That’s what my phone says.
But it isn’t.
This is the fifth time we’ve tried this morning. All I want to do is see my grandchildren on the screen as I can’t see them face to face.
But for some reason, it’s not working.
“Sorry, Mum,” says my daughter when she rings me. “We’ll just have to talk instead.”
But it’s difficult. Rose (5) and George (3) are very confused. Last week they could see us. This week they can’t.
It’s not just because of the lockdown. After all, I’m in their childcare bubble. It’s also because of my husband’s operation which means we have to self-isolate until the middle of the week. But it’s hard on my daughter who isn’t seeing anyone else because of her low immunity, and it’s hard on us.
So how is everyone else coping? You might remember that last week, I asked if you’d tell us how you are managing. Thank you so much to those of you who got in touch. After all, a problem shared is a problem halved! I hope you get inspiration from the different stories below.
Sue Clarke is 72. She and her husband Michael live near Oxford. They have an almost-three-year-old granddaughter Bethany
“My husband and I are in the unusual – but happy – position of seeing more now of Bethany, our little granddaughter, than before. She and her parents moved in with us in December, while they are ‘between houses’. My daughter and son-in-law have taken the decision to not send Bethany to nursery at the moment. So we’re looking after her while Mummy and Daddy are working in separate rooms of the house! We paint and do ‘cutting up’ and cooking together. Bethany rides her new bike and scooter alarmingly fast. She teaches me ballet moves and I show her yoga poses. But it’s not all easy. For instance, we’ve had a quick trip to Minor Injuries to deal with a cut chin…
“It’s also hard to explain to a toddler that although Mummy is in the next room, she can’t play and that Daddy can’t take her for a walk until his two-hour work stint is over.
“I know we’re lucky. So many of our friends only see their children and grandchildren on flickering screens. One had a new grandchild in the summer and hasn’t ever been able to cuddle her. For us, the only problem I can foresee is that one day soon, Bethany and her parents will move out and I’ll have to get used to being a part-time Nana again.”
Sue Clark is the author of the comic novel Note To Boy, published by Unbound.
Gabrielle Fey is 66 and lives in Germany with her husband Horst. They have two grandchildren, Anna (4½) and Sarah (9 months)
“My husband and younger son haven’t yet seen Sarah ‘live’ and I haven‘t been to Frankfurt to see them in four months. This Christmas we opened our presents online for the first time, which was better than nothing. We try to keep in touch via Skype and WhatsApp video calls, but English is Anna‘s third language and I feel like I‘m losing touch. It‘s also hard for children to focus on a screen.
“Here in Berlin, we‘re expecting a stricter lockdown from next week onwards and I really don‘t know when we‘ll see each other again. We send parcels and I‘m compiling the second Granny book for Sarah.
“I am trying hard to instil some sort of perspective. I really don‘t feel I can go down the path of panicking. While I am grateful for the two visits I was able to make to Frankfurt, I do really miss our granddaughters and feel cheated at missing out on so much of Sarah‘s young life. I haven’t been able to bond with her like I did with Anna and wonder how that will be in the future.
“But I am determined to stay positive for all our sakes. I also find that praying helps.”
Sue Watson (56) and her husband Bob live in Devon. Her grandchildren are Molly (13), Elleanor (10), Sophia (7), Isabelle (3) and Jake (1)
“We’ve had a difficult family time. My son Tim who now lives nearby has separated from his wife and it hasn’t been easy for them. My older son Adam and his wife Diane both work. They and one-year-old Jake caught Covid from their childminder’s mother but Isabelle, 3, didn’t.
“I made plans in my head about what I would do if they needed hospital treatment and decided we’d take the children into our home even though this meant we would be at risk. Luckily they got better and this didn’t happen. However, the knock-on effect is that their childminder has closed for January. Government guidelines changed – a pre-school child can now only go to one setting, not pre-school and a nursery. I offered to go and childmind for two days a week which they tell me, is allowed, but they have now arranged childcare.
“On the plus side, Isabelle is very natural and at ease using Facetime. I chat to her regularly and have read her stories showing her the pictures. She also loves to see my dog and watches him for fifteen to twenty minutes. Often I get a Facetime call from her saying, ‘Nanny I want to see Max.’ I show her everybody in the house and she wants to know what they’re doing.
“Four of my five grandchildren’s birthdays have been in lockdowns. I have joined in on Facetime or Zoom with them. We have shared in singing Happy Birthday and blowing out candles with their other grandparents, family members and friends via Zoom and it has worked well.
“My three grandchildren who usually come to tea on a Friday have not been able to. Molly, Ellie and Sophia have not been able to sleep over which I miss.
“My youngest grandchild, Jake, was one in November. I have only seen him a few times in person and have missed out on the gorgeous, snuggly, nothing-else-like-it baby cuddles. He too, is used to communicating via a mobile phone. He will copy me if I smile, laugh, wave or blow a kiss. But what I don’t get from Zoom or Facetime is the baby smell and the tender touch of toddler hands and skin that lifts my spirits. Neither do I get the wonderful hugs from the three granddaughters that live nearby, or snuggling on the sofa watching a Disney film. stroking their long golden hair.
