A few years back, I drank too much sauvignon blanc at a PTA meeting and volunteered to help. I have been chairman ever since.
One morning before the summer school fair I was flying around having been up all night hand-painting a nine-foot piece of plywood for the fundraising steeplechase I had dreamt up.
One of my jobs was to collect the generator hired from Jewson for the bouncy castle. As the shop manager handed it over he said: “The petrol needs a top up.” Petrol? It runs on petrol?
The country was in the throes of the fuel crisis so I spent the rest of the morning at different petrol stations trying to persuade forecourt attendants and angry, queuing drivers that I was not a panic buyer.
This would have been the ideal time to call in the calvary – my mum – to chase around the county with me, giggling as we go, juggling the three kids and jerry cans.
She died eight years ago and it was in that moment of ridiculousness and relief that I missed her more than ever, as both my mum and their grandma.
It is the school gate that always gets me. I see grandmothers picking up the kids on a regular basis. These are not drop-in grandmas who have come to visit for the weekend, enjoying the novelty of a Friday school pick-up. These are career grandmas who have dedicated their later years to helping raise their grandchildren.
“Where’s your coat Thomas, have you left it on the peg?” my favourite one chirps as I watch from a distance. This particular super-granny (who is also one of my closest friends’ mum) is fully integrated into the boys’ lives and schooling. She doesn’t simply follow the regime orchestrated by the parents, she has a hand in devising it! I am consumed with envy. I want one of those.
Embarrassingly, I started to secretly conspire to sabotage my friend’s happy arrangement by reporting super-granny to the school office. In the imaginary conversation, I said: “Far be it from me to interfere, but I did notice that Thomas and Charlie’s grandmother was unable to break into a sprint to keep up with the boys last week as they crossed the road outside school.” Or: “I hate to have to tell you this, but Thomas and Charlie’s grandmother looked a little stiff when doing up their shoe laces yesterday. Do you think she is capable of properly caring for them?”
In my PTA role maybe I can propose that all school-run grannies pass a Crufts-style agility test in order to fetch the kids?
I decided to retreat back up that somewhat dark rabbit hole, and try a more positive approach. I could win over super-granny, I thought, and see whether she could pick up my three kids as well, come home with us, cook hearty teas and do bathtime. In fact, am I too old to be adopted?
I casually sidled up to her at the school gate to assess whether we are compatible in the parent-grandparent dynamic. Somewhat shoehorned into the niceties – I run the petrol story by her, laughing at my own tale.
She doesn’t get it, looks at me like I’m a moron and says: “What did you think generators ran on? Fresh air?”
It’s not going to work and super-granny fails the test she doesn’t realise she’s taking. Rather than finding a new grandma, I’ll just have to work harder to train up our existing grandpas.