Saturday, 18 June 2011

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Now let me start this post by saying that I am immensely grateful for EVERY moment of childcare my mother ever provides me with. Having done years and years with no babysitters or 'childcare' or help other than (now ex) Husband With the Sad Face, well I know what it's like, hard - so I know how lucky I am. But, at the same time, lets face facts here - my mum's 'childcare' services are somewhat eccentric. Well they'd have to be wouldn't they? I mean her years of nurturing produced me. And my brother. He doesn't blog but he's a Geography teacher. Which probably says enough.

So I'm grateful but, let's put it this way, if OFSTED were inspecting my mum she wouldn't just be on Special Measures. She'd be shut down with a big leading article and mug shot in the local paper. She'd then become some kind of cult figure defended by women who wear odd hats and lots of navy blue across the land and, eventually, she'd probably be debated on the This Morning! sofa by Philip Schofield and whichever blonde he's currently sat with.

Anyway I think it's good for my children to have 'input' from sources even more eccentric than myself. It makes me look better. However there are times when she makes even me a bit, err, nervy.

Let's start with the concept of benign neglect (as in hands-off let them get on with it parenting). This is the type of parenting I think is a terribly good plan. But my mum takes it to whole new levels. I got back from my Saturday morning cup of tea with the nice Relate lady to find my mum sat on my sofa doing the Suduko.

'Mum where are the children?'.

'Oh upstairs I think'.

'You think? Ok and err what do you think they're doing up there?'.

'Oh they've taken the cats up there. They said they were building a cat trap and now they've put them in it'.


'But they've been every so good. I haven't seen them for at least an hour'.


The less said about the 'cat trap' the better. I don't want women in howling-wolf-fleeces waving placards outside the front door. The cats are fine though. One of the children has quite a few 'tribal scars' and there's blood on my carpet but no one was crying so fair play mum. I think.

Next look at language. I'm not the most clean mouthed of people but I do try very hard not to swear in front of my children. I've managed this pretty well for about 6 years. Two weeks with dear old Grandma picking them up from school twice a week?

The 3 year old opens the back door and exclaims 'Good morning bloody cats!'.


'Mummy this bloody truck is stuck again'.

etc etc.

As the youngest one said to me the other day whilst watching the next 'thrilling' installment of 'Trucks and Trailers' (Channel 5's 'fly on the wall' documentary about Eddie Stobart' lorries) 'mummy, this programme has bloody in it, like Grandma'.


Then lets look at 'games we play with Grandma'. Trying to drive the car I can cope with. Eating raw jelly until you go green is a rite of passage. But how did I genuinely feel the day they walked into her kitchen and said 'Grandma, can we have the scissors please, we're going to go and cut down some more nettles'. Scissors? Not just any scissors. Kitchen shears you use to cut up meat (or small children). And off they went. With these shears. Into the nettle beds. 'It doesn't matter if we get stung mummy, Grandma sprays us with the Wasp-Eze'.

So that's fine then. I'm not sure what she does if you lop off a digit but hey, time will maybe tell?

And then we have my mum's special take on the passing of life. There was no avoiding death when I was growing up. We were constantly surrounded by small birds and mammals she had rescued from cats, window panes, ponds or water butts and put into a shoe box.

To die.

Small children luckily provide you with a lot of shoe boxes and great stretches of my childhood were spent peaking into green Clarks boxes and praying for baby voles/frogs/bullfinches/whatever to live and go back into the hands of nature.

They were inevitably on a one way trip to a shallow grave but I never gave up hope.

And so the cycle is now reignited. Most women who dream of becoming Grandma's probably hope to go and feed the ducks or pick blackberries or play Pooh Sticks. My mum clearly had other plans. Like letting small children see damaged birds die.

We got there on Wednesday morning for her to exclaim 'look children, LOOK! A baby robin!'. And there, thrust upon, us was indeed a baby robin. It was lying on it's back with it's legs in the air inside a little cardboard easter nest box the smallest child made at pre-school to celebrate Easter.

Easter might be all about resurrection but I think it would have taken more than a miracle for this robin to rise again.

'Grandma, is it dead?'.

'Mum why are you showing my children a dead bird? They've not even had breakfast'.

'It's not dead darlings. It's STUNNED! It flew into the window! I'm going to leave it in this box in the sunlight and see if it comes back to health'.

The kids give me a look as if to say 'Ok we might only be 3 and 6 respectively but WHAT THE F@CK IS SHE ON?'.

I give them a look as if to say 'god knows but if you find out, tell me. It'll help'.

At this point the smallest child realises his carefully crafted Easter Nest has been commandeered as a Robin coffin.

'Waaaaa - I want my box back!'.

I decide to let her sort that one out and quickly go to work.

When I return at the end of the day she confirms the Robin actually died. Woah - what a shocker. But not to worry she then entertained the children by letting them watch a fox try to dig out a nest of baby rabbits. It was a thrill a minute - every time he went down the hole they looked to see if he came up with any in his mouth. Luckily he didn't but no doubt if he had, she'd have run out, clutched their injured form from his jaws and put them in a shoe
box. Before arming the kids with kitchen shears, stinging nettles and raw jelly.

As the great woman herself would say - Thank God for Grandmas BUT Bloody Hell!


  1. eek... should've read this AFTER I returned from my evening out after leaving the kids with the grands... lol.

    clever and entertaining as always... and there is that cliche that if it doesn't kill us it makes us stronger... unless of course it's a shoe box in which case... good luck with that ;)

  2. Lol, sounds very familiar, and just how did we manage to survive with childhoods like this - but we did (hopefully not too scared for life).
    Myself, my 2 younger sisters & 3 friends (the oldest of us was 6, the youngest 18 months), all had a tea party in our garden when my mum was looking after us. I don't know how long it was before she checked on us, only to find we were eating "peas in their pods" - except they were laburnum pods!!!! I still remember the frantic 999 call, & the ambulance journey with the Police escort, but we all survived

  3. Glad we got no giants about. Would probably get put in a shoe-box myself for extreme sloth. And, as we all know, once you're in......

  4. I love the concept of benign neglect. :)Your Mum sounds like an advocate of "extreme grandparenting" - perhaps you could write a book and it'll be the next big thing?
    Thanks for the smile.
    Hugs xx

  5. Haha - sounds marginally like my Mother and Father in Law - I am grateful for their childcare but sometimes i wonder why i let them loose with the kids!

  6. Great proponent of benign neglect here too. Your mother sounds extreme but it all sounds very character-building. No wimping out denial about death to protect them. It's nature raw, and that's how it should be... (within reason...)

  7. Benign neglect sounds more educational than the school system. My grandfather used to give me the meat scissors for cutting flowers, left me alone in the house while he went grocery shopping, and gave gruesome but necessary stories about how funnelwebs, redback spiders, and large stray dogs kill little girls.

    And yet it was being abandoned to the professional care of school that left me "issues".

  8. Argh, I provided more than a few hours of childcare for No.2 son...or is that what sent him slighty crazy??

  9. My gran used to let me eat raw jelly - I had forgotten about that - it was supposed to make your nails grow strong!!