One big plus which has come from lockdown are the lovely emails from you all. But I was particularly touched this week by a message from ‘C’, a reader who sent me this. “My son and I fell out some years ago but now we have made it up and we see a lot of each other. It’s lovely.”
How wonderful that C and her son are now reconciled. This actually happened before the virus but it strikes me that this is an ideal time to make up with friends and family whom we are no longer in touch.
In a way, the present situation gives us an excuse. Maybe the “other side” might be more open to an extended hand. The last year has taught us all how fragile life can be – and the importance of friends and family.
So it might be worth picking up the phone or sending a postcard or a drawing/letter from the children. Sometimes, all it takes is one person to break down the barrier.
Of course, we can’t wave a magic wand. Another reader – who I’ll call Susan – emailed to say that she hasn’t been able to see her granddaughter for some years. “My son and his partner had a very difficult break-up,” she said. “Unfortunately, he doesn’t see his daughter and although I have written to his partner, I haven’t had a reply. My granddaughter is now 15. I’m thinking about sending her a message on Facebook but I’m not sure if that’s the right thing to do.”
What do you think? If it was me, I probably would. But I’d love to hear your views. My contact email is at the end.
Susan is by no means alone. Grandparents are often the unseen victims when their children divorce. If this applies to you, it’s worth getting in touch with www.grandparentsplus.org.uk.
There is also a great deal to be said for adoptive grandparents…
When my sister and I were growing up, we desperately wanted a grandfather. Both of ours had died before we were born. It so happened that in the suburban cul-de-sac where we lived, we had some lovely neighbours. They seemed very old to me at the time but they were probably only in their 60s! Their only grandson lived in America and they loved chatting to us.
My sister and I would often go over there and make fudge with them. They became Aunt Maude and Uncle Arthur and we adored them. Later, when Uncle Arthur died, we would visit Aunt Maude in her nursing home and push her around the gardens. I miss them to this day. It just goes to show that a grandparent doesn’t have to share the same blood.
Nowadays we tend to be much more careful about relationships between children and adults. But one of my younger friends, whose parents died some time ago, has befriended an older lady in her road and before the virus, often had her over for lunch and Christmas etc. “The children love her stories about the old days,” she says. “Now we chat at a distance and also talk to her on the phone. It means we have a grand-motherly figure in my children’s lives.”
Even those families who usually get along, can find themselves falling out because of opposing views over the virus. Maureen from London isn’t happy that her daughter-in-law has sent her children to school. “She’s not a key worker, although her husband is. I don’t think it’s right. It’s caused a few arguments between us.”
It’s not easy, is it Maureen? But if there’s one thing we’ve learnt from this, it’s that the virus can hurt us emotionally as well as physically. Sometimes, as grandparents, we have to learn to keep quiet in the interest of family peace. Trust me – I haven’t always been good at that. Just ask my children! But I’m working on it.
I might have mentioned before that we used to live with my grandmother as children. I loved it but I have to say there were times when my mother and her mother-in-law fell out. Perhaps this was because they were sharing a small kitchen or maybe it just wasn’t easy with three adults and two children under one roof. It’s left me with an abiding horror of the phrase “gas bill” because that’s often what the arguments were about. So as a result, I now prefer to be a peacemaker.
Meanwhile, some good news!
A few months ago, I was worried about little George not speaking as much as his sister did at that age. But since his third birthday, just before the third lockdown, he has come on in leaps and bounds. Now he chatters non-stop!
In fact, it’s hard to get a word in edgeways! Last week, I took George on a little walk so my daughter could concentrate on home-schooling with little Rose. As we skipped along, George nattered away about everything, from the flowers we pass to things that they’ve been doing.
It reminded me of when my three were at school and they had to write about their weekend. Sometimes all kinds of things would come out! It just goes that you have to be careful about what you say in front of children! Similarly, I’ve learned to take their chatter with a pinch of salt at times.
“I’m going to be a daddy soon,” piped up George when we were about to cross the road.
“Really?” I said.
“Yes,” he nodded. “I decided yesterday.”
I don’t know whether to be more impressed by the fact that he’s use a sophisticated word like “decided” or whether he has paternal longings at such an early age!
Often the connection between subjects is totally different.
“I love your smell, Gan Gan,” he said suddenly a few seconds later.
“Thank you,” I say, bending down to give him a hug. How sweet! Just as long as it’s a nice smell of course! I must remember to write all these funny things down. I intended to do so with my three growing up but they never seemed to be enough time.
Meanwhile, I’ve been very amused to see that the Troll trend is back. I’m not talking about some horrid computer intervention. I mean the troll play figures. When I was about eight, all my school friends had one. I saved up for months to get my own miniature Troll. She had long pink hair and I called her Philomena after the older girl next door. How I wish I knew where my Troll is now! (By the way, they’re going for a tidy sum on EBay!)
“Would you like one?” I ask Rose as we watch a television advert the other day.
“Yes please,” she says excitedly.
So I order a troll figure set on Amazon. There are three. One for Rose, one for George, and one for me. We can’t wait!
“I’m going to order a set for my grandchildren,” says a granny friend when I tell her. She hasn’t been able to see her grandchildren for months as they’re outside the legally permitted travelling distance. So every now and then, she orders them a little surprise present in the post.
Please keep sending in your ideas on how to stay in touch with grandchildren if you can’t see them physically. One of my favourites comes from Caroline in Cornwall. “I make up little puzzles for my grandchildren aged eight and six,” she says. “Sometimes it’s a quiz. (I give them the answers when they ring me.) Sometimes it’s a crossword. Or it might be one of those pictures where you have to guess the difference. I draw them myself.”
That’s lovely! In years to come, they will probably look back at those pictures. Meanwhile, here’s to building family bridges. Let me know if you pick up the phone or write to someone whom you haven’t seen for a while. Good luck.
Grandparent of the week – Rose
Rose, 67, from Hertfordshire has a seven-year-old granddaughter in Mexico and a three-year-old grandson a few miles away.
“I haven’t seen my granddaughter Meztlt for five years. She moved to Mexico with her mother when she and my son Jamie broke up. It’s very hard to keep up but her other granny keeps me in the loop and sends me videos which is nice.
“Until the virus, I used to look after my three-year-old grandson Magnus for two days a week, eleven hours a day. Now we only see each other occasionally because my husband has low immunity. I miss Magnus terribly. His parents send me photos and we do Facetime but it isn’t the same. It feels particularly hard as he’s so close, compared with my granddaughter in Mexico.
“Still, if all goes to plan, we’ll be able to meet up outside at the end of March. I can’t wait! Magnus is also excited. He wants to show me how he’s mastered the art of riding on a skateboard!”
Do Get In Touch
If you would like to tell us about your situation as a grandparent during lockdown, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.
JANE CORRY is the author of five best-selling thrillers, published by Penguin. Her latest novel I Made A Mistake is about Betty, a grandmother who lives with her son’s family. Available in paperback (£7.99) and also 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