Take one childless, retired couple who are set in their ways. Add four boisterous grandchildren aged nine through to fifteen. Promise them a week or more of non-stop fun: sun, sand, surf, swimming pool, tennis, cinema, outings, and New Year’s Eve fireworks. Put all six people in a small apartment with three beds. You have a recipe for chaos.
Hats off to all the single parents out there – it’s a good thing that Bill and I are in this together.
A pattern has formed over the years of our grandchild visits. Bill is on fun, and I am on food. Kids are always hungry, and they are always hungry for rubbish food. I know I cannot change their eating preferences in a week, but I’ll be darned if I will capitulate either. I confess – I am a veggie pusher. And I don’t have too much trouble with this brood. As soon as they see me chopping garlic and onion – my job is done. Courtesy of my Italian step-mother, all I do is sauté the onion and garlic in a little butter, throw in the vegetables with a little stock, simmer briefly and serve while still crunchy. I don’t cater for individual taste. If one really will not eat a particular vegetable – cooked carrots in the case of the eldest – I just cut it large enough to pick out when dishing up. And I don’t restrict the variety either. Brussels Sprouts were not in season, but I did get zucchini across by grilling it with shredded cheese on top, and broccoli is a given in this house.
So we worked our way through pasta mince bake, corned beef and parsley sauce, butter chicken (finally had enough mouths to feed to make it worthwhile dragging out the rice cooker), and countless other kid-friendly concoctions, until we finally got to needing to eat up the few treats I had bought. The final night, we still had a packet of party pies and sausage rolls in the freezer, which I had bought as a stand-by lunch. I didn’t want that hanging around after they had left, so it was Bill’s turn to cook that night i.e. put the pies and chips in the oven. Guess what? The kids were still hungry afterwards.
One of the challenges of having the group together – apart from as soon as you are settled to one activity, they are hankering after what they will do next – is convincing them there needs to be a delay between eating lunch and going swimming. We overcame this one day, by involving them in preparing chicken schnitzel for that night’s dinner. Slicing, pounding, flouring, egging and crumbing – fun for all the family!
At the end of the first week, Bill loaded them all in the car and drove back to Sydney, with the intention of handing them over to various parents, but when he returned, there was still one buckled in! Her mother had agreed to her staying on a few days more. Well, that was a week ago, and she just left now.
I always so look forward to seeing the grandchildren, and I wish we saw more of them during the school term. As it is, we mostly have contact in the holidays, and it becomes a whirlwind of entertainment, activities, cooking, cleaning up, and washing. I wonder sometimes, what they will remember of these times, when the baton is passed on. At the rate this lot are growing, that will happen in the blink of an eye.
Garrulous Gwendoline, Wollongong, January 11th 2014