Jayne Dawson: Shut up parents, I’m a gran and this is what I know...

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Those parents who act like they are the first couple ever to produce a child, they’re a right pain aren’t they?

Yak, yak, yak they go with their funny little stories and their “unique” insights. On and on they drone with their tales of competitive tiredness: “I haven’t slept since the third Wednesday in January in 2013” they say with a manic gleam in their eye.”

And “I was so stupid with tiredness I was actually trying to make the conference call on a baby sock” they say.

Well I’m fighting back. Some of us are grandparents for the first time, you know, and we have things to say too. Have I mentioned I have a grandson? Yes? Well tough, because I’m mentioning it again. Here’s what I have learned on the granny front line:

* It isn’t like riding a bike, you DO forget. There will come a day when his parents (yes, yes, exhausted) will chuck the baby into your arms, and scarper with cries of “the milk is in the fridge.” You will be thinking “what milk” and also “how does this garment come undone” and also “how does this tiny bit of a thing they seem to think is a nappy fasten.”

Questions along the lines of when, where, and how often will form in your mind in relation to changes and sleeps and feeds. You and the baby will look at each other in alarm - a bit like when you were first a mother, in fact.

* Buggies are now river wide, ocean deep. If you had any notion of taking the baby for a walk to the shops, forget it. You will not be able to get through the door. Walking and shopping are two separate activities. Also, you will need several intensive, one-to-one training sessions before you can put the buggy up and down. Prepare to feel stupid.

* No one thinks you are his mother. Forget it. No one is fooled. Yes, there are miracles of nature and science, but they are not that miraculous. You have granny stamped all over you. I’m being cruel to be kind.

No matter how much you call the playpen you bought the “emergency safety zone” his parents will despise it as an archaic piece of equipment designed for child torture. You, on the other hand, will find it really useful, when you want to go put the kettle on.

* Forget anything you ever heard about safety and babies sleeping on their fronts. Or their backs. The advice changes every ten minutes. Whatever the parents want to do, that is the right thing to do. Keep you mouth shut - this is the most sacred rule of grandparenthood.

* You have to share. It is a fact that must be faced - you are not this baby’s only grandparents. You want to scoop him up and claim him as your own, but he isn’t. There is another set of grandparents who equally want to claim him as their own. You have to learn to play nicely.

* Any garment you buy will be either too small, or ridiculously large. You will never manage to buy anything that actually fits this baby. Reconcile yourself and always buy for age two. From birth. His relatives who knit will have provided for the first two years anyway.

* It’s irritating when people say “you can hand them back” but it is kind of true. Grandchildren are a particular joy because they are not your constant, painful, visceral responsibility. It’s more fun than that.

* Your grandchild’s christening, or baby naming event, will fill you full of wonder - and make you feel like an impostor. “Who is this person who is being referred to as a grandparent, you will think.

“That cannot be me, for I have not worked out how to be a person yet, never mind a parent and grandparent”. But it is you. Face it down, and love it.

Sarah Champion MP

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