chip cookies. Rose is having none of it. None of my mates are grannies yet but all have professed keen desires. By the time we leave, relief is written all over their faces.

So we go to the library where both my charges begin to yell. ‘Mummy cuddles,’ sobs Rose. I nearly drop George in the effort to get him out of the impossible buggy straps and then Rose decides that the library isn’t as dull as she’d thought because there’s a computer in the corner. When it’s time to go, Rose screams because she now wants to stay put.

We have a sumo wrestle on the floor until one of the librarians takes pity on us and reads Peppa Pig to her while I pull on the flipping bodysuit. The pushchair straps won’t slot in and I’ve lost one of her shoes. We get back to our place and make cup cakes because it seems a grannie kind of thing to do. – except that the eggs are eleven days out of date. By the time we discover this, we’ve already mixed the sugar and butter. I ring a neighbor who offers to come round with some spares. In the two seconds it takes me to let her in, Rose has opened the door of the downstairs loo and has blue dye on her hands from the cleansing ring that hangs into the bowl. My heart skips a beat. ‘Stick out your tongue,’ I demand. It’s pink. Thank goodness for that.

When the cakes are done, I photograph them next to Millie hovering over my Mary Berry book (I’ve interviewed her a few times – lovely woman). Now I know why Instagram and What’s App pics are so popular with young parents. They put a civilized veneer on top of a chaotic performance.

‘Maybe you’re not quite ready for this,’ says my daughter when I return the kids, just about in one piece.

My husband (who’d booked a last minute car service when he’d heard I was on granny duty again) comes back full of the joys of a free day pass.

‘Looking forward to our break?’ he asks.

I’d almost forgotten. We’re off for a week of winter sunshine. How am I going to manage without the children? But as one reader has already written in to tell me, I need to give my husband time too.

Then his face falls. ‘What’s this mess?

NH can be surprisingly fussy given the state of his man cave upstairs.

To be fair, there are smears of blue on the kitchen floor from the loo cleaner plus dollops of strawberry jam from the cakes and a chunk of the dog’s bed which the hound must have tucked into when I was looking after Rose. (Always hated the colour anyway. The bed’s that is. Not the dog’s).

‘It’s called being a granny,’ I retort as I scamper up the stairs back to my novel. Peace at last.

WHAT’S THE WORST THING YOU’VE DONE AS A GRANNIE? Please let me know. I’d love to put your stories on line but don’t worry – they can be anonymous. It will make the rest of us feel so much better to know we’re not perfect.

January…

All kinds of things have been going on in our two houses since the last blog. The first is that Rose has joined royal company. Perhaps that’s exaggerating it a bit but it is true to say that my granddaughter has, like Princess Charlotte, started nursery. It’s not the same one, granted.  In fact, it’s about 300 odd miles away and a quarter of the price. But I can’t help wondering if Charlotte’s maternal grandmother has gone through the same angst that I have.

When my daughter and son in law announced that Rose was due to do one and a half days a week almost immediately after her second birthday, I felt a mixture of envy and concern. In my day we had to hang on until our offspring were three.  Just think what I could have done with all that spare time! And why is it that the rules for parents are so much more favourable nowadays? We didn’t even have ‘parent and child’ car parking spaces in supermarkets. (If only there was such a thing as back payments in lieu for all those times I’d go round and round in search of a space with screaming children in the back.)

But I digress. No sooner did I get over my envy than the worries set in. Wasn’t she too young? What about nappy training. In my day (a phrase which seems to crop up more and more), we had to make sure that new recruits could ‘do their business’ as my Newish Husband puts it, in ‘the right place’. So far, Rose has viewed her pink potty as a bath stool and – when turned upside down – an early Easter bonnet.

‘Nonsense,’ says my daughter briskly. ‘She’ll be fine. All her friends’ children are off to nursery.’

There’s no arguing with that one then. Heaven help us if our grandchildren don’t follow the herd.

Then, as the big day approaches, my daughter calls. ‘Mum,’ she says in a small voice which reminds me of the time she temporarily mislaid mouse (her constant furry companion which even now sleeps on her marital bed), ‘I don’t know that I’m ready for her to go.’

Instantly I bite back my ‘I told you’s’ which are itching to jump out. ‘She’ll be fine,’ I say. ‘It will be good for her. She’ll increase her vocabulary and enlarge her skill sets.’ (Reader, please note that I am picking up the lingo of a modern aspirational young mother.)

‘And,’ I add, ‘it will give you more time with George.’

‘That’s true,’ she muses. ‘I do worry about that.’

