On being a Nanna AND a Mother-in-Law

Wednesday 11 April 2012

This Post will, of necessity be about children…because it’s Wednesday.

It will be short because I do not get much time on Wednesdays.

Wednesdays are reserved for my Granddaughters; Olivia (3) and Hannah (18 months) who live way over the other side of the City from their Nanna with my younger daughter (their mother) and my son-in-law (their father).

This ensures that I rise at 6am and get on that Eastern Freeway before everybody else gets the same idea.  One of my pastimes whilst driving against the traffic that is going into the City, is to look at all the grumpy faces-on-wheels over on the other side of the Freeway.  I’d be grumpy too if I had to sit still for that long!

Given there’s not much opportunity for freedom to do ‘girlfriend’ things or take time out for herself, my daughter scoots off as soon as is diplomatic after I arrive and leaves me in charge, which of course is the whole point of the exercise.  And I love it.

On Wednesdays amongst other things, I get to play games, get wet, draw, do jigsaw puzzles, paint, get very dirty, stuff little mouths with food, make cubbies, read books out loud, ensure there’s a Quiet Time (mainly for Nanna), go down slides and assist with the baking of choc-chip-something-or-others.

There are of course, a few little downsides to being a Nanna on Wednesdays.

Here is a sample list:
·      Vegemite, paint and playdoh in hair
·      Cold coffee in cup x at least 7
·      No repeating, removing or paraphrasing ANY line of ANY story
·      Tweeting is impossible
·      Hannah in bath splashes Nanna to see what Nanna looks like when wet
·      Olivia likes the train set on the table…Hannah likes it on the floor
·      Both of them like to see Nanna upside down on the swing
·      Both of them like to see Nanna go down the slide headfirst
·      Hannah thinks peanut butter is finger paint for cupboard doors
·      Olivia loves to repeat each jigsaw puzzle with Nanna’s help 17 times
·      Hannah knows what the word ‘No’ means…and doesn’t quite care
·      In ‘Jumping Games’ Nanna is the one who gets jumped on
·      Hannah likes to play SandPit&Water games…and splash Nanna
·      Olivia likes Nanna to read the picture dictionary…again…and again
·      Hannah still wears nappies…and dirties them

We’re now at an interesting stage, given that Hannah’s tottering around on sturdy little legs and testing her big sister’s patience.  It’s very hard for No 1 child to learn to live with a No2.  It’s also very understandable.  From the world of ‘I’m the most important being in my little world’ to ‘Do I really have to share with THAT thing?’ is an enormous step and requires much patience, reassurance, diplomacy and tact on Nanna’s part on Wednesdays.

Fortunately my job has been made easy because ground rules have been well and truly set by both parents from very early on and when parameters are tested, loving but firm consistency is the name of the game.

I see my Nanna-role as being a support-system to those Ground Rules.

Here’s my take:

As a mother, I think I did just about everything I could to ensure that my kids grew up well-adjusted, fair and reasonable young adults who followed their dreams.

In other words, I had my go!

And now that my daughter and son-in-law have put their trust in me to help nurture their daughters, my whole concentration must be on supporting THEIR efforts rather than undermining them in any way.

It shouldn’t… but the word ‘undermining’ raises my consciousness to the fact that I also have another role…that of ma-in-law.

Mothers-in-law are much-maligned creatures and I’m sure there will be a comment or two on that very subject at the end of this Post.

 I think it’s unfair but I would not presume to speak here for any other mother-in-law or their sons or daughters…we are many and varied.

This is my experience!

I love my son-in-law.  I see a young man who came through the normal growing-up struggles with flying colours.  He loves my daughter and treats her with utmost respect. He is a complete hands-on devoted Dad and has been from Day 1.  We talk freely, easily and with great good-humour. We enjoy a glass of wine together on the days I stay for dinner (although I think he’d often prefer a beer) and talk about sport, his job, the children, fitness, current affairs et al.

There’s really only one thing I can’t stand about my son-in-law (I’ll whisper it)…he barracks for Collingwood FC.

But I do not interfere…even about that…it is definitely NOT the province of the mother-in-law to try to change the football allegiance of her son-in-law!

I’d better get out of the car now and make a start to the day.

Oh! I DO love Wednesdays.


  1. That is so beautiful Nancy. Your grand-daughters are lucky to have you in their lives and your daughter and son-in-law are as well. My mother died long before her grandchildren were born, luckily my children have a wonderful step-grandma; on their father's side their Nanny died when they were young. They remember her but her wish to be involved in her grandchildren's lives was ended by cancer. We must cherish those we have while we are all still alive, whatever age we are.

    1. Thank you for your lovely, thoughtful comment Margot. The role of Grandparents is such an important one and as you say one that should be cherished. I know that my four children loved their maternal grandmother dearly - the only grandparent they really had a chance to know. Thank you also for your kind words...I certainly feel so blessed to be involved with my grandchildren's lives.

  2. I agree with Margot! They are so lucky to have a wonderful nanna. I feel so blessed to have had a wonderful wonderful nanna myself and so grateful I was aware of how amazing she was from a very young age. I've come to realize this is not necessarily the 'norm' for everyone. She was cherished, is cherished and always will be cherished in my heart. . . . as I'm sure another nanna will be in the hearts of her grandchildren xx

    1. It's really interesting, Rachel the bond that develops between children and their grandparents and it should not be underestimated. From what I have experienced, quite often the skills of the grandparents come out in the grandchildren! Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  3. Some of my happiest memories have my Nana all the way through them - making cubbies under her desk at the correspondence school where she taught, being allowed to paint in her studio at the bottom of the garden, making raffle tickets to sell to neighbours using her treadle singer sewing machine to make the perforations, the prize? to be figured out later???? making a paper parachute, tying it on and leaping off the carport roof - I believed absolutely it would float until it tore immediately upon launching - Nana remained remarkably calm (on the outside) but I had to promise NEVER to do that again - just as well because I had my eye on the higher and loftier bedroom balcony. She paid for piano lessons, took us on road trip holidays where we sucked on humbugs to quell carsickness, a wonderful remedy, encouraged us to be ANYTHING we wanted to be - ANYTHING. Let us incubate the eggs in the hot water cupboard even though she explained chickens wouldn't hatch from them. After all these years those memories remain in full Kodak colour.
    You are very fortunate indeed to have this time with Olivia and Hannah, I know, it works both ways.
    Here's to Nanna's, Grans, Ma's, Nanny's, Grandmas -
    Here's to you Nancy. xx

    1. What wonderful memories Debbie! And what a beautiful Nana you had! (Why am I not surprised?) It is such a joy to have time to do things with your grandchildren that you never seemed to have time to do with your own children!
      Bless you for all your input...I am so grateful!