“I have been talking to both my grown-up sons more during lockdown. I hope I have been supportive and kind. Life goes on for all of us, with its ups and downs – whether work promotion, childcare issues, marriage break-ups, car accidents, or becoming a teenager (now there’s another article – being the grandmother of a teenage girl!)”
Carol Thompson (67), lives on a farm in Devon with her husband David. They have seven grandchildren: Jack (8), Rory (nearly 8), Rupert (nearly 7), Darcie (5), Ernie (6), Seth (5), Brody (4)
“My daughters and I are spending lockdown together as I look after their children while they work. We don’t see anyone else. My days are quite crazy juggling the hard work with the horses at this time of year and home schooling five lively boys! I’m in charge of arts and crafts, science and topic work. I’m also providing snacks and cooked lunches for the ever-hungry gang!
“Then there are the four dogs to feed and exercise. The weather doesn’t help as boys, dogs and horses all need to run off energy come rain, snow, ice or whatever the elements choose to throw at us. Another major spanner in the works is dealing with grumpy Grandad who tries to hide in whichever room we’re not using, but gets very upset about doors left open and jumping on furniture or wasted food and drinks!
“I’m so upset that I haven’t been able to see Jack and Darcie in Surrey. I only saw them twice, outside, last year. We have a big bag of Christmas presents waiting to give them. Unfortunately, they went into tier 4, two weeks before Christmas and couldn’t see anyone. I can’t wait for the day when we can all be together.”
Caroline Hobson (66) lives in Devon with her husband. They have two grandchildren, Marlowe (4) and Leo (4 months)
“Marlowe and his parents live in the Midlands and baby Leo is in Australia. So being a grandma when we’re unable to travel, is a problem. I could focus on the sadness of not being able to hold a newborn, smell his unique skin, nestle him into my shoulder and guide his parents.
“But that will get me nowhere. Instead I use Facetime and so do they. The time difference might have been a challenge with their day being our night, but baby Leo has no such distinctions. He has clearly not read the parenting books that told his economist mother and executive father that babies sleep between feeds!
“But Grandma came to the rescue with all the old tips that worked thirty years ago and still do now. Hold him close, talk to him, feed him whenever you’re in doubt and DON’T WORRY! At four months old, he seems to have his parents better trained and is thriving. Their house looks like a bomb hit it – all so normal – and they yawn a lot. Do I know him? Yes, I think so, a little. I wish he knew me but my time will come. I’ve sent a Luck Dragon cuddly toy, his Dad’s old teddy bear and buckets full of love. One day soon…
“As for Marlowe in the Midlands, he is having to do online learning. I have grandparent guilt because I cannot drop everything here and help. Two hundred miles means a ‘bubble’ is impossible. My house is full of toys that his mum had when she was little that I can’t bear to throw away. His bedroom here waits, clean and tidy.
“And then we discovered that Dobbin – a push along horse that his mother learned to walk with – is magic! Dobbin moves when no-one is watching. He gets up to all kinds of mischief, eating biscuits and hiding under the duvet. Marlowe is convinced that Dobbin is looking for him to come and visit.
“Every evening Marlowe uses his mum’s phone to Facetime me and we hunt for Dobbin. Marlowe always asks to see him, and knows Dobbin misses him, but is safe and waiting. And then I read Marlowe a bedtime story and in theory at least he goes to sleep. The magic of being a grandparent hasn’t gone.”
Julie Oakley is 59 and lives in Bristol. She has two grandchildren, Ava-Rose (6) and Aurora-Grace (5)
“My daughter is a widow. She and my granddaughters are part of our bubble.
“We have not seen our son for months because he didn’t want to upset our bubble.
“To make this workable, our other daughter moved in with her boyfriend so there were less people.
“It has been so hard not to cuddle, hug or even just to sit them on our lap. There have been days when we have only been able to see them through patio door and being a young age they don’t understand they can’t come in and do all their usual things especially making a mess, having fun. I have so many things I do with them. We have been able to hear them read over face time and that has been a joy to listen too.
“I always took the younger one to the high street to look in the shops, spend her pocket and of course tea and cake.
“It has been really sad and not to be able to even the smallest of things. We do face time them and talk most days on phone. I just want to touch them – even a pat on the hand to say everything will be OK.”
Wendy Tibbetts (68) lives in the West Midlands with her husband. Their grandchildren are Amelia (9), Abigail, (7) Arley (6) and Esther (4)
“A friend’s three-year-old daughter was recently playing with her Playmobil figures. She took care to put them far apart and when her mum asked if they’d had an argument, she said, ‘Don’t be silly, Mommy, they’re social distancing.’ It just goes to show how much children absorb from the world situation.
“We are probably in a more fortunate position than a lot of grandparents in that we see my son and his 2 children every other weekend and every Tuesday, as they live with us when they are not with their mom while their divorce is being sorted out. The divorce has been longer than expected due to Covid related delays with the court.
“One of the biggest impacts of lockdown was that my son didn’t see his children for 9 weeks until it was legal for children to travel between homes of separated parents.
“We have only seen my daughter’s two children from a distance. Our youngest granddaughter started school in September and we used to look after her one day a week so we lost that time with her when the lockdown came.
“I was surprised that one of my grandchildren who is usually more reserved, is really upset that we can’t hug her.”
“I hope you enjoyed reading about other grandparents. Do email me if you would like to tell us about your life as a granny or grandad, email@example.com. 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