For those of us who came to parenthood a little later in life, the prospect of becoming a grandparent seems another lifetime away – thank God!
I'm approaching 50 and my children are still at primary school. But I know mums and dads a decade younger than me who already have grandchildren.
I can't imagine the horror they must have felt when at the age of 40 they were told by their CHILDREN that they were going to be grandparents. Different strokes for different old folks, I guess.
This made me wonder how I am going to deal with the inevitability of that news when the time comes (unless I've shuffled off the coil by then).
Fortunately, a new book, released to coincide with Grandparents' Day on October 6, serves as a tongue-in-cheek manual to new grandads and grandmas.
Written by dad-of-three (but no grandkids yet), Paul Merrill, 'Muddle Your Way Through Being a Grandparent' promises to shed light on such issues as:
• What to do if you don't like your child's choice of partner;
• Ways to inform your son or daughter that they're a hopeless parent;
• Which illnesses to fake to get out of babysitting; and how to react to an ugly grandchild.
Paul said: "When you were young, grannies and grandpas were white-haired, stooped old grouches who needed their meals liquidised and their mattresses protected by a waterproof cover. That's not you, is it?
"This book is for the new breed of grandparents, who aren't 'little old ladies'. Or even little old men."
So, are you ready for it?
TAKE THE QUIZ: WILL YOU BE A GOOD GRANDPARENT?
This is probably a question you've never considered. After all, you brought up your own kids, and being a grandparent can't be more difficult than that, right? Well, yes. And no. On the plus side, it's only a part-time gig; but on the minus side, you're now old, infirm and more easily confused.
So, let's start by finding out how potentially terrible you're going to be . . .
Can you knit?
• Yes, and the bootees are already underway. (+ 5 points)
• Yes, but the bootees at Oxfam are only £3 and can be passed off as my own. (+ 1 point)
• No, knitting is for old people. Oh, wait . . . (- 5 points)
The most precious day of your life was:
• The day you had your firstborn. (+ 4 points)
• The day your last born finally moved out. (- 2 points)
• The day Scott married Charlene in Neighbours. (- 3 points)
On an average day, which profanities do you utter?
• Heavens to Betsy. (+ 6 points)
• Lord luv a duck. (+ 4 points)
• Goodness gracious me. (+ 2 points)
• Fiddlesticks. (+ 1 point)
• Oh, bother. (- 1 point)
• Oh, f***, the stupid c*** is screaming its a*** off again. (- 2 points)
Corporal punishment is ...
• Not as effective as setting clear boundaries. (+ 7 points)
• Only used as a last resort. (+ 1 point)
• Fine if it's only a light smack with a slipper. (- 1 point)
• What keeps our sex life alive. (- 4 points)
• Not as effective as waterboarding. (- 10 points)
As soon as the baby arrives, you will ...
• Be available to rock it to sleep and help with the washing. (+ 8 points)
• Expect to be invited over before the other grandparents. (- 1 point)
• Fake the SARS virus to avoid babysitting. (- 4 points)
When you are handed the baby for the first time, you will say...
• Aah, the miracle of life. Bless you, my child. (+ 6 points)
• Aah, I'm sure he'll grow into his face. (- 7 points)
• Aah, he's got Great Uncle Ernie's lazy eye. (- 2 points)
• Aagh! Oh, Jeez, what the . . .? (- 5 points)
• Whoa, take that thing away. (- 10 points)
Your greatest hope for your grandchildren is:
• That they live a long and fulfilled life. (+ 11 points)
• That they end up down the mines like your Fred. If it was good enough for him . . . (- 6 points)
• That they win Lotto and buy you a house by the sea. (- 3 points)
• That they make more of their lives than their layabout, deadbeat parents. (- 4 points)
Your house is:
• A quaint, rose-covered cottage with flock wallpaper, flying ducks on the wall and a Victoria sponge cooling on the windowsill. (+ 13 points)
• Part of a hippy commune of free love, lentils and hash cakes every other Thursday. (- 2 points)
• A Walthamstow crack den littered with old needles, dead junkies and spoons. (- 12 points)
The first thing you do in the morning is:
• Get your husband or wife a nice cuppa and the newspaper to read in bed. (+ 6 points)
• Call for the nurse and tell her that your hot-water bottle has turned into a Portuguese man-of-war again. (- 4 points)
• Check the gun's still under the pillow and the money's gone from the mantelpiece. (- 5 points)
The best advice you can offer your grandchildren as they grow up is:
• Follow your dreams and clean your teeth. (+ 3 points)
• Never eat yellow snow. (0 points)
• If you dump a body at sea, puncture the stomach so it doesn't float. (- 13 points)
HOW DID YOU FARE?
+ 10 points and over
There's a chance you'll make a decent grandparent. But only if you read this book. Failure to do so will result in the subtraction of fifty points from your score.
10 to + 9
You somehow managed to raise your own kids, but possibly not well. You are going to have to be careful to avoid unwanted attention from social services.
11 and below
You have the grandparenting skills of a frozen turkey.
AND FINALLY....how DO you negotiate the minefield of an ugly grandchild?
Not all newborns look like they've burst straight out of a Babies R Us catalogue. In fact, a few look more like they've been bashed over the head with one.
But even misshapen infants tend to morph into something close to adorable eventually. And, if they don't, you can usually find a plastic surgeon in Eastern Europe who'll agree to operate on a young child to see what they can salvage.
If, when you set eyes on it for the first time, the child's lack of aesthetic appeal is an elephant in the room, or indeed if it looks like it might have actual elephantiasis, just throw in some reassuring comments such as these:
'Don't worry, his father also looked a mess when he was born';
'I think people worry too much about long noses and protruding chins';
'Do they make balaclavas for babies?' ;
'Just don't let it near a mirror for a few years';
' What a shame it's got its looks from your side of the family, not ours';
'Beauty's only skin deep, anyway. I'm sure its innards are in good shape'.
• Muddle Your Way Through Being a Grandparent by Paul Merrill. Published on October 6 - Grandparents' Day. Available from Amazon, price £9.99 (paperback) and £3.999 eBook.