GRANNY STATE DIARY OF A FIRSTTIME GRANDMOTHER (IT’S COMPLICATED)
This week: George is diagnosed and Granny decides which camp she’s in
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