“But I want to see Grandad,” howls George when we drive past our house on the way to his.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “We can’t go near him. Not until his back is better.”
Oh dear. It’s becoming more and more difficult to explain this new world of ours to the grandchildren.
The truth of the matter is that my husband had to have a Covid test shortly before a big cortisone injection. It was negative. But he still had to self-isolate before the procedure, to ensure he remained free of the virus. And because the cortisone will lower his immunity system, he also has to self-isolate for ten days afterwards.
This has resulted in some rather complicated comings and goings in our house with me calling out “Kitchen free now!” and “Your turn for the bathroom!” I’ve also had to decamp to the spare room so when I want clothes from our bedroom, I have to explain where they are (“Knickers in third drawer down!”) and he lobs them out across the landing. My eldest son who is living with us until he can safely return to Spain where he’s been working, is threatening to write a sit com!
But at least we can understand the reasoning behind it all. Not like three-year-old George who has a soft spot for Grandad – probably because they’re both kids and totally besotted by tractors.
Rose, who’s going to be five before long (I can hardly believe this!), seems to accept the situation more easily. Isn’t it funny how 18 months can make such a big difference in terms of reasoning when you’re a child?
“Let’s do a picture for Grandad,” she suggests when we get to her home. “It will make him feel better.”
Good idea. Mind you, I do wonder what my daughter does with all the craftwork that goes on in their house. Somewhere in the world there is probably a huge mountain of children’s scribbles. In fact, part of it is in a top cupboard in the spare room where I am currently sleeping. I simply couldn’t bear to throw out the arts of work which I kept from my three – imagine if Picasso’s mother had done the same!
Meanwhile, my daughter and I are both adapting to our new roles…
It’s not easy being a working mum, especially when the children aren’t at full-time school. My daughter returned to work part-time when Rose was nine months old. She did the same with George. I loved looking after them for 22 hours a week but at the same time, I was aware that I was getting older too and that my husband’s back was getting increasingly worse. The Covid situation also made us all reappraise things.
So after a family chat, my daughter is taking two years off to have more time with the little ones. Money will be tight but she’ll never have that special time again.
Of course I will still be there every day – try keeping me away! – but I won’t be arriving at the crack of dawn and leaving when the moon is up.
“You’ll love it,” says a granny friend of mine. “It takes the pressure off because you won’t have so much responsibility.”
But that isn’t turning out to be the case as the last week has shown! Sometimes I go with my daughter for pick up time so she can run in and get Rose while I wait in the car with George. I love this one to one time with my grandson and my daughter is also extremely grateful. “It’s exhausting doing the school run on my own,” she says as if I’ve never done it myself!
We’ve also fallen into a pattern where I generally come round at teatime and read them a story over dinner before helping out with bathtime.
Then the other day my daughter asked if I’d stay with George in the afternoon while Rose went to her dance class after school.
“Of course,” I said. When I was on full-time winter duty, I used to struggle with keeping George amused in the car outside Rose’s dance with the rain beating down on the roof! One day out of desperation, I gave him my iPad and then discovered he’d managed to sign himself into a “free” trial which I continued paying for (without realising) during the next year!
So Rose and Mummy trip off to dance class while George and I snuggle up on the sofa. We switch on Shaun the Sheep which is one of my favourites. One of the joys of being a granny is that you actually sit and watch the films with them. I’m afraid that when I was a young mum, I’d use the telly for breathing space while I washed up or tidied up around them.
“This is funny, isn’t it?” I said to George.
But there’s no answer. Oh oh. His eyes are closed and his little chest is rising and falling. Too late I remember my daughter’s last-minute instructions as she flew out of the door. “Whatever happens, don’t let him fall asleep or he won’t go to bed tonight.”
“George,” I say, prodding him awake. “Look what Shaun is doing.”
He opens his eyes immediately. That’s all right then. He wasn’t out for long. Surely it could only have been a minute or two?
Then he gives a big sneeze. And I mean a big one…
Full frontal in fact. Right over my face. Oh dear. I dab our faces and we settle down to Shaun again.
