It begins with, “Would you mind having the children for half-term? We thought it would be really nice for you and Grandpa to spend some quality time with them.”
Before you know it, the car pulls up the driveway bursting with the grandchildren, their luggage and the ‘grand-dog’, that someone had forgotten to mention.
Out pile four small children with very runny noses along with travel cot, stair gate, highchair, ride-on tractor, pushchair, bicycles, three car seats, Nintendo DSs and an assortment of carrier bags stuffed to the brim with baby wipes, boxes of raisins and nappies. You are instantly handed a detailed routine for The Toddler and talked through a list of instructions. “Only organic food, no Marmite (too salty), no juice (too sweet), no nuts (possible allergy) and limited television and DS usage.”
Finally the parents leave, with the grandchildren totally unfazed. You return to the kitchen to discover the list has thankfully been chewed to shreds by the ‘grand-dog’. For the next five days you barely have time to listen to The Archers or watch your favourite television programme and certainly haven’t glanced at a newspaper.
You struggle to answer the phone and, when you do, you cannot hear who is on the other end anyway. You just shout, “I can’t hear you. The grandchildren are staying” and hang up.
Your civilised evenings chatting together over a carefully prepared supper and a nice bottle of Chablis are replaced with leftover cheesy pasta, Petit Filous and an extra large gin and tonic. You both nod off on the sofa in the middle of EastEnders.
However exhausting they are, not many grandparents would change it for the world. Grandpa has a team of helpers in the garden and on trips to the rubbish dump and Granny has a kitchen full of eager chefs who have crammed tins full of chocolate cookies and shortbread.
They have eaten the odd fish finger, nibbled on the occasional peanut and lightly spread Marmite soldier and watched a few DVDs but all in moderation, of course. They are well-exercised, happy, allergy-free and their teeth are intact (just).
Typically, the minute the parents pull up in the car to collect them, three of the grandchildren instantly start moaning and whingeing and the Toddler promptly dissolves into floods of tears. Happy Grandparenting.