“Look!” says my husband to the children online. “It’s monkey stealing bananas.”
If you read my diary last week you might remember that my husband – a bachelor until we married in our 50s – had declared he was going to make a video clip on his mobile for our grandchildren to make up for not being able to see them in person
I only wish I’d read the script first! Two-year-old George is obsessed with tractors. He has a massive sit-on one which my husband bought him for Christmas and lives at our house for grandparent days. It’s arguably his favourite toy. During BC days, the first thing he did when coming round, was to leap on it and sit there until lunchtime, pretending that our sitting room was a field waiting to be ploughed.
My husband’s video features a huge toy monkey which an old girlfriend had once given him – don’t even ask – sitting in the driving seat with bananas in the trailer. Somehow, he’s managed to film it while making the tractor move, courtesy of ingenuity and an old skipping rope.
But George bursts into tears. “I want my tractor,” he howls.
“I want a banana,” says four-year-old Rose.
It gets worse…
My husband, a retired lawyer, has clearly picked up some tips from the criminals he used to come across. “Look,” he says, “monkey’s been put in prison for stealing bananas.”
I have to admit it’s authentic. This scene shows the monkey behind the stairgate in the room where Rose had her sleepovers. (When this is all over, we’re going to have more of those.) The columns resemble very convincing prison bars.
“Where my tractor gone?” yells George.
You’d think from his howls that this is X certificate stuff except that they classify films differently nowadays. “Don’t worry,” I say, stepping in. “Look! The tractor is still here safe and sound, ready for when we can see each other again. And monkey said sorry so he’s out of prison now.”
The children seem to accept that. More than I do. But we’re all in the same boat, aren’t we? Apart, that is, from one of my granny friends. Shortly before the lockdown announcement, she and her husband opened their farmhouse doors to their two daughters, partners and children. That’s 11 in total! They’re all living together with home-schooling in the kitchen. Luckily, there’s enough room for self-isolation if one of them catches you-know-what. “It’s a bit hectic yet at least we’re all together,” she tells me on the phone. I don’t like to think of myself as an envious person but I do wish we could have done the same.
Like many others, we are relying on What’s App video calls for contact with our precious little ones. I’ve stopped waving through the window during my daily dog walk because it’s too confusing for the children. They don’t understand why I can’t come in. It’s also, to be honest, too painful for me.
Instead we’ve become quite creative online. Every morning, I run a five-minute exercise class with them on Facetime. In the days when things were normal, the children and I had a little routine going before nursery school. My grandmother used to do exercises with me so it’s a bit of a tradition. “Windmill time,” I say now to Rose on screen and she opens her arms wide. Little George tries to do the same but gets distracted.
Rose is also writing lots of stories and drawing pictures. I see these during our twice daily video calls. “Look, Gan Gan,” she says this morning, proudly flourishing her latest artistic creation. We finish our call with a horsey kiss and then a butterfly kiss. The first involves breathing hot air onto her neck and the second, fluttering my eyelashes against her cheek. Again both family traditions. It’s not quite the same on the screen but it’s better than nothing.
Meanwhile, I’m writing that children’s story I mentioned last week. I’m also growing some broad beans and courgettes in little pots for the children. I’m a hopeless gardener but with any luck, green shoots will start to come up and then I can show them to the children via What’s App. Maybe, before too long, we can do this properly.
Last week, I asked you for some tips on how you’re keeping in contact with grandchildren. Thanks for your replies. Here are some suggestions to give you inspiration.
- Write them a short letter every few days and email it along with a photograph.
- If you’ve got an iPad, do some funny doodles and send those to younger children. Yesterday, I did a pink castle with a dog (like ours) peeping out of the window.
- Make up a story featuring them and send it to them.
- Email (or tell) funny jokes
- Email pictures of your pets if you have them
Please keep sending in your tips! Nothing can break the bonds we have with our children and grandchildren. Not even the C word.