It’s been a big week in our two households. Little George has just started nursery school.
Although perhaps I ought to say here that it’s not for the first time…
My little grandson first gave it a go a year ago when he was two. But he cried so much that I was in tears too. (I had to drop him off and would sit in the car, biting my nails, until I got the phone call to ask if I’d pick him up early.)
Although his sister started at that age, George clearly wasn’t ready.
After all, we’re all ready for different things at different stages. Whatever our ages. (I’m still not ready to drive on motorways!)
So surprisingly we all had butterflies as the day approached for his second bash…
Not just because it’s a milestone in George’s life. But also because of the “should children go back to school or not” debate during this uncertain time.
As a granny, I am in two minds. It seems terrifying to me that we have gone, in the space of a few months, from avoiding everyone to being in close contact. How on earth will it work in class? After all, very few three-year-olds know how to measure a metre – and it simply isn’t practical.
But at the same time, they need the stimulus.
Yet what about the risks to us grandparents? When my granddaughter starts at her new primary in a week, I’ll be helping out on the school run. Our ages mean that my husband and I are more at risk – especially as children are said to be the “silent spreaders”.
But personally, I’d rather risk this and play a part in my grandchildren’s lives.
In fact, I was rather disappointed not to drop George off on his first day.
“Good luck,” I text my daughter at 8am.
Promptly a “Thanks, Mum” comes back along with a photo of my grandson by the front door with a bag on his shoulder. He doesn’t look at all certain!
“I’m not surprised,” jokes my husband. “Has anyone told him that this is it for the next two decades?”
Still, I have to hand it to my daughter and son-in-law. They’ve both been preparing George about going to school and how exciting it will be. Mind you, I do wonder if they’ve been making too much of it. I don’t recall prepping mine as much! Maybe that’s why I feel like a nervous mum myself.
“Please ring me as soon as you’ve dropped him off,” I say to my daughter.
She calls as promised. “It was great, Mum! He went off happily holding one of the play leader’s hands.”
“Hand in hand?” I gasp.
“I know it’s hard, Mum,” she says kindly. “But they’re all going to school now. They’re going to be touching everything.”
Even so, I spent the morning panicking…
I’m playing tennis – the first time I’ve been able to do so for a year because normally this would have been my granny day.
But my mind isn’t on the ball.
Instead, it wanders back to when my children were little and started school. Two of them loved it. The third had to be persuaded to continue his sixth form studies. (He got there in the end and went onto uni!)
I leave tennis early because my daughter said she might pop in on the way back from collecting George.
I want to see his excited little face when he runs through the door. But they’ve beaten me to it! They got back five minutes ago and have been telling my husband all about it. I feel as though I’ve missed out!
“Did you like school?” I ask George.
“Yes,” he nods solemnly.
My daughter is equally relieved. “They said he had a little wobble when he realised I’d gone but then was fine.”
Apparently, what swung it was the tractor in the playground.
“I’d go back to school myself if there was a tractor for me to ride,” says my husband. This time I don’t think he’s joking.
Meanwhile Rose’s new teacher has sent a little postcard to say she’s looking forward to seeing her. What a lovely touch!
In fact, it almost feels as though we’re getting back to normality…
Yet at the back of my mind is that constant “what if?” None of us knows what’s going to happen. Friends with older children are particularly worried. So are those with teachers in the family.
Sometimes it feels as though all these worries will never go away. But then I think about the stories my parents told me about the war and how no-one knew what it was going to be like from one day to the next. At least our loved ones aren’t being sent off to fight in foreign lands.
All this going back to school has also made me realise I need to cherish my time with my grandchildren before summer ends.
So on Sunday, we had Rose and George at our place for a couple of hours while their parents went to meet friends. Wow! I’d forgotten how exhausting it is to watch two children with eyes going in different directions.
“Why don’t we put up the pop up tent?” suggests my husband.
This seemed like a great idea until George decided that he wanted to keep zipping and unzipping it. It was like grappling with a huge balloon!
“I’m hungry,” announces Rose.
They’d apparently had lunch already at their house but it doesn’t stop her opening the fridge doors and checking the contents. “How about macaroni cheese?” I suggest.
“No thanks,” she trills. “May I have an ice lolly instead?”
Somehow one ice lolly leads to two more…
“I love being at your house,” she says, cuddling up to me.
“That’s because Gan Gan doesn’t set any rules,” says my husband.
He’s only grumpy because there aren’t any lollies left for him. In fact, I was quite a strict mother when my three were small. But it didn’t always work. So now I’m trying the more relaxed approach!
Meanwhile my eldest son is still with us until he can go back to his job in Spain.
He’s in his 30s but I still have to remind myself not to treat him like a teenager! “Can you pick some of your clothes off the floor,” I said the other day when I nearly fell over a pile of stuff.
“Mum,” he says, kindly. “This is difficult for me too. Thanks to Covid, I’ve lost my independence.”
He’s quite right. I love having him here. It’s such a special time with our dogs walks and chats. I don’t want to spoil it by nagging. So I’m going to try my best. Honestly.
The plus side about this situation is that it’s given my eldest son some unexpected time to be with his sister and brother-in-law, who are just round the corner. They’ve had some lovely film evenings together. When they were growing up together, it seemed impossible to imagine them living far away from each other. It was only when they each started leaving home one by one that it hit me. It’s almost as if Covid has given us extra time.
Meanwhile I’m aware that my youngest is in London. I don’t want him to feel left out so we’re planning to drive up in a fortnight.
Then there’s my dad. This week he turns 97. He doesn’t want a fuss. In fact, he doesn’t want us inside the house because of his fears about Covid. So we’re going to be in the garden talking through the patio doors. We’re bringing a cake so he can blow out the candles and we can sing happy birthday from a social distance.
“Shall we bring Rose and George too?” I ask him.
“Oh no,” he says. “We can’t deal with too many people.”
Part of me feels really sad about this. I’d give anything to have Rose and George’s children with me for my 97th.
Still maybe it’s a bit like starting school. Some of us are ready for certain stages of life at different times.
But it turns out that the week has more surprises in store…
“Perhaps we should use this time to have a few days away,” I suggest to my husband.
After all we live on a beautiful coastline and there’s plenty to explore here.
“Good idea,” he says.
But then his back begins to play up. Last year my husband had serious spinal surgery. So he rang the hospital. The consultant was amazing and slotted him in. Now he’s waiting for a cat scan.
He’s quite philosophical about it. “What will be.”
But I’m one of those people who frets about what lies ahead – especially, strangely enough, since I’ve been a granny. It seems like double the responsibility.
“I used to feel like that,” says an older friend who has three great grandchildren. “It took me some years to realise that the bigger your family gets, the more there is to worry about. But anxiety doesn’t help. In fact, it makes it worse because you pass that onto your children and grandchildren. So you’re actually doing them a favour and setting a good pattern for future generations, by not fretting.”
She’s right. It’s good advice for these uncertain times.
It also made me wonder. Do you have any special sayings or pieces of advice you would pass onto to other grandparents or parents? If so, please email me at email@example.com.
See you next week!
Jane Corry is the author of the bestselling I Made A Mistake about a daughter-in-law and her much-loved mother-in-law. Published by Penguin, £7.99 in paperback and also available as an e-book and audio, narrated by Emilia Fox. http://bit.ly/IMadeaMistake OR https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Jane-Corry/I-Made-a-Mistake/24376830