“Mum,” says my daughter on the phone. “We’ll be there in five minutes. Can you be ready please?”
In the old days (roughly seven weeks ago) this would have been my signal for waiting by the front door in my coat. Little Rose and George would be running up to me, arms outstretched. We’d go for a walk in the park or maybe, as a special treat, to have a hot chocolate in our favorite coffee shop by the sea front.
But now it means something completely different. I’m still waiting by the front door but when my daughter and son-in-law arrive, they will wait six foot away on the pavement. Rose and George will be in their double buggy to make sure they don’t run up for a cuddle. And we will chat at a distance.
The strange thing is that it almost feels like the norm. Yet even stranger is that underlying nagging worry about whether it will be safe to walk next to them when restrictions are lifted. I simply couldn’t bear it if I passed something on to them even though I feel perfectly well.
This was brought home to me this week when the dog and I found ourselves in our local park at the same time as my little family. “Gan Gan!” called out George and my son-in-law had to scoop him up in his arms to prevent him from hurtling forwards to us. The dog however, was off his lead and he headed straight for them, expecting to get his usual cuddles. After I called him back, he ignored me for the rest of the walk. Why wouldn’t you let them stroke me? he seemed to say, with a doleful expression on his face.
To be honest, this made me feel pretty wretched for the rest of the day. But then my daughter rang me during tea time on Facetime. I’d forgotten how noisy it was! It was hard to get a word in edgeways. But the best thing was that we could talk safely and that it was a natural situation rather than the children being put in front of the camera and told to say hello.
It seems that we’re all learning how to keep in touch in our different ways
I felt a bit left out when I got a message from a granny friend to say that she was walking with her grandchildren six foot away. But with my daughter’s low immunity, we simply can’t do that. Another of my granny friends is also visiting her small granddaughter. “I don’t see anyone else so it’s all right,” she says.
But is it? There are so many mixed messages out there. And then I got an idea which was prompted by a reader who contacted me recently. “I haven’t been able to see my newborn grandson even though he only lives two miles away. My daughter-in-law is very good at sending me pictures and also talking on Facetime but I feel I’m missing out.”
I suggested that she kept a diary with pictures for her grandson which he could look at when he’s older. She might be able to see him but he could see what life was like for her during the corni virus (as an elderly relative calls it). “How about describing your daily routine,” I wrote. “And maybe cut out news articles to put the situation in context. Tell him in your diary how much you’re looking forward to seeing him again.”
She emailed back to say it helped. As she said, “There is something very therapeutic about getting your feelings out in words.”
If you’ve got any helpful suggestions to pass on to her, I can put them in next week’s column. You don’t have to give your name.
I’d also love to know what you feel as a grandparent or mum or dad about future plans for relaxing rules over family contact.
Meanwhile, I’ve been having extra lessons in childcare!
This wasn’t intentional, I have to say. And my daughter doesn’t even know I’m doing it. The truth is that when she puts me on the phone for our Sky chats, I can observe her in action and pick up tips.
Take this morning when little Rose had taken a toy from George. When I came on the phone, she had just handed it back to him. If I’d been the mum, I’d have left it at that.
But my daughter is far more professional. “George,” she said. “I want you to give the toy to Rose. It’s all right. You’re going to get it back. Now Rose, I want you to say sorry nicely and hand it back to your brother.”
Oh oh. From the acoustics this doesn’t sound as though it’s going down well. “You see, Rose,” says my daughter calmly, “it’s not nice to take something from someone else.”
There’s a nail-biting 30 second wait on my part when she is clearly thinking about this.
“Tell you what,” says my daughter brightly. “We’ll count to four. When we get there, you can hand it back. 1,2,3,4…”
“Well done! There you are, George. Your sister’s sorry. Aren’t you?”
I think that’s a yes. But my granddaughter might be hedging her bets.
Either way, I am very impressed.
When I’m back on granny care again (please don’t let it be too long!), I’m determined to take a leaf out of her book instead of resorting to chocolate buttons.
Then the following day, the phone rings again.
“Mum,” says my daughter on the phone. “Are you around? I’m about to run past your house. I thought I could sit on the pavement and we could have a chat – just you and me.”
What a lovely idea! I can’t pretend it was private but it was so lovely to have some mummy/daughter time.
Meanwhile, please let me know how you’re doing by emailing me at email@example.com. A problem shared is a problem halved!