Virtual Irish Grandparents

Wanted:  Caring couple / person to adore and care for busy toddler,  must be available at short notice and during unsocial hours.  Should provide all nappies, powder, wipes, yogurts, bananas, raisins, rice cakes, ice-cream and jelly tots.  Outside of meal and nap times should be very patient in teaching various life skills to the toddler, i.e. gathering clothes pegs, picking stones, cycling a tricycle etc.   Applicant should be happy to surrender TV viewing of news and current affairs programmes for Bob the Builder and Mickey Mouse.   All the above to be provided free of charge, the only reward will be a snotty kiss from toddler, when toddler feels like giving same.

Please send all applications to P.O. Box “I DON’T THINK SO” Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Some might say that this is a tall order and not an advert that will receive a lot of applications however, I have found the very thing here in Ireland.  Readily available and eager for oblige for no reward, apart from an odd cake from town or a six euro bunch of flowers, how so?  If you haven’t guessed it already, they’re called Grandparents.

Forget the smell of fresh cut grass, a turf fire, bacon and cabbage, taytos, wet evenings and the local pub,  the thing you really miss out on when living abroad is the loss of an extended family and the benefits of raising your children with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in their lives.

At thirty-something it can be easy fall foul of leading a busy life and trying to fit your child into same, the early efforts of mashing pumpkin and pureed organic carrots, gets kicked to the kerb when little Johnny displays a taste for the Golden Arches and mom is all too happy to order his favourite happy meal by way of dodging the cooker for another day.   Taking the time to teach him to ride his new tricycle becomes a chore and a bedtime story is an inactive app you’ve downloaded on the iPad.  All seems fine until little Johnny is swiping his finger across the TV, confused as to why it’s not responding the same as his iToy and before you know it, the tricycle is cast to one side as he’d found an app where you can take a virtual bike ride.  Living in Abu Dhabi without kith or kin, children can lose out on a lot.

So lucky for me, just before I installed a snack dispensing machine and automatic baby changer, my term in the Middle East was up and I was homeward bound for the summer.

Awestruck at the difference in my cherub after one week of spending time with his grandparents,  I began to question my parenting skills.   It seems grandparents are willing to fit their lives around the life of the child and not vice versa.  While he had at the ripe of age of 2 years old, already been on the tallest building in the world and travelled on the longest driverless train in the world, he had never seen new potatoes being dug from the ground or dusted off the clay from the freshly pulled carrots.  His crocs were made redundant for a pair of rubber wellies.  His long-standing affair with cheerios was replaced with a boiled egg, and I watched open-mouthed as he scoffed buttery fruit cake with more relish than he ever showed when eating organic popcorn.    When granny and grand-dad suggested that they bring him mass, I was sure the game was up,   however it seems with time and patience all things are possible, as he reportedly sat quietly during the mass albeit on the promise of the lollipop afterwards.    All the aspects of traditional Irish life that they miss out on all year is concentrated into these summer months and  as he’s busy watching the bringing home of turf and baling of hay, his Abu Dhabi counterparts are facing into their 4th week of air conditioned confinement, if they’re not on a Mediterranean cruise somewhere that is.

Resigned to the fact that this beautiful relationship is for the summer period one can only enjoy and hope that Apple develop an app for Irish emigrants called “virtual Irish grandparents”.

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