A man of a bygone age, my partner likes to have ‘the right equipment for the job’ which is why he has a cupboard under the stairs and two garden sheds crammed with stuff such as rows of jam jars full of screws and nails ‘that might come in useful’ and an old ice cream box full of rusty keys, tied up in bundles with string,‘for a rainy day’. He’s a handy person to have around.
Having the right equipment for the job is important for childcare too, particularly when ferrying children about. Throughout the over 13 years as a gran helping my daughter and her partner in taking/picking up grandchildren to/from nursery/school, a car has been invaluable particularly since the family moved to the countryside 15 miles away. However, some cars can be not quite fit for purpose, particularly for older people who might not be as flexible as they once were. Until recently my car was a basic model with two passenger doors, but with airbags in the front. As other grandparents and parents with similar motors will know, this means that a baby carrier or a small child has to go in the back – great. First it was granddaughter 1 in a baby carrier who had to be taken in and out of the car. The carrier was held in place on the back seat by the seat belt so in the two-door car you have to twist your body into an S bend and then bend over in the back with the baby. And, oh joy, seat belts like to rewind themselves or get stuck just as you are threading them through the slots or clicking the buckle into the thingy. I can only hope my grandchildren have not been too traumatised by the mutterings of a tousled ran, wrestling with the so-and-soing seat belt while doing her back in.
According to The Law any child under 12 yrs old or less than 135cms (4ft 5.1ins) has to have a booster seat – useful information for parents of yesteryear who had the time to line up their children regularly to mark their heights on the wall. A child under 12 (or less than 135cms/4ft 5.1ins) is not allowed to sit in the front in case the airbag activates. It can be a bit of a challenge getting three grandchildren (this was b. Toddler boy) all on booster seats buckled up along an economy size back seat. If they were all sitting down at the same time there was no finger-wriggle room for locating the belt buckles. In a two-door car, it is necessary for the buckler-upper to climb into the back of the car and each child to enter one by one. By the time you’ve got to the third one in, your back feels as if it’s got chronic double lumbago and/or rigor mortis and granny’s gnarled old fingers get gnarlier by being rubbed reaching in between the tightly packed seats to find the so-and-soing final buckle. It is, of course, even more fun with rain beating down on the roof, the car steaming up, granny steaming up and three boosted granddaughters laughing hilariously. Now Toddler boy has a car seat with its own harness and foibles e.g. winter clothes turn him into mini Michelin man – straps refuse to extend and the two bits of the buckle refuse to meet while Toddler boy helpfully informs me, bent-double over him, ‘It’s gotta go click, gran’. It’s gran that’s going to go more than click.
In the olden days, prams were very low-tech and were basically like a scaled down coach and four (without the horses) and pushchairs, if they folded, folded most obligingly with the press of a lever. Nowadays pushchairs are called ‘buggies’ for some reason, they look like double-decker space capsules and you need a degree in hydraulics to unfold them. Thank goodness my daughter has a lightweight buggy that simply unfolds and clicks into place easily. But, on its fourth toddler, it’s a bit world weary and can refuse to fold up and then it won’t fit into the boot. This happened once and I felt like dumping the so-and-soing thing by the side of the road like a redundant shopping trolley, but there were people looking. Thankfully a calm and competent granny came to the rescue.
Nowadays Toddler boy prefers to walk (or hop, skip or bounce) and things are much simpler all round: granddaughter 1 comes home on the school bus, granddaughter 2 has grown to the appropriate size and can go in the front of the car while granddaughter 2 + Toddler boy are suitably (and legally) boosted and buckled up in the back. And at last, over 13 years and four grandchildren later, we’ve swapped the old car for one with four doors – Hurrah! – so Toddler boy can be secured from the side by a serene, unflustered and, most importantly, an un-bent, upright granny.
Lastly (and surprisingly), a tribute to modern technological equipment: my new mobile phone is designed for oldies with large letters and straighforward instructions. Basic like the old car, it’s not an iphone or a Blackberry, it’s definitely not smart and granddaughter 1 wouldn’t be seen out with it. Curiously, my partner has a Smartphone – and he’s even got apps! Like young people on the tube, he strokes the screen gently with his finger as if he is caressing a sick hamster. Mine doesn’t have apps and doesn’t need stroking, but it does have the nursery and school telephone numbers in it (which I put in all by myself), vital for when you’re held up in traffic or the car breaks down – a very useful piece of equipment indeed.