Sunday, 28 November 2021

I wouldn't have it any other way

Granddaughters in Europe

It’s all go with new things to explore and touch, touch again, and then touch some more. What happens if I drop it? Will it bend? What does it taste like? Can I make it a game? Throw it? Hey, does it bounce? There is so much to learn and experience. As a grandparent, my trick to survive is to be present and alert, to stay calm and to think ahead—and, all at once. Most importantly, I must keep up. I need to eat well (this is easy), get lots of sleep and, yep, not skimp on regular exercise (this is hard). It all contributes to my safety, endurance, and enjoyment when grandparent duty calls. It is one hell of a job and I love it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

While the physical demand is one thing, the constant chatter, questions, and negotiation is another. And, if it’s me doing the talking, I don’t take a breath either. I use my voice for motivation and expression—enthusiasm, excitement, and surprise—increasing the volume when necessary. I ooh and aah and ramp it up a notch, aware of parents cringing on the sidelines. I’m rousing when I should be calming. Could I call this payback? Fun and laughter and happiness are all that matter in these special moments. Moments I treasure with my grandchildren and I love it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

There are toys … so many toys they require their own room. I watch the wonderment in play … colourful blocks stacked high then nudged and poked, the towers crashing to the floor. I see reactions from surprise to complete satisfaction then to resolve in readiness to start again. I’m on board with the fun but cringe as I check the newly polished floorboards. There are dolls and tea sets, cars and racetracks, play dough and leggo, and the mix continues to grow. There are storybooks to read, read again, and yes, read again. What makes Brian the Smelly Bear such an adored tale?  What makes him the legend, the fave? I read it over and over and each time with the same gusto but deep down I’m silently begging for another book—change it up a bit. And, yes, be careful what I ask for … the change comes. But, it’s a Japanese book. I search for words I know, English words, or even a familiar letter. I defer to the pictures. In earlier years I could get away with pretending—make up a story from the illustrations, be emotive and … point a lot. It worked before, but now 3 years on, my attempts are met with confusion. My made-up story, words and expressions aren’t even close to what the book is about. What was I thinking? My granddaughters understand 3 languages—Japanese, English, and French—and cannot be hoodwinked any longer by a one-language-only Aussie grannie. Maybe one day my granddaughters will teach me Japanese. A challenge for sure and I’ll love it … well I think I’ll love it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Grandsons in Oz
Screen time? My instructions were to keep screen time to a minimum. But how do I say no? How do I hold my position while at the same time endure the relentless negotiation, followed by disappointment, gloom, and finally (if I’ve missed the signs) the unleashed tantrum? It seems easier to cave. I want to cave. I want to make happiness … be the fun one. Isn’t that a grandparent’s duty? So, what do you want to watch? I ask. Peppa Pig? Paw Patrol or how about Bluey? ABC Kids? No, it’s not that easy. It’s Disney … Disney Plus or Netflix. What the? Where do I go from here? How do I find Netflix? I humbly ask the 3 ½ year old as I fumble with the buttons on the unfamiliar remote. I try to keep up with the icons dancing across and then off the TV screen. He impatiently guides me as we navigate the path to Disney Plus. Icons are highlighted, clicked then rudely dismissed until the play button is located and pressed, and Lightening McQueen (cars) fills the screen. Peace is restored. Another lesson for me and I love it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I'm yet to cuddle this little man!
Routines! Who needs them? Kids need them! But the routines aren’t my own and they’re new. I have to learn them and worse still, remember them. Notes, copious notes are taken—times, amounts, food likes and dislikes, lotions, potions, favourite toys, how to turn on the Snoo, how to turn off the Snoo, how to control the Snoo (it’s a bassinet and a whole new world), how to wrap, how to swaddle, and more, much more. Even getting a handle on the latest tool to get the kids to sleep—rain—is a challenge. Play recorded continuous gentle rain to induce relaxation and deep, sound sleep. Ah, it sounds so easy. My tip … ensure you memorise the password for the device and know without doubt which phone app and rain track to play. Any slip up here is a recipe for one bad experience. Either no rain at all or a raging storm with torrential rain and unexpected, loud claps of thunder will not induce a peaceful and mood lifting nap. Believe me I know. Instead, it snubs the routine and abolishes any chance of sleep. If this happens there will be no cuddly, cooperative after-nap glow. No sleepy adoring eyes or warm broad grin on waking. Instead a grumpy grunt and cool dismissal from a cranky little person I’m not allowed to look at but wants me to notice, and who screams with disapproval if I move to pick them up while they simultaneously reach up to me to free them from the cot. Tricky, yes, but I love it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Selfies together
At first the word grandma seemed so old fashioned and somewhat run of the mill. I wanted to be called something more colourful or interesting, a different name. My son and I researched grandma in other languages but nothing seemed to fit. We considered Naz. Nothing felt just right. We settled on grandma for the moment while leaving my granddaughter to decide in her own way, in her own time. Whatever her first word for me was, would be the endearing name my grandchildren would call me. It would be unique and it would be perfect. I waited. I waited for nearly 2 years and then it happened. A little mouth and tongue curling around the word grandma resulted in … Munga.  My son and I looked at each other. Oh no, it’s hilarious. We said it over and over. We tested it. We laughed, then laughed some more. I told my daughter and she laughed. Whoever I told laughed but beneath the laughter I felt a sense of specialness that I held close. Munga! It sounded tribal … my tribe. Munga was gifted from a beautiful little person, my first granddaughter, trying her best to say the word grandma. A word that for her was way too difficult. So Munga it is. It’s stuck and gladly I’m Munga to all my 5 grandchildren. I feel blessed and I love it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.


…..What do your grandchildren call you? I find it so interesting and I’d love to know.

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