“I’m going to a birthday party!” trills my five-year-old granddaughter.
Really? I know lockdown has eased but we still have some restrictions.
“It’s a really clever idea,” says my daughter. “The mum is doing it in sessions. Small groups of children are being invited into their garden at different times through the day to fit in with the rules.”
How amazing! I have to say that hosting children’s birthday parties used to fill me with trepidation, back in the day. You had to have eyes everywhere to make sure everyone was all right!
Sometimes the most unexpected happened such as the birthday in the village hall when my eldest son was six. It was winter and there was an electricity cut. All the lights went out. Oh no! Luckily, I had a torch in my handbag. (I always carry one for emergencies.) I suggested we started to sing while one of the other adults explored the fuse box and found the trip switch. Light was restored!
Sometimes, it was just as much of a challenge to send a child to a birthday party as to hold one. The word “fancy dress” on an invitation always filled me with trepidation because I’m not very good at sewing! So I usually sent mine in one of the outfits from our dressing up box.
One year, however, I thought I’d make an effort. So I used three extra-large rolls of silver foil to make a spaceman outfit for one of my boys. He wasn’t big for his age but it’s amazing how much foil is needed for a space suit!
I was rather pleased with the results but on the way, disaster struck. The space suit trousers ripped! Now what to do?
“I really wanted to go as a cowboy,” said my son plaintively. Luckily I had brought this particular outfit with me as a spare so we stopped off and made a quick change. So much for all my efforts!
So I’m keen to see how my granddaughter got on with her lockdown birthday party.
“We had a brilliant time,” says my daughter when she comes back. “The small numbers meant there was time to sit down and have a cup of tea and chat to the mum.”
Maybe rota birthday parties will stay in vogue, even after the restrictions have lifted!
We all need good friends
Meanwhile, it got me thinking about how important it is to see friends. I moved to our current home 12 years ago and have made some really good granny mates in the area. But my very special one lives several miles away. We have long weekly conversations on the phone about our little brood. Last Wednesday, I started talking about how lovely it was for my grandchildren to see their friends again.
“I am rather worried,” she tells me. It turns out that her nine-year-old grandson’s best friend isn’t as friendly towards him at school now as he was before lockdown.
“I’m sure it will change,” I said. “It takes time for us all to readjust.”
I hope I’m right. Childhood friends are so important, aren’t they? I still keep in touch with one of mine. Have you done the same? I’d love to know.
While writing this, it reminded me of something I forgotten. When I was about six, I had an imaginary friend. It was before my sister was born so maybe I wanted company! His name was Peter and he lived in the bathroom! I was quite convinced he was real. But when my sister was born a year later, he disappeared.
More time for play
In fact, lockdown has made me rethink my approach to grandparenting. I’ve decided that I need to play more with Rose and George. When I’m helping to look after them in our support bubble, I’m usually trying to make sure that they don’t do anything dangerous. Even though I am a writer and am always thinking about stories and imagining things, playing with my grandchildren almost seems like a luxury.
Besides, I’m not sure how to do it anymore apart from obvious things like snakes and ladders. “Just go with them,” advises my daughter who seems much wiser than me at times. “Follow their lead.”
So I do. Last week, George wanted to play sharks. So I spent half an hour swimming on the carpet. “How about reading a book instead?” I suggest. They weren’t interested then but half an hour later they change their mind. My daughter is right. I need to go with the flow!
If you’ve got some good ideas and games to play with children, do share them with us through the email address at the end.
With restrictions lifting and pub gardens open – as well as sport venues – it’s good to see that my daughter and son-in-law are now able to have a bit of chill-out time too. I’m constantly impressed by the way they juggle looking after the children with work and also giving each other time off.
“Can I ask a huge favour,” says my daughter on the phone during the week. “Could you pick me up this evening please from an evening out with the girls?”
She’s meeting a few others (in line with social distancing rules) in a friend’s garden.
“Of course,” I say. But it’s quite late at night (well, 10pm which is past my bedtime!) so I take my husband with me, especially as I don’t know the rural area very well. We have directions but somehow we end up at the wrong place so have to ring for instructions! It takes me back to the time when I was a single mum, ferrying my teenage son around. Actually, I really like the fact that I’m doing the same for my 35-year-old daughter. It makes me feel that I’m still useful.
Catching up with family
This week has been particularly exciting for my grandchildren. The new rules finally meant they could visit their Welsh grandparents. Both sides have missed each other a lot. George and Rose are beside themselves with excitement before they set off. They did it in a day and when they came back, they were exhausted but very chatty about what a brilliant time they’d had.
This week, I received a heart-warming email from Gabrielle one of my regular readers. Gabrielle lives in Germany and was finally able to make a long train trip to see her grandchildren. Here’s a picture!
Of course, not all of us are able to have these joyful reunions. !I have to admit,” says one granny friend, “I find it rather difficult. Mine are in Australia and I don’t know when I’m going to be able to see them again. So I’ve started making weekly newsletters which I email. They’re only four and seven so I suspect they’re more interested in the pictures. But the important thing is that we are keeping in touch until we can meet again.”
I have to dash now. I’m looking after Rose and George at their place. My grandchildren’s Welsh grandparents have given them the most amazing game. It’s a junior racing car set. And I love it. Bags the blue car!
Do tell us about your memories of birthday parties with children and also childhood friends whom you still keep up with. You can email me at email@example.com.
Grandparent of the Week – Simon, 65
Simon Bor, a 65 year old writer and his wife Sara live next door to their 21-year-old daughter Anna, her boyfriend and their six-month-old grandson Layken.
“Sara and I adopted our two daughters when they were both ten months old. So watching Layken grow up is particularly magical for us. Taking Anna for her scans and going to hospital with her for appointments was a new experience for us both.
“It’s wonderful to see him smile – he’s developing a real sense of humour. We’ve still got all the toys from the girls’ childhood and he’s particularly keen on their toy drums.
“We’re very exciting about waiting for each milestone. At the moment he’s not quite sitting but he’s trying to. He also giggles and he’s beginning to recognises us. I’m known as Papa Si. This is part of a family tradition. My father was Papa Teddy and his father, to us, was Papa. Sara is known as Saza.
“Sara and I see them every day. We’re aware they need their own space but we are also there when we are needed. We haven’t started looking after him on our own yet but we’re looking forward to it.
“Being new grandparents during Covid, means we are far less isolated than we expected to be. It’s lovely to have family on the doorstep. We’re also glad to be able to help.”
Do let us know if you have any stories about your grandchildren. You can drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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