Our Overseas Grandparent shares her recent holiday at home with her grandchildren, filled with activities and loads of fun!
Well, the laundry is done, the beds remade, toys and books put away, the house has been cleaned and all of the sticky fingerprints removed from electrical equipment, doors and mirrors. I took my daughter and three year old grandson back to the ferry port this morning for their return trip to Holland and have had to keep busy in order to distance myself from the sadness of seeing them leave. All that remains is to replenish the stocks of home made cake (we have eaten all of the bread pudding, chocolate brownies and carrot cake in the house) but that must wait until the weather is cool enough for me to want to share the kitchen with a hot oven.
The house is so quiet and we miss our grandson’s cheeky little smile and constant desire to play with Nanna and Grandpa. That said, we are pretty shattered and will be having a calm couple of days now, in order to recover from the intensity of a little one in residence!
Why is a visit so tiring?
It is because we work very hard at maintaining and developing our relationship with our overseas grandchild. We love him and feel it is so important to spend quality time with him whenever we have the opportunity, making our own contribution towards helping to develop his social skills, language and interest in the world around him while, hopefully, laying down happy memories for him to access in the future.
So what have we been doing all week? Well, as it is the summer break here our five-year-old UK granddaughter is home from school. Her mum works a few days a week, so we had a perfect opportunity to have our granddaughter here, too, for a couple of days and an overnight stay so that the cousins could play together. They seem very fond of one another in spite of the miles between their homes so we must be doing something right! The weather has been very hot, so on their first day together we put up a beach tent, filled the paddling pool and had meals outside in the shade. This, together with free access to the little, ripe strawberries growing in the garden, went down particularly well with my apartment-dwelling, berry-loving grandson. However, the proximity and the heat and confinement meant that they soon began to need some individual space. Consequently, the next day I loaded everyone into the car for a trip to a local discovery park. This is an open, countryside area with trees, wide grassy spaces, raised banks, a river and paths leading to several oases of wooden play equipment including water pumps and gullies, tyre swings, slides and roundabouts, a super-giant seesaw, bellows that produce sounds and even a huge sandpit. The sandpit has both a huge climbing frame and a separate tower equipped with scoops so that children can climb up and raise quantities of sand to tip into chutes leading back into the sandpit, both great fun and a good lesson in gravity and sand play safety. We found a shady spot under a tree for our picnic lunch, a welcome breather and calorie boost that helped us all to keep going until we had completed the circular walk back to the cafe for ices and toilets before setting off for home. It is amazing, though, that Nanna seems to be the small people's supervisor of choice for toilet trips, especially when the toilets are down two flights of stairs.
During the visit, we also established a good routine at home, as I find this beneficial to small children and adults alike. It goes something like this. My grandson rises early (about 6 am UK time) so I get up with him in order to give my daughter (and Grandpa, who is not a morning person) a bit of a break and we play together downstairs until he is ready for his breakfast. Play can be really energetic, as he likes to involve me in dancing and running games, but I do get to sit down at the table with him while he eats and I read stories of his choice. I have had to forgo my morning exercise routine but it is well worth it to have this special time alone with my little man. After this, his mum and/or grandpa take over while I dash to the shower and dress myself. We all take turns to shower and then my grandson joins us for a second breakfast while we have ours. At least, this is how the week began but towards the end my grandson decided that he would like to shower when I did. He went first, then toddled off in his towel while I took my turn. The main shower is in our bedroom and although I have managed to preserve my privacy for five years with my granddaughter, keeping my nakedness to myself, my inquisitive three year old grandson was no respecter of this. Consequently I found him peering with interest through the clear glass shower door, knocking and asking loudly, "Nanna, where is your belly?” So much for dignity in my declining years!
During the day we have played in the garden (ride-in car, wobble board, ball games, leaves and sticks, using a big brush and a pot of water to paint the house, patio and our feet) and indoors (read stories, danced, played with Duplo, wooden blocks, trains, dolls and teddies, sounds lotto and jigsaw puzzles). In addition to the discovery park we have also walked to the local play park, been shopping (only once, as small people do not generally like this activity and need to be bribed with a trip to a cafe during the outing), driven to a country pub for lunch (my grandson loves both car rides and eating out) and had an outdoor adventure.
This last came about because, at bedtime the night before, my grandson had said to his mum: "You tell Nanna I go to sleep now. In the morning we have an adventure!" I couldn't possibly let him down so planned a walk in the little nature reserve close to our house. We walked across the field to the river and along the river bank. My grandson was talking about "walking through the jungle" (a favourite story book at present) but luckily the village handyman had previously mown paths through the long grass and nettles. We collected sticks to wave, commented on wildflowers, examined trees, watched and listened to birds, talked about the plants with stings and prickles, saw butterflies, dragonflies and little fish, made patterns in the water with our sticks, fished out waterweed and made noisy splashes and round ripples with pebbles. My grandson was the 'leader' and was thrilled when we followed him along the paths, although I did hang on to him tightly when we were on the very edge of the river bank for our water play.
Throughout all of our activities, we have sung together, both familiar favourites and made-up songs about what we were doing. Somehow I have managed to keep up with everyday chores like daily laundry, essential tidying, top-up food shopping and fairly healthy catering for different diets and food preferences. This, I am sure, was much easier in my late twenties and early thirties, when my own children were young, than now that I am in my early sixties. We have had breaks for indoor or outdoor lunches but our grandson’s evening meal has been indoors, preceding bath time. My daughter has supervised bathing and putting to bed so that I could get the adults' meal organised before we all collapsed in a heap to take a little quiet, adult time to catch our breath and prepare ourselves for the next day.
We have been so busy all week that we have had no time for drawing, play dough or painting and my grandson has not noticed that he has seen no television or iPad, although he was allowed to play an electronic game while I cut his hair. It was necessary to stop him from risking injury by whizzing his head about to see the scissors! Nevertheless, we have had great fun, lovely cuddles and my hard-working daughter has had a fully-catered break. It is small wonder that she has been referring to their visit as 'Nanna Camp 2013'.
It is our turn to go to Amsterdam next, to babysit for a weekend while our daughter and son-in-law have a grown-up break away. I can't wait!
The Overseas Grandparent is currently grandparenting across three different countries. Having retired from her career in Special Needs Education to spend more time with her husband, children and grandchildren she now seems to be busier than ever!
Photo credit: Jenny Bruce