‘Really?’ asks NH. ‘Do babies need time at that age? I mean all they do is eat and sleep. Mind  you, I have noticed that he’s looking around a lot more and taking it all in.  What do you reckon he’s thinking?‘

He’s probably hoping for a bit of peace and quiet. So far, Rose hasn’t stepped on him again but I can’t help feeling twitchy every time she prances anywhere near his baby chair.

‘Would you like me to come with you on her first day?’ I offer.

‘So you don’t think I can manage on my own?’

‘I didn’t mean that but you’ll have the double buggy and, well, it is quite a lot to juggle.’

‘Mum,’ she retorts. ‘I do it all the time when you are working.’

Oh dear. It’s so hard to get it right sometimes.

On the day itself I’m more nervous than when my own lot went to school. ‘Good luck for today,’ I text.

A picture promptly comes back via What’s App showing Millie about to set off, aka the royal photo of Princess Charlotte – although with knees together, unlike HRH.

Ten minutes later, there’s a ring at the door. ‘Are you free for coffee?’ says a little lost face.Ignoring the proofs for my new novel, I hold my daughter in my arms. ‘It seems so strange without her. Two days is quite a lot. And she is very young.’

Hang on. ‘But you said all her friends were doing it.’

‘That’s what I thought. But some aren’t starting for another three months now.’

I see. ‘What did she do when you left?’

‘She cried. And I cried. But then the nursery leader texted to say she was playing happily. So maybe she doesn’t miss me.’

That starts off another burst of tears. Oh dear. I find myself crying too. Even the dog is sitting, tail between legs, wondering where his playmate has gone.

‘The house is very tidy,’ says NH after my daughter has left minus the usual Rose chaos of emptied cupboards and scattered CDs. ‘I’m not sure I like it.’  This is from the man who goes into spasms if anything of his is inadvertently moved. The situation has to be more serious than I realised…

The next day, Rose decides she doesn’t want to go to nursery. That’s all right because none of us want her to go either. ‘But if I don’t take her, it will make her think she can get out of everything,’ points out my daughter. I just about manage to stop myself from saying that she already does that – at least with me.  Why was I so much firmer with my own children?  ‘Because you want to be popular, ‘ points out NH.

The next day I have a three hour train journey for an ultra-important London meeting with my publishers. I’m on tenterhooks throughout. (Nursery, that is – not the meeting.) ‘How did it go?’ I text my daughter..

‘Brilliant,’ comes back the reply. ‘They gave her a schoolbag and she wouldn’t let go of it when she got home.’ The message is accompanied by a video that clogs up my iphone storage, showing Rose climbing up the stairs, firmly gripping a ‘grown-up girl’s satchel’.  She even has a daily report card which says that ‘Rose is fully engaging with her peers’.

I can’t wait to show it to NH who is waiting at the platform to collect me.

‘Great,’ he snorts. ‘Just wait till she’s a teenager and starts bunking off school to get drunk and snog boys.’

Thanks a bunch. Meanwhile, all we can do (and I’m using the Royal ‘we’ here) is to take one small step at a time. I’ve a feeling there are several more ahead. For all of us.

 

Thanks for all your lovely comments everyone! Do keep them coming. It’s great to have so many followers.

I’d also love to hear about your grandchildren’s experiences at nursery. Do send in your stories.

 

December…

Welcome to DIARY OF A FIRST-TIME GRAN! Some of you may have been reading my column in the Daily Telegraph for the last eighteen months about my life as a new, hands-on gran to Rose (now two). It’s time for a fresh voice to take over now but I’ll be keeping you updated on our adventures in this new monthly blog.

Like many families, we belong to a complicated extended network of step relatives. In fact, Rose has three sets of grandparents! There were so many funny – and poignant – moments that I simply had to write about them.

Now Rose has a baby brother, George, aged just twelve weeks. So in theory, I am no longer a first time gran. However, just as every one of my children are different, so are my grandchildren. So I still classify myself as a beginner!

I do hope you will get in touch with your comments and also your own stories.  Grandparents are undergoing a revival because our children need us!  Like many of you, I look after my grandchildren for two days a week when my daughter is teaching even though I have a full-time job as well. Luckily, I work from home (as a writer) but this still means a lot of juggling and also burning the midnight oil so I can get everything done. However, I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s given me a unique opportunity to bond with my grandchildren – especially as they live just round the corner. (My daughter and son in law moved here because I’d always said I would help out with childcare. Mind you, I hadn’t realised then that I was going to get married again….!)

I’m going to start off with a Christmas and New Year Special.  Hope you enjoy it! And remember, do send in your own stories if you’d like to be on my blog.

HOW WAS IT FOR YOU?

