Scary stories, sherbet dips but no TV. My Good Granny Guide

Scary stories, sherbet dips but no TV. My Good Granny Guide

|

UPDATED:

23:11 GMT, 19 September 2012

When my children were young, one of the treats promised by their grandparents was a ride in Grandad’s car.

Grandad’s car was a tragedy waiting to happen. He drove a fibreglass three-wheeler, chosen because it didn’t require him to hold a full driving licence. Grandad, an excellent man in every other respect, would never have passed a driving test.

So I put a lot of effort into discreetly ensuring Grandad’s car rides never happened.

Antidote to nonsense: Grandparents can have a fun role indulging their grandchildren with treats and fairy stories

Antidote to nonsense: Grandparents can have a fun role indulging their grandchildren with treats and fairy stories

If he was offended by the excuses we
made to ensure our children never rode in his chariot of death, he
didn’t show it. Perhaps he understood that parents trump grandparents,
and once you get used to the idea it’s not so hard to live with.

Fast-forward some decades and I’m a grandparent myself. I have six home-grown grandchildren and three step-grandchildren.

On
the subject of raising children, I’m as full of opinions as ever
(though experience has softened some of them), but I realise my duty now
is to keep those opinions to myself, unless invited to share them.

Sometimes
it’s hard, but mainly I’m relieved to have done my stint. And being a
parent today is far more difficult than 30 years ago. In the Seventies,
my children played in the street, read politically incorrect stories,
ate home-cooked food and occasional junk and, yes, were sometimes
smacked.

But my grandchildren are growing up in a world of pernickety parenting. There are a million things they can’t do, from standing under a conker tree without a helmet to eating white bread.

Expert: Laurie has six grandchildren and three step-grandchildren

Expert: Laurie has six grandchildren and three step-grandchildren

And this offers grandparents an altogether new, rather crucial role. We can be the antidote to this nonsense. We can be fun.

I’d like to see my grandchildren climb trees, not stand under them. I’d like to see them learn to make bread and brown it over a fire using my toasting fork.

But there are times to take a stand, and times to button your lip. The latter is difficult when you take an active role in raising your grandchildren.

Some of my friends look after their grandchildren several days a week while the parents work. I’d say getting up at 6am to make breakfast and do the school run and picking them up again at 3.30pm entitles them to a few opinions. Yet some areas are out of bounds.

We
can do grandchildren a favour just being ourselves. Children have to
learn to get along with people who have odd tastes

To begin at the beginning: the names your grandchildren are given. Not your business.

You had your turn, and maybe your kids aren’t so thrilled with the names you gave them.

Then there’s religion. Live and let pray. Our grandchildren know we say grace before dinner. They may look back on it with affection, or as confirmation that we were superstitious nuts. Whatever. Our house, our rules.

And discipline. It is unthinkable to smack a child now. Alternatives are used — time-out, the naughty step — and not always effectively. The problem is that banning smacking takes the spontaneity out of normal parenting, and doesn’t prevent some people beating their children black and blue. But I know I’m of a different era.

There are grey areas. Safety is one,
diet another. The over-protection of children is insidious. I find
myself falling for it. The things I allowed my children to do — cross a
road, take a bus — worry me now. Why I can’t explain it. I can only
regret it.

And then
there’s food. All parents know the current nutritional wisdom, and the
risk of surveillance by the obesity inspectorate. In spite of this, they
still end up with children who’ll eat nothing but dinosaur-shaped gunk.

Here, not only can
grandparents reassure parents, they can show the children a meal need
not be a battle. I have but one rule at my table. You may leave your
cabbage, but you’ll sit still and behave until I’ve eaten mine.

In some areas grandparents are allowed sticking points.

Granny power: But Laurie knows there are times when she should bite her lip - such as on the subject of her grandchildren's names (posed by model)

Granny power: But Laurie knows there are times when she should bite her lip – such as on the subject of her grandchildren's names (posed by model)

No television. I don’t have one and I won’t get one just to placate grandchildren. If they get withdrawal jitters, so be it.

No in-depth negotiations. This is not the United Nations. ‘Do you want a yoghurt’ requires a simple yes or no.

I will buy them whatever clothes I like. Soon they’ll be clad in teenage threads of their choice. If they never wear what I buy, fine. I’ve had the pleasure of the purchase.

If I was a knitter, I’d knit. What child hasn’t been knitted against A woolly hat made with love and ten thumbs never killed anybody.

I will not submit to the Political
Correctness Police. Fairy stories, nursery rhymes, right and wrong.
Frankly, even if I wanted to be PC, I don’t think I’d manage it.

We
can do grandchildren a favour just being ourselves. Children have to
learn to get along with people who have odd tastes. We are a child’s
first safe experience of eccentricity before he goes into the world and
meets real weirdos.

More
than that, grandparents can be a welcome relief. If your folks won’t
allow you to eat sweets, what heaven to go to Granny’s and be treated to
a sherbet dip.

One
of my comrades in granny-hood says what irritates her is being given an
instruction manual the size of War & Peace when she babysits

Grandparents don’t have an agenda, except to stop you drawing on their walls. Which brings me to my final point.

Grandparents
should not smile through the bedlam parents take in their stride. A
child who chooses his own bedtime and makes life hell is a child who
needs acquainting with Granny’s book of rules.

No
shinning up the curtains, no jumping off the couch, no playing piano
with a Little Vandal Power Hammer. And no grizzling. Go to bed. Stay
there. Granny loves you.

One
of my comrades in granny-hood says what irritates her is being given an
instruction manual the size of War & Peace when she babysits. As
she says, she’s done it all before. Her grown-up children are a
testimony to her skills. She gets huffy every time her daughter-in-law
tells her to be sure to settle the baby on his back.

Funny, as the very idea of a breathing-sensor baby alarm scares the bejaysus out of me. When it comes to the high-tech nursery I want everything in writing. My strengths lie elsewhere, and so, grandparents, do yours.

We know time flies. That there’s a place for whimsy and variety, that the world doesn’t end if you eat Shreddies for dinner. We know things don’t have to be perfect. Just as well because, as we also know, they never, ever are.