When my son and daughter in law (DIL) asked me to babysit for a weekend I was delighted. Wow, they trusted me to look after their very full-on, 19 month old, mischievous monster, delighting in the name of Winston. He has film star blue eyes, the strength of an All Black (his mum is a Kiwi) and all the stubbornness, energy and charm of Baroness Thatcher.
“I must be bonkers,” I muttered to my self like a mad old lady. “What am I doing? The first weekend away from his parents in his whole life?”
The flat, which they are living in, is in a posh part of London, Harley Street to be exact. It is on the fifth floor without a lift. Even worse, one has to pass the patient’s waiting room, the secretaries room, and, the consulting room of a very famous cardiologist just to go upstairs. You are quite likely to meet an elderly heartthrob, sorry about the pun, a Sheik, or an ex-Prime Minister (I told you the cardiologist was famous).
Why was I feeling so nervous? I’ve brought up 4 children, survived 3 divorces, run an interior design business, and had a reasonable theatrical career… surely Winston couldn’t defeat me. All I need to do is keep him safe and happy and hand him back intact!
“I’ve left you lots of food,” said my DIL, as she waved goodbye.
The fridge was full to bursting, groaning under the weight of seasonal, mellow fruit, goat’s milk, gluten free bread, organic eggs, and excessively good veggies, lightly dusted with earth (they do that to show you they’re organic). Oh yes and 6 bottles of red wine, my DIL knows how to get round me!
I had lists menus, routines, timetables and things to do. Library, snacks, constructive play, as opposed to destructive? What to do in case of emergency, doctor’s address, I had hardly read through it all before Winston announced, “Poo!”
Nappies have changed in the last ten years, they now have things called pull ups (which are wonderful) but not so wonderful when you pull them down. The knack, I now know, is to tear the nappy off ferociously like a child opening a present. The faster the better. On this occasion (my first nappy change for a while), I was just endeavouring to get Winston to step out of the nappy when my mobile rang.
“Is he alright?”
The parents had only been gone an hour.
“Absolutely,” I said, slightly irritably, “he hasn’t even mentioned your names,” desperately trying to stop Winston from stepping on to the contents of his nappy.
“Oh that’s good,” said my DIL.
I might have been wrong, but I thought I heard a hint of disappointment in her voice.
“You really don’t need to phone,” I said, “I promise you I will ring if there is a problem.”
So off they flew content in the knowledge that BPG had everything under control.
The first day went splendidly, I did everything according to my instructions. Happily there is a large park near Harley Street. It is filled with child friendly goodies, ducks, slides, swings, waterfalls and, best of all, other children.
There were a few anxious moments when Winston climbed to the top of the high slide (I didn’t know whether to follow him or wait at the bottom and try and catch him) and then it was snack time. Yogurt, cheese, gluten free biscuits and blueberries finished, most of it covering the expensive buggy plus a good few dribbles down my ample bosom, we set off to get Winston to sleep by walking the streets of London. What my DIL had failed to tell me was how long it would take. Winston is an active child who takes an interest in everything and has a habit of saying, “Hi”, to all and sundry – an endearing quality but not so good if you are trying to get him to go”night nights”.
An hour and a half of plodding up and down and he finally dropped off. The prospect of carrying him up 5 flights was worrying my back, in fact it was aching in anticipation, but first of all I had to get him out of the buggy. I started to unstrap him. You need the thumbs of a plumber or a Dutch Dyke plugger to unclasp the push button – my arthritic thumbs just couldn’t do it. The prospect of reading the microwave manual or watching the kitchen clock was not very appetising, so I tried the clasp again and sheer adrenalin did it. I prised Winston out of the buggy and heaved him onto my shoulder. By the second floor my heart was pounding – thank God the doctor’s a cardiologist I thought. My intercostals were stretched, I was breathless and heaving but Winston still hadn’t woken, so on we went, step by step until I laid him gently on the bed. Eureka I’ve done it!
Just bath, story time, and supper to negotiate – a doddle. When it came to bedtime, I told him stories for two hours, stroked his forehead, sang songs and finally brought him his bottle. I was sorely tempted to fill another one with red wine so we could drink side by side, but I resisted the urge, I do have standards and anyway red wine doesn’t taste very nice in a plastic bottle.
Only one and a half more days to go, maybe I will be a little more adventurous tomorrow.
With my new found confidence, as a babysitting Granny, I phoned three girlfriends to come over and meet Winston the next day. Even more daringly, I invited the cardiologist for dinner. One of my girlfriends was staying the night, she is a very good cook, so she could help out with dinner.
The girls arrived and Winston was so excited at having an audience of adoring grannies, he didn’t go to sleep at lunchtime. At 5 pm he flopped. Dilemma. Do I wake him up to have his bath at 6.30pm and then try and put him to bed again? Hmm that won’t work. Shall I let him wake naturally and put him down when he is tired and he can just join in the dinner party. I decided on the latter.
The outcome was Winston woke at 6.30pm in a terrific mood. We had a good dinner – my girlfriend, Winston, the cardiologist and myself. Winston played happily, building Lego, chatting to us, and occasionally climbing onto someone’s knee. He went to bed at 11.30pm! He was tired so he went to sleep quickly, it couldn’t have been easier, my friend and the cardiologist got on really well, I was relaxed. What a lovely evening!
So I’m not going to worry anymore and my advice is if you are a Granny you don’t have to stick to rules, follow your heart and enjoy your grandchildren!
“How was he?” asked the happy couple after their two nights away.
“A little angel” I replied!!