In the last three weeks, Rose has seen a total of five Father Christmases. She yelled blue murder when introduced to the first; was persuaded to emerge from her father’s arms when it came to the second; and then became increasingly enthusiastic, especially when the last one gave her a much-wanted bubble set. So she is not at all surprised when a sixth rather-smelly Santa arrives at the front door in the form of my youngest son. She just can’t understand why he has a beard, a red anorak (which needs washing), a t-shirt with a hole in it and no sack of presents. Instead, he hands her a bottle of beer.

‘You can’t give her that,’ says my daughter horrified, promptly whipping it out of her hand..

‘Only joking,’ he says before swigging it back himself. Even though I only saw him last month, I still find it hard to believe that my 26 year old ‘baby’ has become a six foot plus man.

‘One day,’ I tell my daughter, ‘you’ll think the same about George.’

Of course she doesn’t believe me. As Oscar Wilde might have said, it’s a mother’s bugbear that her daughter never takes her seriously. And a daughter’s destiny that she will do exactly the same.

My own mother died when my eldest children were aged three and one. She would have loved to have been a granny for longer which is one reason why I want to be so involved. ‘We do have our own lives you know,’ my newish husband is always saying.

Yes but there’s nothing more important than this, especially at Christmas when it’s so lovely to be together.  Or is it? For the first time in ages, a close relative (better not say who)  is popping in with his own extended family en route to a holiday cottage in Cornwall. Just as I’ve finished cheating with the Christmas cake (I bought the fruit base for the first time in my life), his wife rings. ‘I’ve got a cold and a temperature,’ she croaks. ‘But don’t worry. We’ve still got two days to go so we should be all right.’

A cold shiver of apprehension passes through me. When George was two weeks old, he was rushed to intensive care with bronchiolitis. The consultant warned us that he might continue to be prone to chesty infections.  I try to explain this but it doesn’t go down well. Oh dear.

‘Never mind,’ points out NH. ‘There will be more food for us and you’ll also have one less Christmas card to write next year.’

The children are coming round to us for the festive lunch. They arrive at 9 (when we’ve just woken up after Midnight Mass) because George has been awake since the small hours. ‘Maybe he knew there was a stocking waiting for him,’ says NH who has never had a baby to keep him awake all night. Meanwhile,  Rose is dancing round demanding ‘chocolate’ and I’m trying to make five versions of lunch to suit our assortment of gluten-free/ vegan/ meat-only/liquid only/guests.

No one wants pudding which, unlike the cake, I made myself with Rose’s help. (Sixteen eggs plus three which she broke en route from the fridge to the mixer). George is yelling because he wants feeding again and the boozy son is narked because another of his beer bottles has burst in the freezer. (Science has never been a strong point in this family.)  Rose bursts into tears because Father Christmas’ bubble machine has broken. My eldest son retreats upstairs for some peace so he can write. And I’m on the phone to our local family pub to book a table for Christmas lunch for next year. (Far less hassle and probably cheaper than the fortune I’ve just wasted.) Unfortunately, no one is answering.

Tempers are fraying so we embark on that great British institution : the post-Xmas lunch family walk in the rain. ‘Can you help me with the pushchair, mum?’

I’d only just got to grips with the old one. This new design is even more fiendishly difficult than the last. Ouch!  ‘That’s another finger gone. Sorry, Rose.’

‘Mum!’ screams my daughter.

I’m only joking. If you can’t crack a few at Christmas, when can you? But she’s not amused. The rain soaks through the pram cover but then we turn the corner. ‘Sea!’ yells my granddaughter. And as we watch the magnificent waves hurl themselves against the promenade (we’re beyond wet ourselves), we remember how lucky we are.

‘Would you like any help with bedtime?’ I ask.

‘Great,’ says my son in law. ‘How long have you got?’

I ignore the look in NH’s eyes which says ‘What about that film on telly you promised to watch with me tonight?’

‘As long as you want,’ I say firmly.

It’s not easy getting Rose down to sleep because she refuses to be parted from her two favourite Christmas presents: a flashing electric toothbrush and a Peppa Pig football. In the end, we tuck her up with both.

Then the phone rings. It’s the close relative’s wife. ‘We’re much better now,’ she croaks. ‘We’ve only got a slight temperature now so we decided to go away after all.  Is it all right if we drop in on you tomorrow morning? We can’t wait to see the children.’

‘Sorry,’ cuts in NH who’d already picked up the extension, thinking the call was for him.  ‘But we’re going away ourselves.’

Really?

‘I’ve got a surprise New Year trip planned.’

What? But I’d promised we’d babysit for daughter and son in law. If I let them down, they’ll be really upset. But if I don’t go away with NH, he’ll be upset too.

Seems that I just can’t win. Watch this space.