What do you think of when you think of a grandmother? A silver-haired old lady with the touch of crepe paper and the scent of sweet sherry? A woman with a penchance for knitting and baking and casual racism? A collector of knick-knacks and trinkets and the keeper of generations of family secrets? Or maybe they’re just my grandmothers.
But in a matter of weeks I’m about to move up a generation and become a grandmother myself. Not something I thought would happen before my 50th birthday, let alone something that would happen before my 40th!!! I do make a mean fairy cake and leaving a weekend away for the sake of a tea dance earned me the nickname Granny Nat, but I very much do NOT feel ready to have a status that brings to mind the ranks of the blue-rinse brigade (even if it has been fun watching friends’ jaws hit the floor when I’ve told them the news).
Obviously the biggest seismic shift is going to be for my daughter, E, who despite her ever-expanding belly still seems to be in denial about her impending motherhood. She will have to go from a teenager concerned about A level deadlines and which nail varnish to wear to all the angst and fear and worry and guilt and all-consuming love that comes with being a mum. And those A level deadlines will still hand over her despite the sleepless nights and days that feel as though you’re living a life encased in a gel of tiredness. She’ll be lucky if she can find the time to paint her nails any more.
But, as I’m not of the super-gran generation, those wonderful women who put their children and grandchildren first and who can whip up a 3-tiered birthday cake to Mary Berry standards whilst knitting baby cardigans, those of my grandmothers’ and mother’s generation. I’m also anxious about myself, the impact the baby will have on me and where I now belong. E and her boyfriend are living with us. It’s as though our house operates a one-out, two-in policy as news of the baby arrived just as E’ s twin sister left for university (damn and blast strong teenage abs). A generation ago it did much the same as I moved back home with the twins as babies just as my sister was leaving for uni. Strange how history repeats itself. Until E has completed her A level re-sits in the summer maternity leave will be a luxury unafforded to her and I shall have to care for my grandson whilst she studies.
This doesn’t particularly change my life in any fundamental way as I’m currently a stay-at-home mum anyway, with 2-year-old Noodles and 6-year-old Boo my biggest priorities. But looking after one child is phenomenally easier than looking after two, ditto two compared with three, the ratio of arms to children being of rather whopping significance. And with Uncle Noodles being something of a mummy’ s boy (as 2-year-olds should be allowed to be) I’m intimidated at the prospect of my ability to cope. I vividly remember watching a friend struggle to cope with her toddler son and baby daughter and thinking ‘I’m glad I wont have to go through that.’ And yet there I’m going to be, trying to meet the demands of differing age groups (the one bonus of twins was that at least they’d roughly be doing the same thing at the same time). Please please please let it be a placid baby! And please please please let Noodles be willing to share my time and my body. Mind you, I don’t get to exercise or cook or read the papers or go to the loo without him following me or climbing on me or clutching at my legs (I call him my mini shadow) so I don’t suppose it’s a concept that’s going to come naturally to him. Once more, please please please let the baby be placid!
And then there’s the responsibility of looking after someone else’s child. It seems ok to make mistakes with your own, to muddle along and hope it all comes out in the wash. But someone else’s? You don’t want them looking at you and thinking ‘But I trusted you.’ Although I’m sure E is thinking the same thing, I don’t think I’m ready! On the plus side, I suppose I won’t have to worry about ageing reactions and arthritic fingers and dropping the baby (a big concern for a neighbour who recently became a gran, although she’s been fine so far). But conversely I’m still going through my own tunnel of tiredness with Noodles still not sleeping through the night. It’s not every grandparent whose suffering from child-raising sleep deprivation. Perhaps I will drop the baby out of exhaustion instead!
With B-Day looming large on the horizon it’s easy to worry about how all the pieces will fit, but I suppose once the baby is here everything will slot into place. And I shall be lucky to have access to so much time with my grandson, both in terms of sheer hours with him in the day and (hopefully) in the years before I pop this mortal coil. It’s going to be strange to begin with raising a baby and his aunt and uncle at the same time, to be a mum and a gran in the same breath. To have to explain to strangers that, yes, that one’s my son, but that one’s my grandson. Especially as I bet E will soon have a flatter tummy than me too. Again, damn and blast strong teenage abs. Or to breastfeed Noodles whilst bottle-feeding the baby. To constantly be jumping the generation gap. Or maybe it will be no different to being a mum, just with a different label? I guess it won’t be too long until I find out!