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Do other grandparents find the morning school run a bit of a challenge? It’s not the getting them there that’s the issue, it’s the getting them there on time. In my case there can be four different approaches to the matter – but my daughter normally does it five times a week. The truth is that I’ve always liked to arrive early for things and as I’ve got older, my ability to judge how long it takes to get from a to b has diminished while the rest of my brain has been busy creating increasing numbers of potential pitfalls. This has the capacity of making me feel slightly on edge – it can also be a little trying for other people.
This time my daughter said she had to leave by 8am. I arrived at 7.35 and granddaughter 1 was still in the bathroom – what the bloody hell does she do in there? Usually she’s out of the door by c.7.40 and walks to the school bus stop. I offered to run her up there in the car, but my daughter said calmly ‘It’s ok, mum, I’m geared up to take her so you can stay with the others.’ Well, 7.45 came and went and granddaughter 1 was still a no show. Ok, so it wasn’t up to me to get her to the bus but, being me, I could foresee the worst (my partner calls it negative thinking, I call it realistic) and, oh dear, I went and said to my daughter: ‘It’s getting a bit late.’ (laughingly, I thought). She knows me very, very, well and can pick up a frisson of tension at 20 paces. ‘It’s ok, mum,’ said she, even more calmly, and disappeared upstairs. How much of a pain in the arse can one grandmother be?
Meanwhile, grandson was calling ‘Gran, gran, I really really need your help – Tracy Beaker has to meet her friends.’ God, you know the world has changed when a three-and-a-half year old is sitting at a mac manipulating the mouse and making a virtual pencil draw lines for a tiny Tracy to run up to avoid dripping water pipes and dodge paper planes zooming about in a virtual room. Noo-o-o, it was too early – but he’d probably been up since 5.30 (+ mum) so it was c. midday for him. And he didn’t need the help of a gran who really really needed coffee. I’d managed a few sips on the way (at red lights) decanted into a plastic tooth glass. As early morning drivers know, a mug handle stops a mug fitting in the hole thoughtfully provided in cars for a drink – a serious design fault, I’d say. I’ve spilt a lot of coffee getting to school runs in the past – in my old car just breathing in gave me a caffeine rush.
I digress. Grandson is going through a phase of asserting his independence, refusing to go places (such as nursery which he loves) and collapsing on the floor in a paroxym of righteous rage. I was not particularly looking forward to that part of the school run challenge so I took a pre-emptive approach. ‘I really really need your help to get your sisters to school on time,’ I said. ‘No, gran, I don’t want to,’ said he firmly. But I had a cunning plan – a trip to the Co-op on the way to the nursery as a positive incentive – bribery and corruption, but don’t tell my daughter. But, of course, he’d say to her tomorrow: ‘Mum, mum, I really really need a Peppa Pig egg. Me and gran always go to the Co-op on the way to nursery’.
While upstairs, my daughter had gently chivvied granddaughter 3 out of bed. She is not a morning person and was now sitting semi-comatose in the corner of the sofa wrapped in a blanket, breakfast untouched in front of her, uniform beside her. Yes, my daughter has got this school run lark down to a T and three toothbrushes primed with toothpaste lay on the table. The clock in the ‘watching room’ (as grandson calls it, it’s where the tv is) said 7.50 and, at last, at last, granddaughter 1 emerged – that girl makes even a school uniform look cool – and she and her mum went out the door. Pheeewww! Of course, she made it to the bus, no sweat.
Yippee, granddaughter 2 is a girl after my own heart in the getting there early stakes, and was already dressed and coiffed with a plait modishly round one side of her head and a loop of hair over the other ear. ‘Nice hair’, I ventured, but added, ‘but do you need a clip to clip up that loop of hair?’ ‘No, gran, it’s fine’, she said. Oh dear, a new hairstyle creation, then – how annoying can one granny be? ‘What time does mummy leave to take you to school?’ I asked her. ‘Ten to nine’, she said. Well, it’s a survival of the fittest out there when parking the car and my daughter is braver than me. ‘Maybe we should leave at 8.45,’ I said. Say no more, granddaughter 2 was sitting in the car at 8.40 while her younger sister, now fully clothed, was tying up her shoes. Result! And, olé olé olé olé, grandson got in the car with no dramatics at all: ‘When we come back, gran’, he said happily, ‘we can cook some popcorn and watch the Percy Jackson dvd.’ I kept schtum and didn’t disillusion him.
We turned into the school road and, bloody Nora, nowhere to park. Granddaughter 2 said, ‘Mum lets me get out here’ and she hurtled down the path dodging parents and children on their way to the school gate. I had to park miles away, up the pavement and, oh horror, we were running late. So me, grandson bouncing on my hip (at least it keeps me fit) and granddaughter 3, guitar flapping in one hand and school bag in the other, ran down the now empty pathway. We got there just as granddaughter 2 appeared at the door ringing the bell. Hurraaaah! Back in the car, I drove past the Co-op towards the nursery. ‘But I don’t want to go to nursery, gran,’ said grandson. ‘I know you don’t,’ said I, understandingly, thinking ‘now I’m for it’. But, hurrah, in the nursery car park, a mum threw me a lifeline, ‘There’s a new boy today.’ she said. ‘Wow,’ I said, ‘how exciting.’ Grandson perked up – and, triple hurrah! down the path towards the nursery he gaily trotted.
Job done – three cheers for me! Later that day I had an email from my daughter. ‘Hello, mum, sorry, can you do the school run again on Friday?’ ‘That’s absolutely fine’ I replied. But, oh god, I was thinking, success twice running? I don’t think so… Negative thinking or just realistic?