Once a week, I’m up especially early to head out to work. But I thought she was a lady of luxury, sitting in her little washhouse, knitting and reading, or off on expeditions and travels all the time, you say?! Ah well, remember I am also a granny of four, and to earn the name of “Nana”, I try to do my bit… and that means getting up early.
(My husband described me recently as “Nana Lana” – granny of the wool lol!)
I don’t even arrive at my daughter’s house in time to see my eldest grandson off to school. Here in Switzerland, primary schools often start morning lessons around 7.25 am, and the 9 year old has to be out of the house by 7 to ride his bicycle down from the house and across the main traffic axis and back up the other side, where the schoolhouse sits on top of a hill overlooking the farmsteads, just like in an American naïve painting. It’s a Swiss naïve painting!
I’m barely in the door before the next one is donning her gear ready for Kindergarten, so I’m greeted more in passing. At 6, she is already a very independent young lady and has definite ideas about what she wants to take as a snack and what else needs to go in the bag. Jacket and boots on, the doorbell goes, her friend from next door is ready to go, both of them with neon visibility waistcoats to keep them safe as they walk the same route as their big brothers, up to the schoolhouse.
Most mornings when I arrive, it’s the nearly 3 year old who comes running to greet me, full of ideas for what we’ll play today. Will we colour, read, sing, dance, cook, drink tea, play with the cat, do puzzles and build towers? All of that! Together with his little sister, 14 mths, there’ll be running, chasing, hugs, tumbles, laughs and tears. They will ride bobby cars and motorbikes, he will rescue her by towing her car with a dog lead, and make repairs using the vacuum cleaner cable before they can be on their way again, round and round the table. They will stop to make a fuss of the cat and then be off again, sneaking into the kitchen to nab some crackers or disappearing upstairs with a particular toy in mind. Littlest one will topple over and bump her head on the carpet and big brother will charge off and return with plasters for her forehead that she’ll wear proudly all morning. I will be crawling around after them, replacing fallen-off slippers and socks and wiping noses, and suddenly they will demand books and plump themselves down on my lap to read the same books for the hundredth time, seeing more and learning more each time they do so. They love cuddles and tickles and both have an infectious giggle. “Round and round the garden, like a teddy bear…” is always a big hit all round, over and over again, “Hoppe hoppe Reiter…” as they bounce up and down on my knees. Nappies are changed, pyjamas discarded, fresh clothing sought out, breakfasts distributed. Ready for round two. Up in the playroom we’ll build train tracks, rearrange the farm animals, send the fire engines to an emergency, career around the roads on the play mat. More puzzles and games, more books and stories, some “shopping” and “cooking”, a tea party, the bed as a boat, a castle, a fort or a house, the clock striking the hours in animal voices – a lion’s roar at 9, an elephant’s trumpet at 10 and so on…
Perhaps the baby will take a morning nap if she was up early and little boy and I might have a short window of Fireman Sam, the Moomins or Teletubbies for a few moments of downtime, cuddled under a blanket, a breather between games. Though we might be too busy doing jobs in the kitchen or he might be absorbed in being an elephant with some tubing he’s found, or we could just be occupied blowing bubbles…
Anyway, at some point we have to start thinking about lunch for everyone. Hungry children will be home at 12! Little helpers can do lots of things, empty the dishwasher, put things away, set the table, make salad dressing, fetch ingredients from the fridge, or just bang a wooden spoon on the pots and pans! We’re clockwatching now, timing everyone’s needs to be ready on the hour… and trying to prevent more sneaked snacks when lunch is nearly ready.
12 o’clock. High noon! First one child in from school, rosy and sweating, then the other from Kindergarten, full of chat. What’s for lunch, Nana?? Now I get to gauge if it’s going to be a success! They are too polite to whine, as a rule, but I will see how successful my cooking is (compared to their mother’s!) by the leftovers…or none. Get the toddler into the high chair, bib on, avoiding any tantrums from the nearly 3 year old – where does he want to sit, which plate does he want, is he happy with a fork today or does he want a spoon and knife, too? What colour beaker will they each have without complaint – woe betide I offer pink plastic to a 9 year old boy or a Cars motif to a 6 year old girl!! Squabbles and tales, food everywhere, who likes ketchup, who prefers mayonnaise, who likes to mix them, who needs meat cutting, who feels their food is too hot and demands I blow on it…?? The two smallest generally eating with great gusto, oops, lets get their sleeves up, and we’ll ignore ketchup behind their left ear until we’re clearing up! The eldest impatient to push his plate aside and tackle his homework, his sister impatient to have lunchtime over and make playdates, the younger ones tired and beginning to flag.
Clear the table, fill the dishwasher, help with homework, prevent the phone being used in the lunch hour, make up a bottle of milk, get the toddler down for a nap, where’s the dummy gone?! find a quiet activity for the 3 year old if he won’t sleep, keep the 6 year old out of the 9 year old’s hair, give permission for screentime, replace some batteries, check hands have been washed, change more nappies, admire crafts brought from school, make sure parents will see any paperwork, let the dog out (especially when the postman comes to leave a parcel!), let the dog in, answer the phone, wash the pots and pans, let the cat in or out (or both), fold some laundry, admire the latest train or racing car set-up, do more difficult puzzles, more intricate colouring… eventually, each child is off for their own quiet time.
Make a cup of tea! Let the dog in to clear up after the toddler (aren’t dogs great at recognising a high chair and toddler and all they offer?!), run the vacuum cleaner, and finally, sit down and actually drink the tea…
My daughter comes in, looking fresh as a daisy after a morning in the office, ready for her own afternoon shift with all four children, plans for activities and appointments. I finish my tea, exchange news and notices and then it’s time for me to wrap up warm and start for home. If I can, I’ll take one of the kids to an appointment if it will save my daughter a journey, otherwise I will just make my way back down the valley, a warm feeling of contentment lingering that I’ve not only done my daughter a favour (hopefully!) by being there for the brood for a few hours, but also happy that I have a relationship with all four of my grandchildren. I know their likes and dislikes, favourite toys and activities, and they know me, too, and look forward in turn to coming to see me in my home and doing the activities they associate with us. Yes; this is what family is all about!!