“Honestly,” says a granny friend of mine during one of our weekly phone catch ups. “I don’t know how to calm them down. They’ve completely changed since lockdown. It’s as though they’ve had cabin fever!”
My friend has just gone back to her unpaid job – looking after her four and two-year-old grandchildren now that her daughter has returning to work. “Normally they’d be happy to sit down and colour or read quietly. Now they’re running all over the place!”
Apparently, this isn’t uncommon. Another granny friend of mine is a teacher. “During lockdown, as we know, many parents were working from home while looking after their children. Now several pupils are not used to sitting down in a classroom environment and being told what to do.”
Another granny friend of mine had a pretty sharp time of it last week – literally. Her four-year-old granddaughter managed to swallow a drawing pin. “I’ve no idea how,” she says. “When we took her to casualty, they said it was in too difficult to get out and that it would had to emerge naturally. In the end it did!”
I can’t help wincing as she tells me. “Did that hurt?” I asked.
“Didn’t seem to,” she says.
It took me back to some of the scrapes my three got into when they were little. One of the worst was when the children fed the dog a play brick. I have no idea how they did it, even though I was in the same room. When they told me what they’d done, I wasn’t sure whether to believe them because they were quite young. The dog seemed perfectly alright. But my instinct told me to take him to the vet. I’m so glad I did! He had swallowed it. This required an operation and a hefty vet bill. But at least he was alright.
Little Rose and George have actually been pretty good when I’ve gone over to help. Mind you, it’s a bit of a yo-yo situation. First we had a long lockdown. Then they went back to school for a week. Then Rose was off for a week because someone at her school tested positive. And now it’s the Easter holidays.
“How about reading a book?” I suggest when I go round there while my daughter goes to the dentist.
“No,” says Rose firmly. “We want to play hide and seek.”
There isn’t a lot of space in the house so this is a challenge if we are to do it safely – which of course we have to do. So George and I go off to hide at the side of the sofa. It’s so obvious that we are spotted immediately. “Boo!” calls out Rose triumphantly.
They all seem immensely amused so we play it again. And again and again.
Meanwhile, we’re all gearing ourselves to emerge into the next coming-out lockdown stage.
“I’ve already booked the children a haircut – and one for myself as well,” says my daughter.
I can’t wait for my appointment either but at the same time I’m a little nervous. Of course I want to go back to normal but at the same time it feels safer in my shell. I have two friends who have found it really hard to leave their houses in the last 10 years, for various reasons. I’ve tried my best to help them but now I’m beginning to feel even more sympathetic.
But at least, the easing of restrictions, means that more grandparents are getting to see their grandchildren. You might remember that lovely piece which was written by Jane, another recent Grandparent of the week. She poignantly described the pain of not being able to be with them as she used to.
Well the good news is that on Easter Sunday she and her husband were able to go over and have lunch outside with the little ones and son-in-law and daughter. Jane wrote to tell us about her lovely day.
Easter Day had finally arrived and squeals of delight greeted me as I opened the gate leading to my daughter’s cottage in the middle of nowhere.
There they were, Beatrice and Bertie in their best clothes, gleaming faces and brushed hair, holding their little baskets bursting with treasures to show me.
They ran towards me and hugged my legs so tightly it really hurt and I almost fell over! Oh! What brief joy as their mother reminded them not to touch MaMa!
My daughter and I just stood looking at each other with tears pouring down our faces, blowing kisses. My heart was bursting as I struggled to control myself by crying uncontrollably.
“MaMa come and see the Fairy Garden and our new trampoline.”
They dropped one of the fairies on to the path and the dog, picked it up and we all ended up chasing the dog around the garden giggling and being silly!
What joy again at this typical family scene that had been absent for nearly a year.
It was very cold that day but the sun was shining as we had lunch outside around two picnic tables groaning with delicious food. This was followed by an Easter egg hunt and a walk down the familiar, magical lane nearby, with our baskets full of moss, leaves, fir cones, sheep’s wool, to paint and stick outside on our return.
A wonderful day but peppered at times with a feeling of sadness that it was all going to end so soon, especially I wasn’t able to stay the night because of the rules.
I left behind a very happy family with an enormous box of goodies and many special treasured memories and a warm heart!
Thank you, Jane. Her lovely words say it all, don’t they? We hope you can see your grandchildren, too, before long if you haven’t already.
Finally, it feels right to end this column with a reflection on the passing of Prince Phillip – not just in his role of the Queen’s husband but as a grandfather and great-grandfather. It’s always hard to cope with the death of a loved one but it’s particularly tricky sometimes to explain it to children. When my mother died in her 50s, my eldest son was only three. I told him that Granny had gone to heaven. “Will she still be able to have cornflakes for breakfast there?” he promptly asked.
That made me both laugh and cry.
There are also some lovely children’s books to help you explain the passing of a grandparent. Here’s one that might help. The Memory Tree is a picture book for three to five year olds. It tells the story of Fox who passes after a long life. His friends talk about their happy memories. Published by Orchard Books.
Grandparent of the week – Fiona, 56
Fiona helps look after her two grandchildren Eva five and Bethy, three while her daughter Sasha and her husband are at work. Fiona’s mother Alison, a great-grandmother, was featured in Grandparent of the Week two weeks ago.
I have Eva and Bethy for one and a half days a week – as well as their dog. The three come as a package! My mother Alison has them for half a day a week at a different time. That’s right! We’re all in it together! We often WhatsApp each other and exchange information such as what we’ve been doing with the children, and anything else that might come in useful like what they’ve had for tea. Fishfingers, sausages and baked beans are the current favourites!
“I love looking after them but sometimes it’s a bit stressful. Eva was a little monkey today! It’s easier to go to their place because they’ve got their toys and there’s always something to entertain them. We do a lot of walking, colouring and playing in the mud pit which we’ve made in our garden. It’s just a raised flowerbed but they dig away with garden tools and think it’s wonderful!
“I make obstacle courses for them out of yoga blocks and cushions. We also have a bike at our place and a scooter. But I’m looking forward to be able to go back to playgroups with Bethy and socialising with other adults!
“My husband, who isn’t their grandad, is great with them. He loves him like his own. Sasha sometimes takes them to see my late husband in the cemetery. He died a long time before they were born. But it’s important for them to know about family history.”
Do let us know if you have any stories about your grandchildren. Are they over-excited after being released from lockdown? Have you been able to see them again? You can drop us a line at email@example.com.
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