A few years ago, my brother who lived in Queensland, rang to tell my husband that there was a job going on the Gold Coast for which he would have been almost a certainty to win if he cared to apply.
We turned the idea down immediately, and my brother could never understand why we didn't want to leave the family – at that stage we had seven grandchildren. But when I visited him a few years later and he was proudly showing off his grandsons, I said, “Now you know why we didn't even consider that job” and he looked sheepish and agreed that yes, now he understood.
Some friends say yes it's lovely to have the grandchildren, and you can hand them back when you get sick of them, but really that's a bit misleading because you never actually get sick of them.
True, sometimes you might yearn for 10 minutes of peace to lie down and get your head together, and you have to shake yourself at times when you get impatient to get moving and you have to take the time to buckle shoes and find hats and bags and teddies and drinks of water before you actually walk out to the car or bus stop, but the fun of helping them with their 'craft' (which means you have a use for all the empty toilet rolls and biscuit packets to make robots and cars), or showing them the big ships on Sydney Harbour, make it all worthwhile.
Grandchildren are at once a memory of the past and a peep into the future. Sometimes they will do something that reminds you so much of what their parents did, it's all you can do to stop saying so (or telling your daughter “that's called Karma”), other times they will come out with a statement that will stop you in your tracks and wonder where that came from.
Once they are teenagers, it's a different ball game. If you're lucky (or a good listener) they will chat to you about their interests or problems, but there will be times when they won't come out of their room when you visit unless Mum or Dad call out, “Fred! come down here and say hello to Nanna!”
However, if you have any problems with your phone, computer or iPad, they are a mine of information and an incredible help. Of course, they don't believe you when you tell them there was only one phone in your street when you were growing up, and you had to take tuppence with you when you walked down to Mrs Smith's to use her phone.
This week, when I had my youngest daughter's six-year-old twins for a sleepover/babysitting night, they informed my partner that they have decided to call him Grandad instead of John. This was totally unprovoked and unexpected, but absolutely blew both of us away.
My husband died two years before the girls were born, so they have never known a real grandfather, and John's grandchildren are either interstate or in New Zealand, so their announcement was such a lovely moment.
I am having fun at the moment because I'm teaching one of the six-year-olds how to crochet. I think she's actually a bit young to learn, but she doesn't believe me so is determined to do it, and assures me that it doesn't matter that she's left-handed and I'm right-handed because she can do stuff with her right hand if necessary. So far she's done three lots of chain stitches and is quite sure the scarf will happen at the next sleepover. And I'm the happiest Nanna ever because I feel useful!
What’s your favourite activity with your grandchildren?