“Guess what?” says a dear friend of mine whom I haven’t seen for months. We live near each other but we’d both been so busy looking after our grandchildren before the “corni” virus that we hadn’t been able to find a spare minute for catch up over coffee. Owing to the present situation, it’s even more difficult to meet up. Thanks heavens for the phone!
“Tell me,” I say excitedly.
“I saw my granddaughter yesterday!”
Her voice is bubbling over with excitement. It turns out that her daughter, who lives two hours away, had driven over to a beach near her mum so they could see each other at a distance according to the new rules. Little ones, like my friend’s two-year-old granddaughter, don’t understand the two metre rule. So her daughter told her that granny had a bad cold and they could only wave at her.
“She ran towards me with open arms but my daughter had to hold her back,” she says. “It was so lovely to see her. She’d really grown! But afterwards, I went home and wept buckets.”
If that rings bells, you’re not alone…
I feel exactly the same emotions when I wave to my two grandchildren through the window or when they wave to me from the safety of the road as they walk by.
I know from my postbag, that many of you don’t live near enough to your grandchildren to do this. “I’ve learnt to get to grips with Skype and Facetime and What’s App,” says one reader from York whose teenage grandchildren live in Cornwall. “At first, I got quite tearful after our calls because it wasn’t the same as actually seeing them. But then I realised I was talking to them more than I had before the virus. So that’s one positive. What I’m really sad about is that they might not be able to make their usual summer trip up here. Instead, we’re hoping that life will be relaxed enough for them to come in October half-term.”
And that’s the way to look at it, isn’t it? As grandparents, there are many things we can’t do any more. But there are others we can do instead. Below are some of the lovely emails I’ve received from readers. Most have understandably asked me not to use their names. But they were all happy to share their feelings with you and ask if anyone has got some answers to certain problems. I’ve made some suggestions below but if you’ve got any ideas that might help us all, please email me, email@example.com.
So here goes!
SOON TO BE GRANNY
“My daughter is giving birth in three weeks’ time. It will be my first grandchild and I’ve been so excited. Now I’m worried for their safety in hospital and also, perhaps selfishly, from my point of view. I don’t know when I’m going to be able to cuddle my new grandchild even though I only live half an hour away. I’m upset I’m going to miss out on those first weeks and even months of his or her life.”
“I’m sure all of us will sympathise. I have a friend in the same situation. She’s been making a baby album for her new grandson. She’s printed out pictures which her son and daughter-in-law have sent of the new baby. And she’s also put in pictures of herself, showing what she’s been doing during lockdown, such as gardening and reading and cleaning cupboards. As well as that, she’s included newspaper clippings. It will be a very special gift to give her grandson when she finally meets him – and a piece of history which he might well share with his own children in years to come. As for the safety side, maternity units are being extremely careful.”
MY GRANDCHILDREN LIVE WITH MY EX-DAUGHTER-IN-LAW
“My son and his wife divorced two years ago which was a great sadness to me. My grandchildren are aged 8 and 6. My son who lives near me always brought them over at weekends. But during lockdown, this hasn’t been possible. I don’t like to ring them because I don’t have a good relationship with my former daughter-in-law. I’m worried the children might think I don’t care for them any more.”
“You might be surprised. One of the positive effects of the virus is that it has changed some people’s attitudes. Why not take the plunge and ring your former daughter-in-law? Ask how she is and tell her that you know it can’t be easy for her at this time under lockdown with the children. Tell her how much you miss seeing them and ask if you can talk to them. If not, why not write them a little message on a postcard and post it to them?”
I’M WORRIED ABOUT MY GRANDDAUGHTER’S SAFETY
“My 19-year-old granddaughter is a nurse. I’ve been terrified for her safety ever since this started even though she has a mask and other protective equipment. Her parents are also worried but she is dedicated to her job. Of course I’m very proud of her but I lie awake at night, worrying.”
“I didn’t realise until I became a grandparent myself how much I’d worry about them – almost more than my own children. My heart goes out to you. But one of the things I’ve learned is that you have to let your children do what they want because they’re grown-ups. Your granddaughter too is an adult. However hard it is, you have no choice but to let her do what she wants. And that means accepting it in your heart too. Try to concentrate on the positives. She has the right equipment to keep herself safe. She should be tested if she feels ill. She is doing something very brave which will increase her own confidence and sense of self-worth. Look after your own mental wellbeing by putting aside some time every day when you tell yourself you won’t think about the virus or any other worries. This can be very hard but it’s possible. Start with maybe three minutes and then gradually increase it. During that time, distract yourself with something very physical like scrubbing down a kitchen cupboard or digging or cleaning out that drawer of ‘bits and pieces’ which we all have. It’s not going to be a complete solution by any means. But hopefully it will help. This virus won’t go on for ever in its present form.”
I CAN’T HELP FEELING ENVIOUS OF THE OTHER GRANDPARENTS
“My daughter’s in-laws live near them. My husband and I are at the other end of the country although we’d been hoping to move until this virus started. The other grandparents wave to our grandchildren (6, 8 and 12). Of course we can’t do that although we do talk on Facetime. It hurts me when they tell me that they’ve just been seeing the other grandparents even though it’s from a distance. I know it’s selfish but I can’t help it.”
“That must be hard. But don’t beat yourself up for feeling jealous. Many of us would feel the same. Your grandchildren won’t forget you even though you’re not on the doorstep. My own grandchildren have six grandparents and they talk about us all – even though they see us more than the others. Children have this capacity for loving lots of people just as we do. Keep going with the Facetime calls. Maybe try something a little different like putting on a puppet show at your end or reading a story or taking them round your house on screen and telling them what you’ve been doing. You could also send your older grandchild some puzzles to do onscreen. One of my friends has made up a family quiz for her grandchildren. Some of the questions are about the family. She’s found pictures of their parents and other relatives as children and asked the grandchildren to guess who is who! Sounds like a lot of fun. If anyone reading this isn’t a fan of technology, you could post these quizzes too.”
Please keep sending in your experiences and questions. Remember, we’re all in this together. You are not alone. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you next week.
PS I’ve posted a picture of some shells which my granddaughter left at my front door last week. Meanwhile, I’ve made her and her brother a little box each to keep special things. I used an old soap box and painted it. It’s not very good but it made me feel better to do something.