I got home from work this afternoon to find one of my children calmly making a Chinese dragon with his granny.
I’m just going to write that down again – I found one of my children making a Chinese dragon.
Another was happily pottering around with his Lego, and the biggest one was engrossed in his book.
The scene was calm. Peaceful. It actually looked like somebody else’s house.
After tea we all danced with the Chinese dragon. No-one pushed, shoved or fought over who should stand where. It was a properly happy moment.
This is very much not a normal turn of events after school…….Firstly, I wouldn’t know where to start with making a Chinese dragon; and secondly, if my children were doing after-school crafts on my watch, they would be falling off their chairs, hurling things across the table, and/or sobbing because we’d used the wrong cereal box. Since going back to school a few weeks ago, the after school period in our house has been teary, fraught with emotion, unproductive, and anything but calm. Over-tired children have been more than ready to take out all their rage on me; or alternatively, on each other. On several occasions, I have wondered how much longer I can continue to do this, before quickly realising that there is absolutely no point in me wondering such a thing. I live here, and these are my children.
So what was this beautiful, serene scene before me? Who was this child, calmly asking me if I had any straws for him to stick on his dragon without even a trace of ‘I-really-need-a-selection-of-straws-now-otherwise-it-will-be-the-worst-thing-that-has-ever-happened-to-me’ in his voice? When would the normal after school behaviour start?
The difference this evening of course, was that ‘Grammie’ – my mum-in-law – was here. Back from her holidays. It was the Grammie/Grandma/Grandparent Effect. Not only were Chinese dragons being made, but there had also been handwriting practice. The handwriting practice that had been greeted with ‘Not NOOOOOOOOOOOOW, I don’t WAAAAAAANNNNNNTTTTT to‘ whenever I had suggested they might like to consider it. Chinese dragons, handwriting practice, AND reading books. It was, I am pretty sure, one of the most productive after schools we have ever had. Usually, the main thing we achieve is widespread discontent over whatever I have cooked for tea.
The Grandparent Effect is well-known in our house. My children are more likely to behave, listen and do things without fuss; and far less likely to fling themselves on the floor when the simplest thing is asked of them, when a grandparent is present. Grandparents bring with them a calmness, infinite amounts of patience, jokes, songs, time, and less of a pressing need to get things done. Which means they actually end up getting more done than I ever do. When my own mum is here, she manages to play games with the children, make a meal, do the reading books, wash up, do all the ironing, fold the clean clothes; and, quite often, knit a jumper too. I come home to a calm, orderly, tidy house full of happy children; and am always amazed that apparently this is possible. I find it difficult to believe that I will be that sort of grandparent. I can’t knit for a start…..or make Chinese dragons.
But for now, I couldn’t be more grateful for the grandparents my children are lucky enough to have. For the momentary calm they bring to our house. For the joy they bring their grandchildren just by being there (because when you’re 7 and 5, there are very few things that are more exciting than seeing your grandparents). For making bringing up children easier and more enjoyable for us.
And for being less snappy, less rushed, and so much more patient than me.
Three cheers for grandparents – they are amazing.