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Hilary Coombes grandchildren

My husband and I had been living loco parentis at the house of two of our precious grandchildren. We had given the parents a week in the sun, without children, to celebrate their joint birthdays and tenth wedding anniversary.


So, the reins were very clearly in the hands of the older, wiser, folk. Pah!

Whatever happened to the wisdom of age? You’d be amazed at the cunning of two under seven-year olds … they’d beat the Artful Dodger hands down, and at the end of this little tale I’ve compiled a list of five things all we grandparents should bear in mind.

Hilary Coombes Grandchildren

Thanks to ‘Sizzle’ for permission to use the above sketch.


It had been quite a week for we oldies so far. We’d carefully planned to keep the youngsters on the go, in the hope that the lord of tiredness would descend about seven(ish) each night, and sit firmly on the youngster’s eyes until next morning.

At first it sort of worked, providing the seven-year old was allowed to read in bed before going to sleep. It took several nights to work out this so called ‘read’ could go on for hours. I wondered why we’d suddenly inherited a crabby seven-year old who needed to be handled with kid gloves and badly needed matchsticks to keep his eyes open most of the time.

I discovered the answer four days in, or should I say nights? By this time we oldies were dragging ourselves to bed by around nine pm. This wasn't just a survival strategy; it was absolutely essential, for we definitely needed matchstick help by that time.

Hilary Coombes grandchildren

Now you could blame the mini heat wave that everyone agreed had arrived, or you could blame the midnight sun that mirrored the Icelandic mid summer sky. Either way, our seven-year old was still reading at 9.00 o’clock. Just how you force a little boy to go to sleep, when he clearly doesn’t want to do so, remained a mystery for the next six nights.

“He certainly seems to plot world domination when everyone is in bed doesn’t he?” Grandad whispered, although quite what the point of being quiet was, was lost on me.
“In olden days, they’d lace the last milk drink of the day with something a little alcoholic.” I said, eyes gleaming hopefully, as we both lay in bed listening to our grandson’s toilet flush being pulled for the umpteenth time.
“Mmm.” Grandad replied, but secretly thought he might apply that maxim to his own drink on the next night, for obviously the single brandy hadn’t even hit the sides of his brain cells that needed knocking out.


The nightly battles wouldn’t have been so bad, had they not been coupled with the early morning wake-up calls. Six thirty was a tad early for we oldies nowadays. Especially six thirty with a huge jump on the bed and an insistence to get down between us and start loudly reading us a story, using different voices for different characters; or maybe sing us a few songs.

We tried everything from playing fast and loose with the alarm clock in the seven-year-olds bedroom, to sending him back to his own room with instructions to come back at seven thirty. That badly misfired, because was it his own to bedroom to which he returned?

Was it heck! It was to that of his little sister. We decided that wakening to shrieks of laughter and two hyper, high-spirited children was far worse than one. To be fair big brother didn’t repeat that a second time, once I had explained to him how his over-tired little sister had behaved at pre-school that morning, but that’s a story for another day.


“Guess what?” Grandad laughed. “When I dropped Melissa at pre-school I realised that we’d forgotten her drinking water bottle, and when I told one of the assistants she looked at me sympathetically as though I wasn’t quite all there, then she smiled and enunciated very slowly that ‘at least I’d remembered her spare clothes bag today.’
“I think they think we’re over the hill.” I said trying not to look the part.
“They’re probably right, but living in someone else’s house where I can’t find anything I want, and being in charge of children and animals means I’m running down the other side of the hill faster!”
I thought I’d interrupt at this point before the conversation became morbid. “Ahh, that reminds me. Did we forget to take the dog for a walk yesterday, or did we just not find time?”
Grandad winked. “Go for the latter, I don’t think we forget things, Grandma.”
An hour later we oldies were on their way back to pre-school, having just about managed to feed the cat, walk the dog, and wash the dishes. The washing pile and vacuum that had eventually been found but never used, was ignored … again.


In the second article in this series you can find out why the school suspected my poor innocent husband of being a paedophile, but for now I’ll leave you with my five key survival points for grandparents looking after little grandchildren 24/7 for 9 days, but if you’re a ‘young’ 40 year old grandparent (ie one with energy) you can skip this bit …

Be prepared (For example when a seven-year old loses his front tooth in a paddling pool at a party, have a spare one ready for the tooth fairy. Otherwise you’ll have mayhem!)
Buy tranquilizers (for you)
Don’t even try to compete in the ‘tech’ game with a seven-year old.
Don’t give yourself a hard time wondering why the child raising methods that worked in the 50’s/60’s/70’s or even 80’s don’t work with 21st century children. The world has changed massively.
Stay sane (buy a bottle of brandy!)

Meet The Author...
Hilary Coombes
Who Am I?

Hilary Coombes lives between the UK and Spain and tries not to shrink in the rain (she’s already vertically challenged), nor bake in the sun (which causes too many wrinkles). She’s not sure she is having any success with either quest.

She is the successful author of five books, the last two being fiction, and both set between England and Spain. Her latest book ‘Beyond Promises’ is a love story. It follows the life of Charlie, his heartbreak, humour and passion, and his love for one woman that lasts a lifetime.

Hilary has won several writing awards and is particularly delighted that she won the 2017 Ian Govan Short Story Award and the 2015 national Spanish Radio Story Competition.

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