Granny broke my child

I love my mother, but I am getting really annoyed by her obvious attempts to out parent me.

Let me explain. I have two messy primary school sons in a disorganised household. There’s a lot of trellis climbing, mud, clattering about in soccer boots, dishevelled hair and occasionally inappropriate expletives... hey, it works for us. I am a tomboy myself and am happiest in a home where shrieking laughter reigns.

My mother, on the other hand, is a walking haven of calm. Just crossing the threshold of her home makes you crave tea in a bone china mug, to drink whilst decorously cross-legged on one of her pleasingly plump chintz couches, admiring her unusually large collections of Ladró and crystal figurines. (Which is possibly why I turned out as I have.)

Needless to say, Andreas and I are always a little worried when our sons return from a week staying with Granny and Grampa.

‘What do you think she’s done to them this time?’ Andreas asked me nervously last time, while leaning on the barrier in front of the arrivals gate.

‘Oh don’t be so melodramatic,’ I scolded, before I spotted the sons emerge and had to take a quick, deep breath.

Both were dressed in checked collared, matching shirts. Both had new shorts, new white socks and new sensible shoes. Both had clean faces and, most unnervingly, Little Lord Fauntleroy partings in their freakishly well cut hair.

‘Hello Mum and Dad,’ said Joey, our 10-year-old. ‘We had a really spiffy time with Granny and Gramps. Gosh, it WAS fun.’

‘Enid Blyton,’ Andreas hissed between his teeth. ‘She’s bloody Enid Blytoned them.’

‘It’s not so bad,’ I said, a little too brightly. ‘I’m sure if we just pour mud all over them and then plug them into the computer... they’ll be themselves again in no time.’

‘They better be,’ sighed Andreas. ‘Because these clean, neat, polite little people are just not what we were building when we left off and let your parents step in for a bit.’

Readers, it took a full week of weirdness to get our real sons back. During that time, they eschewed Fifa09 on the Wii to play Tiddlywinks and Crazy Eights... ‘jolly good games that Gran taught us’” Benj, our 8-year-old, dropped his toast sunny-side down and was heard to exclaim: ‘Oh DRAT.’ Both declined to participate in a Wednesday tradition our family has always had much fun with – Sleep In Your Undies Night – preferring instead to don their new, stripped flannel pyjamas.

Needless to say, the next time I got my mother alone in a restaurant with a bottle of white under our belts, I had plenty to say to her.

‘Must you insist on parenting my sons so much better than I do?’ I asked, lippily. ‘It’s just too, too shaming.”’ (Yes. My mother’s presence does tend to make me start speaking like a character in a Noel Coward play. She’s THAT together.)

‘Well darling,’ my mother replied whilst pouring us both a goodly measure from the second bottle of wine. ‘I only really have one response to that. Your favourite skirt.’

‘What favourite skirt?’ I asked perplexed. ‘I can’t remember EVER wearing a skirt. I hate skirts. Gosh, remember that awful red frilly one you bought me once? Ick. And that yellow, evil custardy one. Oh, other than that lovely denim one Gran bought when I was 9 that I didn’t ever take off.... oh. I liked that.’

‘Exactly,’ said my mother. ‘Now you know what it feels like.’

I just love the circle of life, don’t you?

Who parents better, you or the grandparents?

Read more by Sam Wilson
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