“It’s not hair wash tonight, is it?” I ask Rose.
I’m looking after the children when my daughter is at the doctor.
She has very kindly prepared the children’s tea so all I had to do was give it to them. Of course we break the rules and eat in front of the iPad but please don’t let her know that!
It gets to 6 o’clock. So it might be helpful to get the children ready for bed.
But if there’s one thing I really don’t like doing, it’s hair wash!
Rose has wonderful long hair but it takes an age to wash and dry it! George has beautiful glossy locks which have recently been trimmed, courtesy of his daddy. (In fact, my son-in-law has quite a knack when it comes to haircuts. I wonder how many parents and spouses will be thinking of setting up their own salons after lockdown. They’ve certainly had enough practice!)
But the thing about hair wash is it neither children like it when they get water in their eyes. I totally see their point! Unfortunately, they won’t wear the animated animals shields which I bought them. (Don’t ask me why! Sometimes there’s no logic to small children.) So we have to have a towel at hand.
And that’s not all! There is also the matter of getting both of them into the bath at the same time. As we all know, it’s dangerous to leave one in the water alone while chasing round the house for the other.
“Rose?” I call out. “Please get in the bath now.” But she is lining up her dollies. “I’ll be ready in a minute,” she announces.
Oh dear. I don’t like to be strict in case they don’t love me any more. I’m only half-joking. The last thing I want to be known as is Strict Granny.
Finally, I get them both in the bath
“Who wants their hair done first?” I ask.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have asked even though it seems to be the modern trend to give children choices.
“George,” says Rose.
“Rose,” says George.
The funny thing is that when I finally manage to give them a shampoo and set each, they don’t want to get out of the bath! Not only am I mentally exhausted but also physically from leaning over the edge and reaching them. In fact, I feel as though I’ve been through a car wash twice.
By the time I’ve finished drying them before they escape to their shared bedroom next door, I’m in need of a nice calm lavender bath myself.
And that made me wonder. How did I get my children to do things they didn’t want to? To be honest, I think I was much stricter and threatened to remove pocket money or impose early bedtime curfews.
Actually my grandchildren are much better behaved than their mother or uncles were. (Clearly their parents’ techniques are superior to mine!)
But there are always things that children don’t want to do that we want them to.
Take running around the house. When Rose and George coming to our house, they love running. This means that I end up running behind them in case they fall. Then there are the stairs. We have three steep flights and the children aren’t meant to go up alone. Naturally I don’t take my eyes off them which means – you’ve guessed it – I end up by doing three flights myself. It’s more of a work-out than the gym!
The trick, I’ve decided, is to get them really interested in something nice and quiet which involves sitting down or staying in one spot. Like planting. Some of you might remember that the three of us planted courgette seeds in little pots the other week.
To my delight, they’ve come through. (As a hopeless gardener, I am always amazed when shoots appear!)
“Look,” I say when we have Rose and George to tea on Sunday afternoon. “Aren’t you clever? You can take these home and show Mummy and Daddy.”
The delight on their faces is extraordinary. It will be even better when they turn into courgettes and we can eat them. (“Not for me, thank you,” says my husband wo still has to be persuaded to eat his greens.)
Talking of food, red jelly has become Rose and George’s number one favourite. Recently, I’ve been making it in my grandmother’s old glass mould. It gives me a lovely nostalgic feeling. I know she would have loved that.
Precious times as restrictions ease
Meanwhile, the world is opening up around us. Although I have to say that I have some reservations. I’m looking forward to taking Rose and George to Sunday school but perhaps not quite yet.
Then I get two lovely phone calls. The first is from my eldest son who stayed with us for 10 months during the lockdowns and has now gone back to London. He’s coming back to our part of the country at the weekend so we can have some time together!
I don’t know about you but I do sometimes feel guilty about how I divide my time between my three children and also little Rose and George. I want to be fair but also practical.
My son and I have a lovely walk. We are both very aware that he’ll be going back to Spain where he works, as soon as he is able to. Times like this are very precious. Meanwhile, I’ve booked a train to London to see my youngest son. Between you and me, I’m quite scared about going back on public transport, but I have to see him. I can’t believe it’s been so long. All I want to do is put my arms around him and give him a big hug.
I’ve also booked a taxi to see my dad. This is a big extravagance but the 300 miles journey there is so complicated and involves going through so many busy London stations that I decided to play safe. Am I being neurotic? I really don’t know.
“Are you sure we’re allowed to see each other inside?” says my father.
“Yes,” I say. “But if you feel more comfortable, I’ll sit in the garden.”
“I think that would be better,” he says. “Thank you.”
I think we all have to understand each other’s limits. Meanwhile, I have a picture of myself sitting in the garden under an umbrella and calling out to him through the rain. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Play dates are back
Meanwhile, my daughter is really excited about having friends round or going to their houses. “Play dates in the rain have been rubbish!” she says. With the weather we’ve been having, I can see her point!
Then I get a second phone call. It’s from a great friend of mine from university days. We haven’t chatted for ages. But as you may have found out too, I’ve been re-connecting with old chums from the past during Covid times.
“My wife and I are grandparents now!” he says to me in a voice that sounds slightly surprised.
“Me too!” I say excitedly. “It’s wonderful, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” he says. “I didn’t realise you could feel this way.”
Sadly, I have another friend who doesn’t allow her children to see her grandparents after a big family fall-out some years ago. I don’t want to comment on the latest Harry and Megan situation. But I do hope it won’t affect that precious relationship between grandparents and grandchild.
Just as I’m about to sign off my column, there’s a ring at the doorbell. Rose and George are here!
“I was just about to wash my hair,” I say. (I’d been swimming in the sea and it’s rather stiff with salt.)
“Can we help you?” asks Rose.
They’ve got me in the bathroom before I can protest.
“Help!” I say. “Please don’t get the shampoo in my eyes!”
Grandparent Of The Week – Tania, 54
Tania, 54, from Blandford has a 16-month old granddaughter Orlagh as well as Lily, 10 and Finn 6.
“When lockdown started, I moved my two daughters in with me along with their husbands. Orlagh was born in the January of last year. In fact, I was actually there at the birth. It was very traumatic but I felt extremely privileged to be there.
“I can honestly say that Orlagh has been my reason for getting up and keeping going. I’ve been suffering from poor health but she raises my spirits. I’m known as Mamie because I spent most of my time with my Gran, who I wanted to call Mummy. Instead it got changed to Mamie.
“My own grandmother was the most important person in my life when I was young. I’ve tried to replicate everything she did
“Lily and Finn don’t live so near but we see them every other week. We love going to places like Longleat Park. It’s also lovely to see what a good relationship they have with little Orlagh even though there’s a big age gap.
“My best tip as a grandparent? It’s to keep your mouth shut! Be careful about giving too much advice to your children too often.”
If you’d like to be a grandparent of the week or simply tell us about your life as a grandparent, do email us 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