May-Ling calls out to me as I get out of the car. She is fourteen months old and her sweet voice bounces out through the screen door where she is standing and out on to the street in North Ryde where her Chinese grandparents live. I climb over the small white iron gate that leads to the front door. Every week she waits for my arrival after Playschool has finished on television. May-Ling has soft chubby legs and tiny artistic fingers. Her hands are so well co-ordinated that now she is able to grasp a spoon and feed herself. She has almond shaped brown eyes and very white teeth that you get to see very often because she laughs so much. In her pink and white gingham floppy hat that she wears to the park, she looks even cuter. What a cutie, say people on the street when I take her out for a walk in the stroller. What a cutie.
I am the apprentice grandmother. The Chinese grandmother shows me what to do. She might correct my nappy changing skills, show me that I have done the nappy up too tight, that I need to be able to slip my hand in between the nappy and May-Ling’s fat tummy. Or she might show me how I need to rock May-Ling back and forth and pat her gently on the bottom so she’ll fall asleep in my arms before putting her into the cot.