Grandparents’ Delight by Angela Caldin
Bucolic Idyll Envisaged
When my lovely son-in-law asked if we could look after our three delightful granddaughters for a day, while he and our daughter enjoyed a wine tour on Waiheke Island, we agreed with alacrity. What a blissful win-win arrangement, I thought: we would have the three little ones all to ourselves while their parents had a well-deserved and happy day-out together.
But as the day drew nearer, the attractiveness of the prospect began to wane ever so slightly, mainly because the uninterrupted summer sunshine of the last few months was coming to an end. I had envisaged a bucolic outing to Bethell’s Beach, about an hour’s drive from Auckland, where the children could gambol on the sand, splashing happily in the gentle waves and where we could have a simple, open-air lunch from the highly recommended caravan kitchen on the beach. The day dawned grey and overcast with unwelcome showers. We phoned the café to check opening times, only to discover that it had closed for the season. Reluctantly, we had to accept that Bethell’s was off and an alternative was needed. The girls voted overwhelmingly for the nearby indoor playground and, in a moment of weakness, combined with total lack of imagination, we agreed.
Living Hell of the Indoor Playground
We loaded the children into the car, successfully negotiating the usual arguments over who should sit where, arriving at the playground to find the car park packed and the only available space on a slope at a 45 degree angle. The indoor playground on a quiet sunny day midweek is more or less bearable, but the indoor playground on a wet Saturday morning is something approaching hell on earth. The screaming, crying, whooping and shouting of the assembled milling hordes, aged from toddler to pre-teen, combine to give a decibel level akin to a football crowd at a cup final. Nonetheless, the three girls rushed off to climb and slide merrily; all the more extraordinary considering one of them had a broken arm, encased in plaster from hand to bicep. We slumped, gratefully and exhausted, on to some plastic chairs – and it was only 11am. At about 11.20am, the girls returned to say they were not only hungry but starving. Against our better judgement, we agreed to buy chips for three accompanied by Barbie drinks. They wolfed down the chips, sending us back for extra ketchup several times, and drank the Barbie drinks as though they were nectar. Then they were off again climbing, sliding, bouncing, jumping and swinging, while we gulped down a reviving coffee and then tailed after them in case we were needed in the labyrinthine climbing structures or as enthusiastic spectators as they rotated round and round on the merry go round. As it happened, the merry go round was not so ‘merry’ for the one with the broken arm who failed to elbow enough competitors out of the way to get on her favourite horse.
Fortunately, and thank goodness, our younger daughter arrived in the nick of time, full of youthful energy to encourage them into ever more daring exploits. The youngest, just out of nappies, stood triumphantly on top of a high plastic structure, and, clutching herself, proclaimed ‘Need a wee!’ I have never seen my husband move so fast – he tore along through the throng, shouting ‘Hang on! Don’t do it there!’ fearing the cascade through the edifice which might ensue. He reached up to seize her and charged through the swarm of bewildered toddlers to the nearby toilets, arriving in the nick of time.
Sand, Sea, and Bears
The moment had arrived for an ice block, the girls thought, choosing something called a popsicle, which takes at least an hour to consume being frozen rock-solid with an inadequate, minute plastic spoon supplied. By 2pm, we could stand it no longer and, as the weather had perked up, we decided to repair to St Heliers Bay, where an invigorating breeze blew away the oppressive clouds of the great indoors. We climbed on the rocks, dabbled in the sea, collected shells and looked with awe at the blue-grey outline of Rangitoto. Time to go home and watch a DVD. Our younger daughter had heard about a cartoon voiced by Billy Connolly called Brave, so she rented it on the way home and we all sat down preparing to be entertained. This bizarre story is about a young flame-haired Scottish princess who, for a motive that now escapes me, turns her mother into a bear. A huge bear that looms and growls and waves its claws about in a very frightening way. In our exhausted state, we were incapable of turning it off and watched grimly until the bitter end, regardless of whether it might cause horrible nightmares. ‘Bear is scary’ remarked the youngest with critical aplomb, as we got them all into their pyjamas, and I was sorely afraid that the parents would be woken in the night by terrified offspring. Finally, we got everyone into bed and rushed around washing up, tidying up and plumping cushions. When the fond parents returned, we were sitting nonchalantly on the sofa, looking relaxed, smiling and saying that everything went fine, no problems at all. We drove home to collapse shattered into bed, gratefully rejoicing that we could sleep as long as we wanted in the morning, our duty as grandparents successfully accomplished.