When you look after grandchildren, you embark on a journey, much like the one Pi found himself in the middle of. All of our routines are blown to pieces. We are two who left the immediate knowledge of competent parenting behind us years ago. We are exposed. We are at the mercy of the ocean of it all.
Going to bed, for example. When? Oh, anytime…..
Well, anytime was 7pm because Granny was on her knees by then, even though my son warned me they would be up at dawn.
Now, the waking up process. This morning, unlike most other mornings, I became engaged in a conversation about the fact that a triceratops is very similar to a rhino, at 6.31am. A fight between the two would be interesting to watch……apparently, although from the folds of my pillow, the best I could manage was an ‘uhuh.’ I later discovered, having given in and dressed, that a woolly rhino, long extinct was the rhino in question. I suggested a visit to the Ipad and Dinosaur One, whilst I did a bit of this and that. In a very short (and noisy beep beep bang crash) time the pyjama-ed hunter managed to kill off at least two woolly rhinos, a fact that, when conveyed to his uncle who manages a game reserve in the Limpopo Valley, caused some consternation. Even when I clarified that the ‘hunter’ had fired from a spaceship, and did that make it better, the consternation remained.
The day before, collecting the children from school, I filled my boot-back with more kit than I plan to take with me to Africa. On unpacking, a wailing cry went up from one who maintained he could not, would not play with his lego because there wasn’t a person.
A person? I queried, my heart already sinking. Yes, he said, there’s no person, only animals. I suggested making a person from animal parts and was treated to the death stare. Slinking back to the kitchen, thoroughly chastened, I considered driving back along the alpine single track to get said person, then told myself the thought was nonsense. The child should use his imagination, accept his grandparently confines. The fact that he was bored by 8.17 am today did not sway me. He had woken in the night yelling about light and dark, because, of course, I should have left the landing light on. What a dreadful granny. But, these kids came with no instructions at all, and there are so many required. With my own around my feet all day, I knew the ropes, I’d laid them out, it was my lattice work, but now?
One eats bacon, one doesn’t. One eats bread, one doesn’t. One likes beans and the other doesn’t, or didn’t until he saw his sister tucking into a plateful, whence he conceded. One wants this mug, but so does the other one. No, they don’t like The Night Garden.
What I feel when left with my grandchildren, is both honoured and scared stiff. Children are so very definite about what they don’t want and that seems to be a lot. A walk…….no thanks. Drawing…..no thanks. But can we go home to download this new game?
No we cannot.
It made me reflect on how much we crave being liked, even by small-panted woolly rhino hunters in spaceships. It defines us, if we are not very careful, and turns us into something less than we really are. Saying No is never easy, although I remember saying it a lot to my kids, for all that it ever stopped anything happening. If I run around after you often enough, for long enough, will you ever be satisfied? There is a theory (possibly a fact) that any ‘addiction’ grows, it always grows, unless we realise it has taken hold and kick it. The need to be liked by all is a silent one and often fits like a dream for years cleverly disguised as Goodness. Well it isn’t ‘goodness’ at all. It’s an addiction.
I am able to be so very definite about this because it was my addiction. Fitting in and working around and putting others first is wonderful in balance, but it so rarely is, and the residue it leaves in the heart is bitter because the other side to this over-giving is expectation. I want something back. I want you to love me as I love you, care as much as I do, give as much, sacrifice as much. But you don’t. Of course you don’t, and the fault is not yours, but mine. I am not respecting my own self in our relationship, whether it be with parent, partner, child, sibling or grandchild. If I don’t look after me, why on earth should you?
My grandchildren, all 6.5 of them are taught manners and graces, despite this culture of letting the children run the household. The children know ‘NO’ and even if they don’t like it, they know its the end of that particular line. However, I am Button Granny and over there is Popz and we are fair game, much like the woolly rhinos. It is up to us to make new patterns according to our rules. Okay it won’t happen the first time, but with practice, I might find they like staying here, even without a lego person.