I admit it. It’s all my fault.
It started when I had the bright idea of clearing out the spare room. One of its main features is a massive trunk that contains all my daughter’s paraphernalia during her teenage, uni and pre-marriage days.
I’ve been dying to sort this out for ages to get some more space. But due to certain other pressures in the last year and a quarter, we haven’t been able to do it. Now is the time!
“Look!” says as Rose delightedly as she delves in amongst the bric a brac. “It’s a picture of Mummy.”
Goodness! That takes me back. I get a lump in my throat as I look at this sweet, kind schoolgirl who has grown into a lovely, caring mum.
There are also old school books; certificates for everything from ballet to riding; and a jaunty striped pencilcase with pens that Rose and George leap on delightedly.
Oh! Just look at that tiny little teddy bear! It’s one of those gift ones which sits on a miniature cardboard throne. On the bottom is written a personal message to my daughter on her 16th birthday from one of her best friends.
“I love it!” says Rose clutching it to her chest. “Can I have it? Please?”
“You’ll have to ask Mummy when she picks you up,” I say.
When my daughter arrives, she’s visibly moved to be reunited with her bear after all these years.
“But I want it,” begs Rose.
“It’s very special to mummy,” explains my daughter.
I understand that. I still have my teddy too and I wouldn’t share him with anyone!
This little teddy is even more poignant because the school friend who gave it to my daughter is expecting her second baby any day. How time flies!
“Pleeeese,” says Rose, her eyes filling with tears.
Then I have an idea. “Supposing she takes it to bed with her just for one night?” I suggest.
I thought I was being helpful in reaching a compromise.
But as soon as I said the words, I knew I’d made a mistake.
“Mum,” whispers my daughter. ‘If I say no, please don’t say they can.”
Of course, she’s absolutely right. I am catapulted back over the years to when my much loved mother tried to override me. My eldest son was about five months and was rather fractious. My mother suggested he was hungry but I said we had to stick to his feeding routine. I recall we had a little argument over it for which I now feel very guilty. But at the time I really felt that this was my baby and I should make the decision.
“You know, Rose,” I said to my granddaughter gently, “Mum is right. It’s her teddy so it’s up to her to decide.”
In the end, they settled for shared custody. But as I write this, Rose is no longer as interested in little bear as she was before. Her attention has moved to something else.
I have to say that all this has been a real wake up call for me. It reminded me that although I want to be around to help, it’s up to the parents to make decisions on what their children can and can’t do.
“Thanks for understanding, Mum,” says my daughter.
I gave her a big cuddle. Once more, I’m filled with admiration at the way my little girl and her husband are such good parents.
But it seems I’m not the only one who’s crossed a few boundaries…
“My daughter and her partner started to get a bit more relaxed about rules during lockdown,” says one of my granny friends. “They were both working from home so they let them do things like eat meals in front of the iPad. They also allowed them to sleep in and go to bed later. When I went to help out, I was a bit too forthright and said I didn’t think this was right. It caused tension between us. I think we’ve got over it now but I’m much more careful about what I say.”
Table manners seem to be a big issue as well. “My grandson has just started school and has begun to eat with his mouth open,” says Pat, a granny of four from London. “When I told him off, my son’s partner told me it was ‘just a stage’ and that he’d stop eventually. But what if he doesn’t?”
Oh dear. It is hard to know when to keep your mouth shut at times – literally!
We’d love to know if you’ve broken any parental rules when looking after grandchildren. Please let us know by emailing email@example.com.
Meanwhile, I thought I’d give you a pocket money update! You might remember from a previous column that I offered to give weekly pocket money to Rose and George to teach the value of money and also to stop myself from splashing out every time they admire something on the TV ads!
So far, they’ve got a grand total of £2 each. There’s just one problem. They keep taking it out of their respective purses and losing the coins – well, at least George does. So I bought them each a little tin piggy bank: one with dinosaurs on it and the other with unicorns. (These are their current passions!)
They were £5 each which I thought was quite reasonable. “Really?” queries my husband. “That means you’re already running at a £10 loss. Remind me not to invest in any business that you decide to set up!”
That’s not the point. They love their tins. And besides, it’s already working. “One more pocket money day and then we can buy those penguins at the toy shop,” says Rose excitedly.
Maybe I’ll give them a bit extra so they can get them sooner.
“Mum!” says my daughter. “That’s very kind but the whole point is for them to appreciate the gift instead of wanting the next thing.”
Again, she’s right. This grandparent stuff can be a real learning curve at times!
