This week has been a mixture of blessings and disappointments for some of us grandparents, hasn’t it? Those of you on your own have finally been allowed to visit and even stay overnight with your grandchildren. You can also do this if there are two of you, provided your grandchildren are in a single parent “household bubble”.
I know from friends of mine what an enormous difference this this will mean to your lives. And I’m so glad for you. I really am. One of my friends is over the moon because her son and daughter-in-law are now able to come and stay with her for a week with the little ones. “I’m going to look after them while their parents work from my place,” she says beaming.
My friend has never once complained since lockdown started. But I know how hard it’s been for her on her own all these weeks.
But then there are grandparents like us…
My husband is not the blood grandfather but in our family, we don’t make such differentiations. Little Rose and George have six grandparents whom they equally adore. The four others lives some distance off. But we are the ones who used to have them 22 hours a week and my heart has been in pieces since the middle of March when this had to stop.
So – and I must be honest here – my hopes soared at the Now grandparents can cuddle their grandchildren headlines last week. Then they crashed as I realised we weren’t eligible because I live with my husband. (“I’d better watch out for a knife in my back,” he jokes.)
I’m also going to be honest about something else. There are times when we all feel like taking a risk. Indeed, I’ve heard of several grandparents who quietly confess that they have held a little hand in a back garden.
But I just can’t do it. If we passed anything on, we would never forgive ourselves. So we’re going to sit tight and wait for the next lot of guidelines.
A little bit of magic
Ironically, little Rose and George seem to have adapted to the new situation far better than I have. When I popped round to their garden yesterday afternoon, we had a wonderful game of magic when Rose and George “magicked” me into a frog and then a hat and after that an owl before returning me back into Gan Gan! But at the same time, they were clearly aware of the 2m rule and the need to wash hands regularly. It’s become almost as routine as good manners such as “May I get down from the table please?”
We also had a great ride in the park – socially distanced of course! My daughter took them down ahead of me on their scooters and I met up with them on my bike. “Let’s have a race,” says Rose.
I gave them a head start. Big mistake! They beat me to it.
Last week, their mum and I had planned to sit outside in our garden one evening for some mother /daughter time. But it’s been raining so we had to cancel. Meeting up outside is all very well but not when it’s teeming cats and dogs.
“I do miss you, Mum,” says my daughter on the phone.
She might as well be talking from another country instead of a few yards round the corner. But at least she has the distraction of looking after the children and being with them. I, on the other hand, like many of you, have all this extra time on my hands and no small warm cuddles…
So what is the answer?
“A project,” declares a friend of mine who normally looks after her twin grandsons. She’s been clearing out the garden shed. “You’ll never believe what I found,” she carries on brightly. “A spare paddling pool, some old chairs which I don’t use any more and out of date seeds which I’m still going to plant. I even sold the chairs on eBay and got a few quid!”
Another granny friend of mine has been painting anything she can lay her hands on. Plant pots. Old bits of furniture. Windowsills. “I’m not very good,” she says, “but the physical act of doing it helps.”
During my morning dog walks along the seafront, I’ve counted at least four granny friends who have started jogging. It’s not for everyone but like my painting friend, it seems that the physical and mental effort of doing something different helps to distract and also boost our “I can do this” confidence.
I’ve also found help in listening to our church online service – even if I don’t get to it until later in the week! A friend of mine who is not particularly religious, has started meditating. “I always pooh-poohed it before,” she says, “but it’s amazing what three minutes a day can do.”
Meanwhile, I’ve been really moved by the emails you’ve been sending. Two were from readers who had contacted me towards the beginning of lockdown because life had been been particularly challenging for them at the time. One had a husband who went into hospital but is now out again, fully recovered. Yes! Another was a granny who has battled her aversion to computers and is now (almost) a dab hand at logging into Facebook to “chat” to her new grandchild. “I’ve learnt to count the positives and not think about the fact that normally, I would be holding her in my arms,” she says. “And I feel stronger for getting to grips with technology.”
The third email from another reader, sent tingles down my spine, in a good way. “My grandchildren (now grown up) got in touch to ask for a family biscuit recipe which my own mother passed down to me. I was also able to show them (on Facetime) the original rabbit cookie cutter that has done years of service.”
This inspired me!
Immediately, I rustled through my kitchen drawers – which I’d vowed to tidy up at the beginning of lockdown! – to find what I was looking for. There it was. At first sight it doesn’t look anything special. It’s one of those white plastic biscuit cutters with a fluted edge. But to me it’s irreplaceable. It belonged to my mother who died in her 50s soon after my daughter was born.
I should confess that I’m not naturally domestic. I have about six dishes to my name but that’s it! Now, however, I ring my daughter. “Could I do an online baking session with Rose and George?” I ask. And then I tell her about her grandmother’s cutter. She thought it was a great idea.
We’ve planned a session later this week. I’ll let you know how it goes. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear about any special family momentos which you’ve dug out during the corni virus time. Maybe a board game or a dressing up box has helped to engage your grandchildren’s interests? Please email me at email@example.com.
See you next week!
Jane’s new book… out now!
Hope you don’t mind me mentioning this but my new Penguin thriller launched at the end of May! It’s called I MADE A MISTAKE and is about Poppy, a mother of teenagers and her live-in mother-in-law Betty who is a young 70 year old. The two of them are like mother and daughter. But each has their love secrets. Betty’s go back to the 1960s. It’s on sale at supermarkets, bookshops and online. Here’s the link.