I took Marie and Orla to Marie's parents' mansion (too big to be called a mere house) in Weymouth last Thursday. They were staying there until the weekend, when Joseph and I would be joining them. Joseph and I stayed at home because he had to go to his friend's birthday party and to play for his team in a football match.
Marie rang me often. I knew that things weren't right, but she wouldn't tell me what was wrong. Then, on Saturday afternoon when I was driving to her parents' house with Joseph, she called the car phone. Twice. She was crying, but couldn't tell me why.
I had just got out the car when Orla ran up to me, arms outstretched. I lifted her up and she hugged me really tight. “I'm really glad you're here, daddy,” she said into my ear. “I missed you.” Marie appeared behind her. I put Orla down and Marie and I embraced. Then she revealed the cause of her distress. Orla wasn't being treated well. Grandma was constantly telling her off.
When she was very little and compliant, Orla used to be her grandmother's golden girl. A little girl, to dress up like an expensive doll – what could be better? But now Orla is vivacious, attention-seeking, noisy, never sits still, forward...the typical second child. After two more grandchildren and a lot of babysitting, Orla has become an annoyance.
What had bothered Marie most was that she was trapped in the house. She hadn't been able to take Orla away from her grumpy grandmother.
The rest of the weekend passed off with no problems. We visited Marie's sisters where I found out that grandma wasn't such a great grandmother to her other grandchildren, either.
Marie is very glad to be home again. More determined to change than ever. If it helps her to fight agoraphobia, then her unpleasant weekend was worthwhile.
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"Orla, was grandma grumpy?"
"Yes. She shouted at me. Made me cry."
"But I shout at you sometimes too."
"Only when I'm very naughty."
"Weren't you naughty when grandma shouted at you?"
"No. I only wanted to go into the kitchen and get a drink."
"Sometimes people when they get older get a bit grumpy and shout a lot. You're still my good girl."
"But you're old too, daddy." [Thanks Orla!] She flashes me one of her impossibly innocent smiles, eyes wide.
There's no answer to that last comment!
"I miss grandma."
Well, I guess the events of the weekend didn't bother Orla too much!