In the shaky time that follows the birth, you have no allies. It's every doting relative for her- or himself. Only you can imprint yourself on that child's mind as the bringer of mirth and chocolate.
By the way, keep out of those cot-side debates about whose nose the baby has or where the eyes come from. Let the parents lay claim as they wish to the glory of passing on the finest features and neatest ears. It's obvious whose side of the family those delicate slender, violin player's fingers come from, so just don't bother to mention it.
When you have recovered a little from the birth, it's time to celebrate the good things that having a grandchild will mean. Having someone to go to the pantomime with is good. You may find you have more in common with the grandchild than with your own children. You may have exactly the same sense of humour - or at least someone to share you passion for bees or Shakespeare or rock climbing.
Get a scrapbook for all those shaky messages and bright, urgent drawings which will soon be arriving. Prepare yourself for all the questions from these tireless seekers after truth - like "What are you drinking?" and "Are you going bald?" and "What does 'bastard' mean?" Look forward to the surprise telephone calls - "Hello, I've just been sick in a bucket."
You will learn to admire (and perhaps try to copy) your grandchild's talent for selective hearing. He or she can pick out the rattle of a Smartie tube from several gardens away, but if a parent bangs on about something boring, not a word gets through.
Then there are the delights and dangers of Christmases; but they are going to need a whole chapter of their own.
- Try not to knit.
- Don't keep photographs of your grandchildren in your wallet. Young sales assistants will spot them and patronise you.
- Don't boast about the number of grandchildren you have; just try to remember their names.
- Never criticise any member of the family (especially Granny Jenkins) in the child's hearing. Remember what a lovely person you decided to pretend to be. Stick to it.
Above all, remember these new members of your family can transform your life if you let them. Just enjoy it.
These chattering bright creatures will blow away the cobwebs and leave you refreshed.
Cherish them while you can.
Not All Grannies Knit: How To Be A Bad Grandmother, by Joan Pritchett, is published by Michael O'Mara in October, priced £9.99