Before we know it, my daughter is back. Rose is dancing round the sitting room, showing us her dance moves. “We had a lovely mother and time together. Thanks, Mum.”
Three hours later, when my husband, eldest son and I have all had dinner at appropriately-spaced social distancing, my mobile rings. “Mum,” says my daughter.
My skin begins to prickle. I can tell something is up.
“What?” I say in alarm. Why is it that my granny default mode is always set on “panic”?
“Did you let George sleep today when we were at dance class?”
Ah. That. “More like a little doze,” I say carefully. “His eyes might have shut for a minute or two while we were watching Shaun the Sheep.”
“A minute or two?” she presses. “Exactly how long?”
“I’m not sure,” I admit. “I got rather involved in that bit where the farmer meets this rock star and then the sheep…”
“OK,” she sighs. “I get it. The thing is that George isn’t sleepy now. And it’s nearly 9pm.”
Oh dear. No more children’s tv for me any more!
Then towards the end of the week, two things happen. The first is that I get a cold. I suppose I should have guessed this was going to happen from the full-frontal sneeze which George had bestowed on me. But I have to tell you. This is the worst cold I’ve ever had. On the plus side, I didn’t have any symptoms of you-know-what.
But the worst thing was that I couldn’t go round to help any more. Even though George and his sister have sniffles, they are nothing like my streaming eyes and blocked up sinuses. My daughter is understandably worried I might make them worse. How ironic that I can’t go to them because they gave me something!
I’m also worried that I’m going to pass my cold onto my husband before his procedure. So I’m keeping even more at a distance.
Then came George’s nursery day…
This was his third time so we were hoping he was getting into the swing of it. I’m at my desk writing, when the phone goes. “It was terrible,” said my daughter almost in tears. “He kept hanging onto me and asking me not to go. But the staff were so kind and understanding.”
My poor girl. I want to cuddle her. But I can’t in case I give her this cold. (Amazingly she and her husband haven’t caught it from the children.)
I spend all morning feeling uneasy but then the phone goes again just after lunch. “He had a lovely time,” she says. “Someone in the admin office brought in their little dog and it really cheered him up. After that he settled in.”
Isn’t it incredible how animals can do that? Our dog always brings a smile to our face – and he’s so good with the grandchildren.
Meanwhile, thanks to all the readers who’ve got in touch
Julie sent me this email:
“As it is breast month in October, can you mention the importance of having a mammogram. If I hadn’t gone to my local supermarket when the breast care unit was there. I may never have gone as it was my first mammogram. But it saved my life. They say about lumps and bumps but some people have no indicators.”
Julie also had a tip for little ones like my grandson who are starting nursery.
“If George is worried about leaving Mum, a nice tip is draw a heart on hand and Mum’s hand. He can look at it when mum’s not there but know she is near.”
I’m also sending out lots of positive thoughts to Cathy who emailed to say that her grandchildren have had coughs so are waiting for Covid tests before they can go back to school. “U can tell I’m missing my grandkids.”
Luckily, Cathy has plenty to keep her busy such as reading. “I do the £7-99 a month on Kindle and I can have 10 books at a time. I’ve got back to reading my favourites like Black Beauty when I was a teen!”
If you’ve got anything you’d like to share with us about being a grandparent, I’d love to know. I’d be particularly interested in any recommendations for children’s books. This week was Bookshop Day and also Library Week. Like many authors, I did some live Zoom talks to help celebrate both. There’s nothing like a good read for both adults and children! Please email me at email@example.com with suggestions.
Meanwhile, I’m just off to bed on my own under our new isolating regime. Actually, it’s quite nice! I can turn out the lights early (my husband likes to read late) and think about all the things I’m going to do with Rose and George when I’m sniffle-free.
My daughter and I have also pencilled in a mother/daughter hour when George is at nursery next week.
Better not forget my husband either. I need to make time for him. And then there’s my next novel deadline! Sometimes I think I’m just as busy as I was when I was a young mum! But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
See you next week.
Jane Corry is the author of the bestselling I Made A Mistake about a daughter-in-law Poppy, and her mother-in law Betty, who both have their love secrets. 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