It seems ages since I’ve babysat little Rose and George in the evening.
I used to do it quite a lot before the virus struck. But for obvious reasons, my daughter and son-in-law haven’t been out in the evening.
But last week was my son-in-law’s birthday. Now the rules have relaxed, they were able to order a pizza from a local van service – you’re given a pick-up timeslot – which they planned to eat by the seafront.
“Rose isn’t quite asleep,” says my daughter when I arrive, complete with book and husband for back-up. “Please don’t go up unless it’s necessary or she’ll never settle. She’ll drop off soon.”
Famous last words!
Within seconds, Rose’s little face appears in front of the monitor camera. She is staring at us rather like a policeman in one of those television dramas, looking at the suspects through a one-way mirror.
“That’s spooky,” says my husband. “It’s as if she can really see us.”
Then she disappears out of view.
I get a bit nervous. Where has she gone?
All I can see is the chest of drawers and some children’s books.
“You’d better go up to check,” says my husband. I remember my daughter’s words but I can’t settle. What if she’s up to something?
I tiptoe up the stairs. It reminds me of the days when the children were little. I would peep round the door and if I couldn’t hear anything, creep up to the edge of their cot to check on their breathing.
Now, when I do the same, I catch Rose mid-flight! She is practising her ballet pirouettes.
“Gan Gan,” she whispers with delight.
Little George, who is asleep in his “tractor bed” on the other side of the room, stirs.
“Shh,” I say, holding a finger to my lips.
“May I have a story?” she says.
How can I say no?
So she chooses a book about elephants and I whisper the words, conscious all the time that George might wake up.
Then we read another story – this time, about some children who live on a farm.
It happens to be the day before World Book Night – a great project organised by The Reading Agency to encourage us all to read. It made me think of my own favourite children’s books like Heidi.
“Gan Gan,” she says. “I’m hungry. I can actually hear my tummy rumbling.”
It’s the word “actually” that really tugs at my heartstrings even though I know she’s had supper. But if I bring her something up here to eat, it will leave crumbs in the bed. So there’s only one option. “You’d better come downstairs with me,” I concede.
“YES,” she says, punching the air.
She’s just as excited to see grandad. “You’re here too,” she beams. She might as well have said, “Let’s have a party!”
I get down the biscuit tin but it’s empty. We’re both rather disappointed, to be honest, but we have a yoghurt each instead.
“What are you watching on television?” she asks, snuggling up on the sofa next to me.
“Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” says my husband.
“What’s a millionaire?”
“Someone who gets all the questions right,” he says. “Come on, it’s C.”
(He’s talking to the contestant.)
“Can’t we watch PAW Patrol?” asks Rose
“Maybe after this,” I say.
The contestant has got £1000!
“Maybe we ought to go back up to bed,” I suggest.
Rose reluctantly agrees. We are on “Fifty Fifty” now.
Then her face looms into view again on the screen. “Gan Gan? I’m still hungry. Please could I have a slice of toast?”
“It’s like ordering something from the concierge at a hotel,” jokes my husband.
(Now we’re on “Phone a Friend”.)
“Pleeese Gan Gan.”
I go up to bring her down again.
By the time the contestant reaches £32,000, my granddaughter has consumed another yoghurt and a banana too.
“I thought parents were meant to say no,” says my husband, who didn’t have children of his own.
“They are,” I say. “I spent my entire life saying that. But the joy of being a grandparent is that you can let them break the rules every now and then.”
I’m only half-joking.
“Isn’t it school the next day?” he points out. “She’ll be shattered.”
Oh. Oh. I’d forgotten that one
Then we hear the sound of the key turning in the lock…
Rose zips up the stairs faster than you can say “Bedtime”. I follow suit.
But we are spotted mid-flight!
“I don’t believe it,” I hear my daughter saying.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” roars my husband with laughter. “It was like greased lightning!”
Somehow, my daughter settles Rose calmly back in bed without waking George. I don’t know how she does it.
Feeling rather redundant I go back to the sofa. The contestant has got to £500,000 and has decided to take the money. That’s a relief!
“What were the questions?” I ask my husband. I’d missed half of them with all that running up and down the stairs.
“I can’t remember,” he yawns. “Can we go home now please? It’s my bedtime.”
I know the feeling. Emerging from lockdown seems to be making us a bit tired. Or is it because I’ve been over doing it on the sports front?
I was never sporty at school but as I’ve got older – with more time now that my children are grown up – I love running, playing tennis and swimming.