Being grateful every day
I have to say that the virus has also made me much more careful about what I buy myself. The other day I was very tempted to buy a summer dress but decided that actually I didn’t need it. Instead, I started going through my wardrobe and taking things I don’t wear – that is still in good condition – to the local Sue Ryder charity shop.
The fact that we are emerging from lockdown makes me constantly grateful every day. In fact, during our online church service last week, – I normally take my grandchildren to Sunday school but we’ll be waiting a bit for that – I heard about the “Twin my Vaccine” scheme. This was set up by a vicar and his wife to help people donate money towards vaccinations in less-fortunate countries. If you’re interested, here’s the link – www.unicef.org/supply/covax-ensuring-global-equitable-access-covid-19-vaccines.
Then my daughter has a brainwave. “Maybe you and George would like to put some of your pocket money towards helping other people get better,” she says to Rose.
They both nod their heads. “Yes please.”
I’m filled with a sense of warmth. One of the most important life lessons – in my view – is to teach our children and grandchildren that there’s always something we can do to help others. It doesn’t need to cost anything. Sometimes it’s just being there and holding their hand (social distance rules permitting).
Or sometimes it’s juggling around your grandparent time. I’m a morning person when it comes to writing. I’m fresher then. But on Monday, my daughter had an important doctor’s appointment a few miles away and asked if I’d have George.
Of course! I did briefly consider setting him up next to me at my computer with some felt tips and paper but then decided this probably wouldn’t do. During that first lockdown when we could only wave through the window, I’d have given my eye teeth to have had this time with him.
“Would you like to come and have some cereal with Grandad?” I say.
(Since my husband has retired, breakfast tends to be a rather lengthy affair.)
“No thanks,” he says running off into the sitting room. “I want to slide on rainbows.”
“Where’s he got that from?” asks my husband.
“No idea,” I say. We don’t have any rainbows but we do have a rather fun dinosaur game which we got him for Christmas to keep at our place. This has been worth its weight in gold as it keeps him amused for hours. We also play cricket and plant geranium seeds. In fact, we’re elbow deep in mud when my daughter returns.
“Thank so much,” she says.
“We loved it,” I say truthfully.
Then I go upstairs and write.
But something is missing. Then it comes to me. I’ve got a little boy in next year’s novel. (He’s the son of my heroine’s boyfriend.) I decide to expand him and make him say funny things like wanting to slide on rainbows. If your grandchildren have come up with any pearlers, I’d love to know about them. You could end up in my book if you want!
I have to end with something really funny that happened to me today. A friend invited me round for tea in her beautiful garden. We’re being ultra-cautious about the rules because of my husband’s various operations so this was a rare treat. The sun was out and I felt quite guilty relaxing instead of working.
Then I saw her mug – and most importantly what it says on the side.
“I love that!” I say. “Where did you get it?”
When she told me, I went out to get one immediately.
“Great wording,” says my husband approvingly when I bring it back. “I’ll get one too.”
“Don’t worry,” I say. “I’ve already got yours.”
Can you guess what they say? That’s right. BEING A GRANDPARENT MEANS YOU CAN BREAK ALL THE RULES.
Grandparent Of The Week – Christina, 70
Christina is 70 and lives in Warwickshire. She has five grandchildren: Daniel (17), Lottie (15), Hannah (13), Jack (5) and Freddie (4).
“I live near Daniel, Lottie and Hannah and have helped to look after them since birth for one day a week (I was also working). I did that for 12 years and then my younger daughter had Jack and Freddie. So now I go down to London for one night and one day a week to help her out. I love it!
“During the first lockdown, I couldn’t see any of them because of the rules – it felt really weird especially as three were local. They used to stand at the bottom of the drive and deliver my food. Thank goodness for Face Time so we could see and communicate with each other. It meant the world for all of us, especially for the little boys.
“I love having the fact that my grandchildren span a wide age range from toddlers to teenagers. It’s wonderful to see them grow up and blossom; take exams; get a holiday job in the pub; and learn to drive.
“I also love the hugs they give me. Daniel is often the first one to do that when I see them. He’s six foot four with size 12 shoes. I look at them all and think, how did they get so big?
“We’re very close. We talk a lot about life and the future and choices. The other night, the three older ones came to stay with me. We watched a film and it was lovely. We also play tennis together and do a lot of walking.
“My mother is 94 and lives in Sweden where I come from. When she was younger, my parents used to come over three times a year to see us all. She still talks regularly to them on the phone.
“Do I have any advice for new grandparents? Yes. Don’t spoil them however much you love them. And never interfere unless their parents ask what you think!”
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