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My paternal grandfather died when I was a baby. My maternal grandparents lived in Panama. When I was in elementary school, both of my maternal grandparents and my paternal grandma died. Looking back, I feel like I really only knew my maternal grandma as she lived in the same town as me. But I certainly wish I could have known her for longer. When the Hubs and I started dating, I felt immediately close to Nanny. She is an open book.
What you see is what you get. I loved going to her cozy house for her big southern style meals. Nanny knows how to throw it down with the southern meals. And it is one of mine, also. I really looked forward to this breakfast talk with Nanny. Nanny is full of wise words and I had some specific things I wanted to ask her about. Nanny married when she was just years-old and her oldest child my mother-in-law was born when Nanny was years-old. Her husband, Bob, died at a relatively young age, leaving her with four children to raise on her own.
After all, the aspirational middle classes are notorious for spending a small fortune on parenting manuals yet still cosseting their children like Little Emperors and knee-socked Despots.
Tough love, moreover, is a subjective concept. Coincidentally, the same day as Demos criticised swathes of the parenting population as too lax and "disengaged", came news of a year-old mother, the trainee manager of a Christian bookshop, who was quizzed by police after threatening to smack her children, a boy of 11 and a four-year-old girl, when they started rampaging round her local supermarket in Southampton.
Later, she received an official letter from the council's children's services department, warning her that her "chastisement" of them had been "put on record" for at least the next 14 years. It's currently legal, if widely frowned upon, to administer a mild smacking, but any punishment that leaves a mark can lead to court action.
In short, parents are damned if we do, damned if we don't and damned if we even talk about it. According to Charlie Taylor, author of Divas and Dictators: The Secrets to Having a Much Better Behaved Child, the key to good parenting is ensuring that relations between adult and child never deteriorate to the point of public or for that matter, private screaming matches.
That invariably gives rise both to huge rows and a great deal of confusion among their children, who don't know what the rules are. Very often that's because we're far more concerned about our children liking us rather than respecting us, as Jane, mother of a year-old daughter, has learned the hard way. She expects me to justify every rule and regulation and will always argue the toss.
This attitude seems to be pretty much universal among teenagers. I seem to remember that we were all encouraged to explain rules to our toddlers; they learnt to negotiate with us before they were out of nappies. I must have seen Mary Poppins 20 times, and no sooner had my mother put her foot down and banned me from seeing it again, than Julie responded to my desperate telepathic messages to her and came out with The Sound Of Music.
Meanwhile, there were other things to discover. My nanny, Jenny, was extremely pretty. She had an auburn beehive and every day we went for our walk down a lane to a fallen tree trunk where I would hold pretend tea parties with acorn cups. One day, her fancy man, Dave, came with us. He was good looking with greased-back hair and long black sideboards.
I began to prepare myself for a major tantrum but something stopped me.
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She was in a trance. Dave had his hands in her beehive, on her bottom, all over, so I just gaped. But after the snog was over, it was as if it had never happened. Now I knew this was what grown-ups did, and I was longing to join in. Travel, sweets and someone playing with me.
But no matter how often I slipped away to the woods, I never met a soul. Then Nanny and Dave announced their wedding. We were bundled into the Hillman once more and drove to Norfolk, where Nanny came from. As soon as we got to the church I could feel that chill wind of panic announcing the oncoming storm. I had a starring role as her pageboy in short red corduroy overalls. We all waited outside the church, my mum like Jackie O in a miniskirt and an extraordinary pillbox hat. Nanny arrived, lovely in her wedding dress, and I was given her veil to hold.
Everything fell into place. Mary Poppins was coming to life. The nanny I loved was going away. I played my part to the hilt.
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I completely ruined her wedding day. My little quaverings rose above the drone of the vicar and became more insistent. No one would answer; I had become invisible. So, as usual, I became hysterical. Floods of molten tears burst out over my fat spoilt cheeks as I sat down in the aisle and bawled.
I hung on even when the wedding march trumpeted and Dave began to walk Nanny firmly out of the church. I yanked with all my might.
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My mum tried to prise the veil out of my hot furious little fists, and poor Nanny was stuck there in the middle of the aisle, Dave pulling in one direction and me in the other. There was a brief impasse before my father hauled me out, and poor Nanny was whisked into her car and off to the reception before I had a chance to wreak further havoc.
My parents decided it would be too risky for us to go with them, so we drove off without a real goodbye. Just like in Mary Poppins. There was a worse parting still to come. One day, my mother and I went up to London to a shop called Gorringes where she brought me shorts, sweaters, shirts, socks — all grey, four pairs of each.
I gambolled around as we bought a trunk, totally unaware that the first significant part of my life was about to die and nothing would ever be the same. I was going away to school. Strangely enough, I was totally unfazed by this information. The night before we left, I packed and repacked my overnight case in a boisterous fever of excitement. Apparently I could not take the red tweed skirt. I thought that was a bit odd, but I let it pass in the general exuberance I was feeling at being an adult.
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My older brother watched through his tortoiseshell glasses with the cynical eyes of one informed by the past. The next morning we drove to Hampshire in the luggage-crammed Hillman, and after several hours turned down a long avenue lined with huge ancient trees to a house which had once been a stately home. Huge stone columns straddled by heraldic lions and black wrought-iron gates beckoned one into hell. My heart began to beat with an unknown drug: We hit a traffic jam of upper-class couples driving back to London.
Why were some of the women crying? My heart jumped into my mouth and sheer terror surged through my body. We parked the car and got out. Instinct told me to stay close to my mother. I could hardly breathe.Johnny Bananas & Tony Need More ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ Cards - The Challenge: Final Reckoning - MTV
I was asphyxiated by panic. There were boys everywhere, all shapes and sizes, running in and out of the school in gangs, shouting and screaming. The unfamiliar smell of floor polish and school loos hung in the air.