I don’t know about you but I’ve never been great at telling jokes. If I’m trying to repeat one which someone has told me, I tend to come out with the punchline first. And that rather defeats the object!
But children seem to have an inborn knack for being funny without meaning to.
Take this week when I went round after school to help out. (I say, “help out” but actually I think it’s the children who are doing that for me right now. There’s nothing like being with the little ones to forget the things that are happening in the world.)
“What can I do?” I ask my daughter.
“Actually Mum, what would be really brilliant is if you could just sit with them when they’re eating supper so I can unload the washing machine.”
I remember those days so well! There never seemed enough hours in the day to get everything done. And of course, you can’t take your eyes off them for a second.
Time for some reading…
“Can we read while we eat?” asks four-year-old Rose.
“Yes! Yes!’ says George, jumping down from the table and grabbing his favourite book about a little boy who dreams of tractors.
My grandchildren are like me. I’m unable to swallow a mouthful without something to read, even if it’s the back of a cereal packet.
“More please!” says George when we finish.
More food? No. More books. So off he trots to get another from the reading corner. It’s a rhyming book which is meant to be funny. Personally I don’t think it’s at all amusing but Rose and George are roaring with laughter. Still we’re all entitled to our own tastes.
Just as important, it’s helped to make tea go down. I have to confess that I’ve always had a bit of a blockage when it comes to feeding the children. I think it started from when my youngest was born (over 35 years ago!) and I was a young nervous mum. I was convinced that everything had to be homemade and would spend hours over-cooking food to be on the safe side. Then I’d agonise over whether he’d had enough.
I also did the same with the next two. Maybe that’s why my daughter is determined not to make my mistakes. “If they don’t want any more food, just leave it,” she says.
Actually they bolt down their sausages and mash. Then we have a little snuggle up on the sofa to watch tv before bathtime.
And that’s when I realise. I haven’t even thought about what to cook tonight. “I’ll have to go soon,” I say. “I’ve got to cook supper at our house.”
Usually Rose is the affectionate one to me. But this time, George snuggles into my side and says “Don’t go, Gan Gan. Stay longer. Grandad can make his own food.”
Now this might not sound particularly funny to you. But I am taken aback!
It has to be said that George’s vocabulary has not been as extensive as his sister’s was at this age. But recently, it seems to have come on in leaps and bounds – like this. I can’t help laughing. Not just because I’m so pleased by the fact that he’s said three whole consecutive sentences but also because of the logic behind it. Grandad can make his own food! Even better, George thinks he should because it means I can then spend more time with him and Rose.
Then we start chatting about the time and my daughter explains to the children that “the clocks were going back”.
“Why?” asked Rose. “Is there something wrong with them?”
Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings!
This takes me back to when my three were little and the embarrassing things they said in public. Once, when I’d given my three the pep talk about health and not smoking, we passed a man puffing away in the street. “Is that man going to die soon?” demanded my youngest. The look on the passer-by’s face can only be described as sheer terror.
“I’m so sorry,” I said. Then I tried to explain but he’d already rushed off.
I can also remember some really embarrassing things I said as a child. I still feel mortified when I recall talking to a friend’s mother about the general election. Unfortunately, the phrase came out of my mouth with an ‘r’ instead of an ‘l’ in the second word. I didn’t know exactly what it meant but I was aware from her bright red face that I had done something wrong…
As a gran, I’d forgotten how easy it was to say things in front of the children that we shouldn’t! And I don’t just mean rude words. ‘I give up,’ Rose declared the other day when I suggested that she should tidy up her toys.
What! Where did she get that from?
A couple of days later, I found muddy paw prints (again!) all over the carpet at home. “I give up,” I heard myself saying to the dog.
“So you’re the culprit!” pointed out my husband smugly.
Sometimes you say things without even realising it…
Mind you, I do find that a good old laugh is just the ticket for de-fusing tricky situations. When George decided that he would rather play with his sister’s toys than his own, I put on a funny deep voice. “George,” I growled. “You don’t really want that, do you?”
“Yes,” he said, giggling at the change of timbre.
“Oh dear,” I replied – this time in a high-pitched squeak. “Then you’ll have to give one of your toys to your sister. Which one will it be?”
The dispute was soon sorted out and the only casualty were my vocal chords. It’s quite a strain going up and down like that!
Of course it’s hard to be jolly with everything that’s happening around us right now. But then again, perhaps that’s the point. We can’t let the children see how desolate we feel at times in this situation which we can’t control.
Meanwhile, my heart goes out to Rose and George’s Welsh grandparents who, like many, can’t see their grandchildren inside. (Mind you, they’ve just sent a lovely box of presents for the children – so kind of them!) This weekend, my first husband and his wife are coming down to see the children. They can’t meet up inside either so we’re hoping for sun. But this is nothing compared with the terrible hardship around us.
“We all have to count our blessings,” as one of my granny pals says, “and help others whenever we can.”
Very true. This is where true friendship comes in. Talking of which, thank you for your lovely emails about how you’re holding up as grandparents during the pandemic. Please carry on emailing me with your stories.
I’d also like to know about funny things which your grandchildren or children have said. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By the time you read this, the evenings will be darker. So let’s cheer ourselves up by keeping in touch. Meanwhile, I’ve made a decision. I’m going to write a children’s book in my spare time – and it’s going to be funny! At least I hope so. See you next week.
Jane Corry is the author of five top ten best-sellers. Her latest novel I Made A Mistake is about Betty, a grandmother who lives with her son’s family. 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