I’m out shopping with Rose when she sees it. “Pleeease!” The object of her affections is one of those magic screens that you write on and then pull out the cardboard flap at the side to erase your doodle and start again. It takes me back to my own childhood when I had something very similar. Perfect for my grandaughter’s Christmas stocking. Except that, of course, she wants it now. Anything for a quiet life.
Rose waves it like a trophy all the way back to our place. (Bang goes that morning nap.) She plonks herself down in a chair and proceeds to draw. I knew that child had talent. Then daughter arrives with baby George who’s yelling for third helpings. Newish Husband bounds upstairs to hide with Dire Straits.
Only when they’ve gone do I realise that Rose has left the magic screen behind - but the pen is missing. “Do you have it?” I text daughter. She doesn’t.
I get a panic attack. I haven’t had one of those since my first marriage ended. This is worse
At first I don’t worry. There’s too much going on, such as a telephone conference with my editor. But half-way through the evening when NH and I are watching a live version of Follies at the cinema, I get a panic attack. I haven’t had one of those since my first marriage ended. This is worse. Supposing Rose swallowed said pen. Or what if the dog did the same (after all, he devoured a lolly stick in the summer and had to be opened up). My daughter would never forgive me for the first crime and NH would never forgive me for the second.
I fidget all through the rest of the performance and then run home to do another sweep. “I wouldn’t worry,” declares NH. “As a child, I swallowed the squeaky bit from a toy spider and it didn’t do me any harm.”
I rest my case.
“Why don’t you ask Rose where she put it?” he suggests.
“Because it’s 11pm and she’s probably asleep. Anyway, she’s too young to say.”
“I don’t know,” he muses with that retired-lawyer air. “I believe there was once a case where an 18 month-old testified against her father in a murder trial.”
Maybe he has a point. So I ring my daughter but there’s no reply. Not surprising as they go to bed at 8.30pm. I measure the length of the empty slot for the pen and work out that it’s possible for either suspect to have swallowed it. As if that’s not bad enough, there’s a tiny warning notice on the back of the magic screen which declares that the contents are not suitable for anyone under 36 months. “I’m always telling you to read the small print,” points out NH, unhelpfully.
I doze in and out all night. What if Rose or the dog choke in the night and no one hears? When I wake, there’s an empty space beside me and the whirring of the vacuum cleaner downstairs. “Found it!”, comes an exulted cry.
The yellow demon had wedged itself between the cracks of the hall floorboards. I cry with relief and then promptly bin it, wrapped in several newspaper layers just in case.
“I knew Rose wouldn’t have swallowed it,” says my daughter when I call with the good news. “We’ve got loads of under 36 months old stuff. I’m more worried about George’s cluster feeding. He only wants me.”
My grandson won’t rest in anyone else’s arms – I feel quite hurt. 'Just wait until he’s older,' reassures Bad Gran on WhatsApp. 'You’ll be able to buy his love'
It’s true. My grandson won’t rest in anyone else’s arms – I feel quite hurt. “Just wait until he’s older,” reassures Bad Gran on WhatsApp. “You’ll be able to buy his love by giving him everything that his parents won’t. Trust me. It works.”
Meanwhile, I’m summoned to babysit a sleeping Rose while daughter takes George to the health visitor. I’m still hot with relief after the magic screen drama so I strip off to my bra just as a courier rings with a huge Christmas parcel from one of the step relations. (The delivery man doesn’t bat an eyelid at my déshabillé.) Surely it wouldn’t hurt to check out the competition? Inside, are lots of little ‘stocking fillers’ - including a magic screen. I promptly bin the pen plus the squeaky spider toy and put the rest carefully back inside before resealing.
Interfering? Me? I’m just trying to do my best. But it’s complicated. Especially at this time of year. Turns out this is just the beginning…
Next week: Rose turns two - but have I spent too much time panicking to enjoy being a granny?