GRANNY STATE DIARY OF A FIRST­TIME GRAND­MOTHER (IT’S COM­PLI­CATED)

This week: Ge­orge is di­ag­nosed and Granny de­cides which camp she’s in

The Daily Telegraph - - Family -

It is nearly 2am. “Don’t go,” pleads my daugh­ter. “I need you here if they’re go­ing to do the lum­bar punc­ture.” Wild horses wouldn’t drag me from her side. But there are no overnight fa­cil­i­ties for rel­a­tives in the hospi­tal, so I’m try­ing to keep quiet in order not to be thrown out. Mean­while, my son-in-law needs to stay at home with lit­tle Rose, who’s had enough in­sta­bil­ity in the last few weeks.

Then a nurse comes in. “He doesn’t have menin­gi­tis.” A wave of re­lief washes through us. “But we think he has bron­chi­oli­tis.” Not so good. Baby Ge­orge is, she ex­plains, “not at all well”. Yet there is noth­ing that can be done apart from keep­ing an eye on his tem­per­a­ture and heart rate. An­tibi­otics won’t cut the mus­tard, be­cause it’s a virus.

“Can’t they give it to him just in case?” I sug­gest, think­ing back to my day when peni­cillin was doled out as a mat­ter of course.

“No, Mum!” ex­claims my daugh­ter, as though I’ve just sug­gested a dose of cyanide.

Mean­while, three-weekold Ge­orge looks so frail. Is it all my fault? If only I’d avoided con­tact with a friend who had a cold, this might not have hap­pened.

My daugh­ter and Ge­orge are now be­ing trans­ferred to the chil­dren’s ward, but I am fi­nally be­ing ejected – kindly but firmly. I man­age to get a taxi home (our near­est hospi­tal is 50 min­utes away) and tip­toe to bed, past sleep­ing Newish Hus­band. Then I toss and turn all night.

The next day I get a text. Ge­orge is be­ing dis­charged that af­ter­noon. So soon? The bed is needed and there’s noth­ing more that can be done. “See your GP if you’re wor­ried.”

Wor­ried? Of course we are. His tiny ch­est is so rat­tly that he sounds as if he’s got a saucepan of jam bub­bling in­side.

“What if I pay for a sec­ond opin­ion?” I sug­gest. My daugh­ter shakes her head. “We’ve got to trust them.”

A few days later (by which time Ge­orge has been checked twice by the GP, who says there’s noth­ing to worry about “at this stage”), I find my­self at a work do, sit­ting next to an­other granny.

When I tell her that I help my daugh­ter on a daily ba­sis, she tuts loudly. “I look af­ter mine when I can, but I wouldn’t com­mit to a reg­u­lar rou­tine like you. I’ve got my own life to lead.”

Newish Hus­band is smugly ju­bi­lant. “You see? Not ev­ery­one else is an un­paid nanny.”

But that’s not the point. I love help­ing out with my grand­chil­dren, even if it does make me a bit stressed at times. It’s not easy try­ing to send an ur­gent email while en­cour­ag­ing a tod­dler to eat. And my phone still has scram­bled egg smeared on it from last night’s tea. But if I didn’t look af­ter them, my life would lose its pur­pose.

“Why?” asks NH, alarmed. Be­cause I still need to care. I hated it when my own chil­dren left home. Hav­ing Rose and Ge­orge has given me a new lease of life. But am I self­ishly us­ing them as a sub­sti­tute?

“Too much in­tro­spec­tion,” de­clares an­other gran friend. “Any­way, you’re miss­ing the point. The bat­tle be­tween ‘oc­ca­sional gran­nies’ and the ‘al­ways on tap’ lot like us, is the same as the full-time work­ing mum vs the stay-at-home de­bate. There is no right an­swer. You just do what feels right. Pass that bot­tle can you?” (And she’s not talk­ing for­mula).

Just then, Rose wakes up from her nap. “Gan Gan,” she says, fling­ing her warm lit­tle arms around me. It’s con­fir­ma­tion – as if I needed it – that I am in the right camp for me.

‘No, Mum!’ ex­claims my daugh­ter, as though I’ve sug­gested a dose of cyanide

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