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.