I noted the rise of the Yummy Mummy, grateful that I got my mothering in before she appeared in the centre-folds of women’s magazines, baking cupcakes from quaint retro recipes, and serving herself up just like a cupcake - sweet, highly decorated and very edible. So delectable did the Yummy Mummy seem that laddish social media soon featured references to MILFs. Google MILF. It’s not nice.
When I was a young mother you were still allowed stretch marks, exhaustion and rumpled, dribble-stained clothing. If you whipped up a batch of Anzac biscuits, this was not understood to be a culinary triumph, or a piece of vintage whimsy. You weren’t expected to look fabulous while cooking or spooning mashed vegetables into a reluctant tot. It was accepted that most young mothers don’t feel glamorous or sexy, they mostly feel tired and emotionally preoccupied with their baby. I remember being too scared to look “down there” for weeks after giving birth, fearful that I’d be wearing my insides on the outside for the rest of my life. Sexy this was not.
I was oddly nervous about re-meeting my 18 month old granddaughter although she was not a complete stranger: I’d been present when my daughter was in labour, I held my granddaughter very soon after her birth and spent time with her in Ireland when she was 9 months old. I’d also been able to watch her grow from babe in arms to toddler, as if in one long time-lapse sequence thanks to almost daily photos and videos of her, sent by my daughter from Ireland. Nonetheless, we would need to get reacquainted and I was a little afraid that we would fail to bond, or that my parenting skills might have rusted through disuse.
My granddaughter was understandably wary of me at first and subjected me to a lengthy and inscrutable process of assessment before accepting me as a member of the family. I suspect that the hobby horse I produced from my suitcase may have swung the vote in my favour: at the push of a button, it emitted realistic neighing and snorting noises, followed by the charming sound of hooves cantering into the distance.
This success did not make my first sole-charge grand-parenting experience any easier. It just made me realise how little I knew about current childcare practice. Is Incy Wincy Spider still on the nursery hit parade? What’s the proper ratio of milk formula to water? Will this child die if it eats peanut butter?
And most crucially, how does one change the modern nappy?
My first attempt went something like this. Place child on bed the right way up. Remove old nappy. Do not use scissors. Scissors are dangerous. Try to distinguish front of fresh nappy from back. Decide that portrait of Hairy MacLary on his way to dairy should be rear-facing. Place squirming infant on nappy. Try to unpeel sticky tabs. Accidentally rip tabs from nappy. Call for backup. Mollify outraged infant while friend hunts out a roll of Sellotape. Tape baby like a parcel, securely into nappy. Return child to upright position.
Premature move. Lie baby down again. Locate snap fasteners at crotch of stretch’n’grow or whatever the heck those damn things are called. Snap the snaps. Return infant to upright position. Decide long walk with child in pushchair might soothe both sets of jangled nerves. Pushchair - a baffling heap of Meccano-like struts and hinges - refuses to transform into a vehicle of locomotion. Abort Mission. Child’s mother and father return just in time to prevent a tantrum. Mine.
By the end of the fortnight things were looking up. I had the technical stuff sorted. My granddaughter had enough faith in me to allow me sole charge of her blankie. I’d squelched the idea that I be called Granny, Nana or Grandma - except in the unlikely event that GILFs or Yummy Grannies come into vogue.