And We All Moved Up the Family Tree

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I got my Nanny status on Saturday morning. I am indeed a Nanny, it would appear. Just going by my name felt wrong – it lacked my new status. So I grabbed hold and pulled myself up onto the next branch of the family tree. Husband is still debating his own new title, declaring that as he never knew his grandfathers he doesn’t have a name to turn to. This is a cop-out. He’s never been keen on the idea of growing up and being responsible for other people. Let alone seeming old and responsible for even more. He’s definitely resistant to joining me on the grandparent branch.

But actually, the view from up here is quite lovely. I got to be at a birth for one thing without actually having to be the one doing all the work. It was a privilege to experience it from the other end, so to speak. Eve was amazing (22.5 hours takes some doing and she did it all by herself, although I think would have swapped places with anyone if she’d had the chance). She coped with it all with such calmness, even when it wasn’t going 100% to plan. She didn’t tell us where to go when we were at her side like some out-of-practice cheer leading team. She let us eat in the room even when she couldn’t. She grew-up over night.

I learnt some things too. I learnt that I can cope seeing one of my children in pain, that a baby’s head comes out looking the other way up to what I expected (you’d think having had four children of my own that wouldn’t have come as a surprise but I guess I’ve only experienced birth from the other end before) and that I could never be a midwife. Midwives are some of the most amazing people on the planet and my respect for them goes unbounded.

I also learnt that all things are relative. Noodles seemed so much bigger on Saturday than he did when I tucked him into bed on Friday night. Boo seems so much more mature, so excited and ready to embrace her auntie status, already besotted by her nephew.

And I was reminded that love is amazing. How can I have the capacity to love yet another small person with all my heart when I already do just that for each of my children?

I just wish there was the same endless capacity to hours in a day. Or maybe not. 38 hours with only 20 minutes sleep seemed like a very long time indeed. Waiting for visiting hours on Saturday felt like an eternity.

But welcome to our Gluestick family, little one. You’ve pushed us up the family tree and made us all older than our years, but right now I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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A Gran By Any Other Name Would Seem As Old

‘I can’t wait to be an auntie,’ Boo declared the other day, as we wait on tenterhooks for the arrival of Eve’s baby. ‘I’ll be an auntie and Noodles will be an uncle. What will you be?’

The truth is, I don’t know. Whilst Eve and her boyfriend become ever more indecisive about the name of their baby, I’m simultaneously having my own generational shift crisis. What will I be called?

It’s easy for parents. You automatically become Mummy and Daddy or variations on such a theme. You wait with excited glee for the first time you hear Dadada or Mumumu from the mouth of your child. It’s a no-brainer.

But it’s not so for grandparents. You get a choice. ‘What do you want to be called?’ Except the choice is loaded. It feels strange to ask to be called something (all other monikers from your proper name to nicknames tend to be bestowed upon you). Everything feels strange and unfitting.

And old.

Everyone seems to assume I’ll be Nana or Nanny. The consensus seems to be that Grandma and Granny is too old. MY grandmother is Grandma after all. I wouldn’t want us to get muddled up. But even Nana feels too old. I’m 39, a long way from drawing a pension. I don’t even have a pension plan!

I’ve taken to trawling the internet, but the alternatives don’t sound overly appealing either. I could sound like a character from kids’ TV (MeMom, Namma, Womba). Just let me grow fur and I’ll wobble around a magical land. Or worse, I could sound like a euphemism for female genitalia (LaLa, Minny, Noonie). Eeeeew! Or how about over-stepping the mark and going for OtherMother?!!! Seriously? Who chooses that?! No wonder some women have issues with their mother-in-law.

My own mum had similar issues when I had the twins. She felt too young for the traditional labels, so chose Coggy. My dad became Grandy, which I love and has stuck. Even my friends refer to him as Grandy.

And that’s another reason why it’s important to get it right, because I’m going to be stuck with it, no matter how many more rungs I progress up the generational ladder. No one in my family seems to progress any further than their grandparent name. Grandy will always be Grandy, my grandmothers were still Nan and Grandma to my own children (indeed Grandma will still be Grandma even though she’ll be a great-great one).

Although I don’t know if my great-grandmother, Big Nan, only became big on my arrival to differentiate her from new Nan. If she didn’t and was always Big Nan then I only wish I’d met her counterpart as Big Nan was already the tiniest grown-up I’d ever met. How small would a Little Nan have been?

But all the same, when I hear the word Nan I associate it with teeny tiny Big Nan and her strange smelling house and pictures of a stern bearded man on the side table. Or of my own Nan, who could never wait to take her girdle off, always had her hair set and who had a pantry, but not a fridge. I don’t associate it with me. And I can understand why my mum’s mum would never be referred to as Nanny. I’m not the hired help. I’m not paid enough.

My über-cool next-door neighbour is Nonna (she hopes her grandson will grow up to think of her as his Norfolk Nana, who drinks like a fish and makes fab quilts). I’m not sure I’m cool enough or drink enough to share her title. Similarly it’s fine for Goldie Hawn to be known as Glammy, but it’s not something I could pull off. I do love that Joan Rivers is happy to be known to her grandchildren as Nana New Face, but again it wouldn’t be appropriate for me.

Hopefully something will come organically when the baby starts to babble. But until then I might put my foot down, just like my sister did when she became an aunt. She’s never been called Auntie by any of her nieces or nephew, they just call her by her name, but the relationship is the same as if she was Auntie. So perhaps I’ll just be me for now and see what comes from there.