How grandparents have changed! My grandmother did her daily exercises before breakfast but I don’t remember her doing anything else.
And that’s why I am particularly excited about the weekend. With the parents’ permission, I’ve signed Rose up for a six week LTA children’s course at our local tennis club. I love the idea of her doing something that I enjoy too.
It’s a brilliant scheme. Apart from tuition, the £34.99 fee also includes a racquet, orange T-shirt and other goodies. What a great way to get children active again after being at home for so long. To find out more, visit www.lta.org.uk.
I’m about to take the kit round to Rose’s house when I realise something. George will feel left out!
You have to be so careful, don’t you? I still remember being upset as a child when my sister was invited to the circus by some friends. “I’m sorry,” said my mother. “There wasn’t a ticket for you.”
“I don’t remember that,” says my sister when I tell her. But I do. So it makes me even more determined to be fair to my grandchildren.
“Don’t worry,” says my husband. ‘”’ll buy George a tractor.”
Another one? At this rate they could set up a farm.
“Trust me,” he says. “A boy can never have too many tractors.”
He’s right. George is thrilled with his four wheels and Rose is buzzing around with her new racquet.
The day finally arrives…
“Do you mind if I come along to watch?” I ask my daughter who is also going. In fact, other families are doing the same. We’re all careful to socially distance from each other by the court. But even so, we are having great fun. I love the look of concentration on Rose’s face as she and the others dribble balls round in an exercise to sharpen concentration.
It made me realise how invigorating it is to have a passion or interest which can carry on up to – well, my age and beyond!
Watching my granddaughter also makes me think of something else too. Sport can make you laugh. And it also teaches discipline and sharing. But in my day, you had to be really good to get into a team at school. I always felt like a failure. So it’s great to see more inclusivity nowadays.
Then my husband comes back with something under his arm. It’s a junior cricket set! Perfect for Sunday morning when we have the children for a couple of hours. (My daughter, who has low immunity, was feeling a bit off-colour after her jab, although she’s fine now.)
When it was my turn to bat, I really got carried away! “Careful, Gan Gan,” sang George as the ball sailed over the fence.
Wow! That was fun. In fact, I’ve just discovered that there’s a Ladies Cricket Club in our seaside town. Well, it’s never too late to start, is it?
Meanwhile, we’ve got some lovely news to report. One of our grandparents, whom we featured as a granny of the week a few months ago, talked about her pain at being unable to visit her baby grandson in Australia. “It still hurts,” she says, “but I’ve just found out that I’m expecting again! My other son’s wife is having a baby later this year. We’re over the moon. Obviously we can’t wait for us all to be together but the thought of holding a new grandchild in my arms gives me hope.”
Thank you, Caroline for getting in touch and telling us.
Meanwhile, we’d like to hear your “coming out of lockdown” news.
We also love to know what you think about any of the topics we’ve mentioned this week. What sports do your grandchildren do? What books are you reading with them at the moment? Can you recommend any? You can get in touch by emailing email@example.com.
See you next week!
Grandparent of the Week – Cathy, 65
Cathy lives in Northamptonshire with her husband Peter. They have three grandchildren, Lily (11), Henry (nine) and Lyra (two).
“I look after Lily and Henry while their mother – our eldest daughter – goes out to work. I’ll pick them up from school and often have them at weekends and holiday time. I joke that I’ve had a continuous parenthood because our son (who still lives with us) was only 14 when his niece Lily was born! But the big plus is that I have a great bond with my grandchildren.
“It was very weird during the first lockdown when I couldn’t see Lily and Henry after years of looking after them. But as soon as we were allowed to form a bubble, I home-schooled them. At first it was really difficult, mainly because of getting the computer to load up. Sometimes, they each had a live screen lesson at the same time. That was pretty hectic!
“It’s become a lot easier now they’re back at school, although they can’t have friends back for tea the way they used to. We’re all looking forward to life getting back to normal. I’ve also missed taking them out to places so that’s one of the first things we’ll be doing.
“Lyra and her parents live a little further away. Now we’re able to see them outside, thank goodness, but I do feel I’ve missed out. Children change so much at that age and her speech has come on a lot. I also feel rather bad that we’ve seen more of Lily and Henry than Lyra because of COVID restrictions. But we talk a lot on FaceTime.
“If I had one piece of advice for grandparents who are about to help look after their grandchildren, it’s to take them out to parks or museums or anywhere that’s a change of scene. It helps them use up all that energy! You can always come back home and have a snack and then do something else. It’s like resetting the day for both of 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