It’s the school summer holidays and I have been enlisted to help with child-minding – two step-grandchildren aged 9 and 11. I’ve done this before. After some initial reluctance I’ve found that I actually don’t mind and, more often than not, I have fun. I’m not used to children and so some of the entertainment for me is being able to observe young kids at close quarters. Some of the behaviours I recognise – fighting and squabbling both in play and anger, getting giddy, running around, being bored and grumpy. Some are new – watching YouTube videos, playing on the x-box, that sort of thing. I don’t mind them using their phones for entertainment. How can I? I don’t have a leg to stand on. I check-in on Facebook, open the Guardian app, read my emails. It has been funny to suddenly look up and see all three of us staring at our personal screens, lost in the internet.
The weather has not been great. More accurately it has not been consistent, which makes it difficult to plan anything. We managed to get out for a couple of rides on the bikes and on the days it was too wet for that we went to the cinema and had a trip out to the aquarium. All of which cost money – I don’t begrudge that. But it was interesting to realise that I had forgotten what it was like not to know and understand money – the significance of money. They get birthday money and holiday money and know that £100 is a lot – to spend mainly on stationery and computer games – but beyond that there doesn’t seem to be any real grasp of what it all means. Whether something is expensive, whether they have enough to buy something, how many. I still have difficulty with fully understanding how the pound can be weak and then stronger against the dollar and how the cost of buying euros fluctuates. So I’m not expecting either of them to be a fiscal genius at this early age. Money markets are both a nonsense and mystery to me – I suspect it is all made up and we simply collude in the fantasy.
I don’t know when I suddenly had a working knowledge of so many things that I now take for granted. Money is one of them. Telling the time and swear words are the other two I was thinking about this week. When ‘bloody’ was a bad word – so bad that it had to be spelt out or referred to as the ‘b word’. I admit I found it quite a strain not to extend their vocabulary – particularly when driving. It made me realise that I know a lot of swear words and am definitely not afraid to use them. And what about telling the time. I can’t remember if there was ever a day when I wasn’t aware of the clock, minutes and hours. But there must have been. When 15 minutes could feel like an eternity waiting for Mum to finish talking to her friend.
The biggest shock for me though is the reality that I am the person in charge, the one who will buy the tickets, get the drinks, carry the coats and find the way home. I can do all of those things, that isn’t the point. Nor am I envious of their childhood. Well, only the carrying the coats bit – how lovely not to have to tote a bag around all the time. It is just interesting to me how we learn and develop the skills without ever realising that we have done so.
And yes, I think swearing is a skill.