“Mum,” says the worried voice at the other end of the phone.
Oh no. What’s happened?
Last week, we had our fair share of accidents, as you might remember. But this one is different.
“George has lost his baby,” says my daughter. “He’s somewhere in the woods. We’re still in the car park. Is there any chance you can come up and keep an eye on the children while I go back to look?”
“What?” questions my husband, overhearing our conversation on my mobile because I had it on loudspeaker. (This allows me to multi-task at the same time. I am currently working on a short story.) “I didn’t even know George was pregnant.”
“It’s not a real baby,” I point out, rather unnecessarily (although sometimes I do find that husbands don’t always see the obvious.)
“Yes, he is,” pipes up Rose at the other end of the phone. I didn’t realise we were still connected. My modern phone is too advanced for me.
I’m aware this might take some explaining. So here goes. When I bought Rose a new doll at the beginning of lockdown, George wanted one too. He promptly named it Alex. This might or might not have something to do with the fact that Rose’s doll is called Alice. Dolly sibling rivalry?
Both my grandchildren have been very careful at looking after their babies. In fact, we’ve all felt it’s been a good lesson in preparation for future parenthood.
Then there were three…
Apparently, my daughter had taken the four of them (grandchildren plus respective dolls) for a walk in our local woods nearby. It was only when they got back to the car that Rose noticed that her brother was no longer clutching his charge.
The thought of going back through the woods on a search party with two small toddlers was understandably a bit exhausting and fairly time-consuming, when you factor in tiny steps. Besides, our house is only five minutes away by car. So I drive up and park next to the children.
“Thanks, Mum,” says my daughter, blowing me a quick kiss from the correct distance and dashing off.
I try not to think of my unfinished short story.
“You need to go to parent craft class,” I tell George two metres away through the open car window.
“What’s raft class?” chips Rose.
“It’s a sort of school where you learn to look after children,” I say, deciding not to correct her grammar. Besides, she might have a point. Looking after children does make you feel you’re all at sea, sometimes.
“But school is closed,” she retorts quick as a flash. “I’m reading at home instead.”
No flies on this one!
Meanwhile George is in floods of tears. “I want my baby,” he sobs.
I try amusing him with funny faces but for some reason he’s crying louder. Lockdown has made me lose my touch.
I glance at my watch. Where has my daughter got to?
I’m beginning to feel a bit worried myself. I call her.
“On my way back,” she puffs. “He left it right at the bottom of the woods.”
Ah! Here she is!
“Mummy,” cries out Rose as if she hasn’t seen her for a week.
George grabs baby with relief. He continues to hang onto him all day long judging from the “thank you” pics they send me on the Family What’s App.
Poor little thing. Clearly he’s suffering from parental anxiety. Seriously. In fact, we’re all suffering from it more than usual at the moment. You and I – judging from your lovely emails – are worried about our children and our parents. Our children are worried about their children and us.
I know I’m not the only one to be bossed around by mine. Of course they mean well but it does make me feel as though I’m a teenager. “Mum,” as one of my sons sternly remarks when I voice my thoughts about getting a train to visit my father some 300 miles away. “I don’t think you should do that just yet. Just wait to see how this present situation goes. You need to take care of yourself.”
Ouch! We might not feel it but in their eyes, we’re still the older vulnerable group.
And of course that’s what we are all doing. This is a strange time, isn’t it? Some are following the rules and others aren’t. I’m still not allowed to hold hands with my little brood but I have to say I’m tempted. Still, at least I’ll be able to sit in the same room as them from July 4.
This will make life much more practical! Take the other day when it was raining. I had to sit in the children’s little courtyard garden and chat to them through the French windows. “Come on in, Gan Gan,” implores Rose.
“Not now,” I say. “But I can next Saturday.”
“Is that your birthday?” she demands. (In my granddaughter’s experience, that’s when particularly nice things happen.)
“No,” I say. “But it is a special day.”
It certainly is. In fact, it’s highlighted in my diary in big capital letters. The last time I was in the same room as them, it was an ordinary Granny Friday. My daughter and son-in-law were working. Rose, had actually been violently sick on her way to nursery school so I headed back to their place for a check-on-temperature (normal) and rest on sofa (Paddington Bear movie time.)
It now seems like another year altogether with a the horrors that have gone on in the world.
It’s not all bad, though…
The corni virus has helped many of us work out our priorities and be grateful for things we’ve taken for granted.
Yet it’s left its mark. Many of you have emailed to tell me how anxious you and your children still are about the future. It’s very understandable.
“We were meant to be going away as a family,” emailed Ann from Durham who has three grandchildren. “It looks as though we can still go according to the new relaxations. But we are all rather worried about picking up the virus when we’re travelling. I don’t know if we’re being over cautious or not.”
I run this past a psychologist friend of mine.
“It’s very hard to tell,” she says. “But my advice would be to go with what makes you feel comfortable.”
That sounds reasonable to me.
One of my local granny friends has been doing online meditation classes. Her daughter is doing the same with her little ones. “It’s been really calming for everyone,” she says.
If you’re interested in exploring that further, try Googling “meditation classes for all ages”.
Mind you, I suspect, that what many young couples really need, is some time to themselves. So I’ve hatched a plan with my son-in-law. Next Saturday, I’m going to babysit.
It won’t be the old kind of babysitting where they go out for a budget meal or a walk. Instead, I’ll sit in the sitting room with little Rose and George while my daughter and son-in-law go into the back garden for a glass of wine and the baby monitor. Of course I will be socially distanced. If I need hands-on help, I’ll just call out.
“That sounds lovely,” says my son-in-law. “Thank you.”
Actually, I can’t wait for some granny and Rose-George time. This new world we’re facing, might be very different. But we grandparents are resilient, aren’t we? We will find ways of making it through.
With any luck, I might just be around to see George with his own real babies. Let’s just hope he signs up for parentcraft classes!
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.