We moved far away from the family home, far from the town in the shire where you invested your careers, friendships and lives. We preferred the bright lights of the big smoke with higher salaries, bigger shops and more take-away options, selected from an app on our phones. We used to call you up in the evenings for an uninterrupted natter. We used to visit “home” at weekends with flowers or new partners for you to meet. You’d meet us at the station and there would always be smiles, hugs, a cuppa on arrival with homemade treats and home-cooked feasts. My old bedroom, a relic from my childhood, readied with fresh linen and towels. We loved our weekend visits for the peace and fresh air, the leisurely brunch, the heated debates around the kitchen table, mum-daughter trips to the shops, trips to the tip and a proper starry night sky.
A decade on, we’re parents and we’re tired all the time. Our evenings are spent settling our little ones before collapsing in front of the telly, and then resettling them an hour or two later. We rarely have the energy for proper dialogue, much less for a family catch-up chat on the phone. Our weekends are rare moments to be as a four, to snatch moments of “me time” or to earn extra money with part-time work. The youngest hates the car and there’s no direct train, so visits are few and far between. I wish we had you around the corner. I wish we could pop by for a play and a coffee, without the four hour drive. Or for my in-laws, a nine hour flight.
But the long journeys don’t put you off. You pack the car with all the homemade delights from the late-night cooking session the day before. Your health isn’t great and the long drive doesn’t suit your ailing back or ageing eyes. If we’re ill, you reschedule your busy lives in the hills and come to help with Calpol and tissues at the ready. My mother-in-law arrives from her overnight flight with extra bags filled with Swahili delicacies and safari books.
You swap your book clubs for bedtime stories, your watercolours for finger-paints, your quiet morning cuppa is transformed as you safeguard little ones jumping on the bed; the newspaper becomes a sensory toy or a cloth to soak up spilled milk. You wipe noses, clean bottoms and empty potties. You fiddle with stair gates and child locks, bottle teats and nappies. You wash up the dishes, fold up the washing and offer to help with the nights.
Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses. We sometimes snap, or misunderstand. It’s sometimes stressful and intense. Being parents of parents must be hard. Being children and parents simultaneously is not easy either. But honesty, patience and forgiveness gets us through. After all, we’re all doing our best.
We managed to come to you for Christmas. We arrived at the door in a heap of snot and glitter. We left feeling refreshed and happy. You indulged the little ones with presents and favourite foods and treated us with gifts galore. But the best present was time spent together as a big family, seeing your gardeners’ hands stroke fine newborn hair, hearing the harmony of your voices laughing together, octaves and generations apart. You gave my husband and I what we really needed. a chance to connect with moonlit strolls and coffee dates in town while our little ones reconnected with you.
So, this is a big thank you. A grateful bunch of words in recognition of your energy, support and love. Grandparents everywhere, you are the unsung heroes, helping your children to be better, more rested parents. Time is precious. Life is fragile. Know that you are loved and our gratitude is endless.
From a lucky daughter and a grateful mum. x