Christine Graham: Spare thought for grans with no respite

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I AM a granny. Actually I am known as Ganny (granny) Scotland, not imitating Katie Morag or anything to do with my politics but simply because one of my grandchildren has a granny in Canada and yes, she is Granny Canada.

Anyway, what an experience it is. I get cuddles – quite undeserved – and when her mum’s back is turned we do slightly naughty and a wee bit testing skint-knee territory stuff together.

I let her put poster paint on her hands and mine and we make a “picture” together. I have taught her how to stroke Mr Smokey (rescue cat) head to tail, not tail to head and to recognise when he is signalling he has had enough. She comes out with phrases – as all wee ones do – which hit the nail on the head. Once,bouncing around like Tigger, she stood on Mr Smokey’s tail. He and we yelped. Rushing into my arms full of regret and guilt she proclaimed: “Ganny my heart is hurting!”

She passes me my “apple juice” – malt to you and me – when we are reading a late-night story and I am waiting up for her mum and dad to clock in. She never sits still when awake but suddenly conks out and leaves you conked out into the bargain.

When she waves goodbye you find yourself reaching for a glass of wine, dragging the pouffe within reach of your weary feet and before you can say Bob’s your uncle, you are catnapping, as, incidentally, is the cat. But there are grannies and grandads out there who can’t and wouldn’t hand their grandchildren over to parents and are sometimes known by the title “Kinship carers”.

Having reached a time of life when you want to be able to put your feet up, or nap after lunch, these little respites have gone.

Their own children having fallen into a spiral of self-destruction often through drink or drugs or both have abandoned responsible parenting and the choice for the grandparents is to take their children or foster care. What grandparent finds that choice any choice at all?

So in their hundreds and perhaps thousands, they have stepped into the breach. For them, life is turned upside down and if you want to hear some of their stories I commend a wee book entitled Through Our Eyes which they have written warts and all and in 
the end is so heartening and speaks volumes for the selfless love that grandparents have for their grandchildren.

If you want to purchase a copy, I’ll put you in touch with those very grandparents.

Ah but now peace reigns, I have tidied away the granddaughter, the paints, the story books and the cat has settled in his chair, so where did I put that glass of wine?

Christine Graham is the SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale