“Have I won?” asks Rose
“No,” says George firmly. “I have.”
“Actually,” I say diplomatically, “you both have. Well sort of.”
This isn’t quite true but it seems like the best way to keep the peace.
Confused? Me too. Let me go back to the beginning.
Regular readers might remember that last week I got out some old games from my own children’s day and played them with my grandchildren. The favourite was definitely the chess and drafts set which Rose and George used as a batttle field until I managed to calm them down.
Then we progressed to magnetic pick up sticks but the magnetic pick up bit had got lost over time. So I ordered a new one.
It arrives in the post amid much excitement. Unfortunately, the type I’ve bought isn’t magnetic but we have a go.
To my delight, they get really good at it. There’s just one problem. They’re so excited by the new game that they don’t want to take it in turns. And I’m not very good at insisting it’s my turn.
The result is that they each have several winning sticks at their end and I just have two.
Of course it’s my own fault. I should have laid down the rules more strongly. But that got me thinking. Where do you draw the line between encouraging children and disappointing them? After all, learning to take their turn is part of growing up. And so is losing.
Next time we play this, I tell myself, I will be stricter. Honestly.
I’ve also discovered that certain games are best played at certain times…
When I cycled round on Wednesday to help out with teatime, the children wanted to play hide and seek. This requires a great deal of make-believe because there aren’t any obvious places to hide. At least not for a grown-up. So I invariably squat beside the sofa and we each pretend to be amazed when they find me and I am discovered.
“Please don’t play that game just before bedtime,” says my daughter very understandably. “It will only rev them up.”
Again she has a point. Sometimes I find myself becoming more childish than the children. But it’s great fun. Honestly. Maybe it’s because I’m letting out my inner child.
Meanwhile, there is great excitement over another new game. Cricket! Little Rose already plays tennis with a nationally subsidised tennis scheme. And now there is a cricket one as well.
So I go along to keep George amused while my daughter watches Rose and catches up with the other parents.
“Can I play with the big children soon?” asks George wistfully as he and I practice our bowling and batting skills on the sidelines.
Oh dear. It’s not easy when one child isn’t old enough to do something that an older sibling can. It reminds me of a memorable birthday party for my then seven-year-old. He was desperate to go ice-skating. My youngest had just been born and I ended up feeding and changing nappies by the side of an ice rink while attempting to supervise 10 seven-year-olds. This probably wouldn’t be allowed nowadays under health and safety rules. Quite right too.
As I write this, I’m sitting on my daughter and son-in-law’s sofa. The sitting room is extremely tidy and all the toys have been put away. Rose and George appear to be sleeping quietly according to the monitor. Yes that’s right. I’m babysitting. The quietness feels unreal.
I tiptoe up. They look fast asleep but they’re the kind of children that don’t make a noise when they sleep. I don’t want to go too near for fear of waking them. But I wait until I’m satisfied that I can see their chests rise and fall.
During the virus, I obviously didn’t babysit during the evenings because no one went out. Even now, my daughter says she doesn’t like to bother me. But honestly. I’m more than happy to do so. In fact, it’s quite nice to get away for the evening! When I’m at home, I always find a job or two to do instead of sitting down.
Rose doesn’t settle until around 8 so she often cottons on that I’m downstairs and comes down to join me. I rather like that. We snuggle up on the sofa and read a book or watch quiz shows.
But tonight they’re both asleep because I’m here a bit later than usual. I’ve actually just been up to London and back in a day to visit my youngest son. Because of coronavirus restrictions, I hadn’t been able to see him since last August.
“I’ll meet you outside the bookshop at Waterloo station,” I said to him.
As I walked across the forecourt, I saw him! How grown up he looks! Then again, he is 30! I found myself flying through the concourse and holding him tight in a lovely big warm hug.
“It’s so good to see you, Mum,” he says.
“You too,” I say tearfully.
My youngest is almost a foot taller than I am. He slings his arm around me and we walk down to the river. Spontaneously we decide to get one of those river cruises down to the Tower of London. I hold his hand all the way. In my heart, he will always be my baby.
Then my eldest, who is living in London at the moment, came to join us. We had a wonderful two hours sitting on a bench and having a picnic. If only my daughter was here as well. I feel as though she is missing out. Still, it’s wonderful to have two of my children together. When they were little, I couldn’t imagine not having them around. At times, the noise drove me crazy! But now it feels as though all my Christmases have come at once!
Even so, I have to admit I was rather freaked out by the number of people in London. It was totally impossible to walk down the street and be two feet away from people. When I came back home I had a very hot shower and washed my hair before I came round to babysit, just as a precaution.
As an extended family, we’re all doing the flow tests twice a week. At first it felt like a chemical experiment – I’ve never been very good at reading instructions. But now I’m getting into the hang of it and it’s easier than I thought it would be. It also gives us peace of mind even though we’ve all been vaccinated twice now.
This week, we’ve got a lovely interview with our grandparents of the week. I particularly love the picture below showing Jill with a flower pot that her grandchildren made her. It made me think of all the lovely things my children and grandchildren have made me over the years which I’ve kept carefully. I’d love to know what artistic creations your children or grandchildren have given you! Do email me some pictures at email@example.com.
Meanwhile, have a great half term week!
Grandparent of the Week – Jill from Devon
Jill lives in Devon with her husband. They have three grandchildren, aged 4, almost 2 and 19 months.
“Our granddaughters live about an hour and a half away. During the second lockdown, we were in a bubble to help out with childcare so our son and daughter-in-law could work. But our two-year-old grandson lives three hours away with his parents. This made it very hard during lockdown although we did Facetime every week. In fact, we still do. It’s lovely to chat and see each other on screen although it’s not the same as actually being there. We’re going to his second birthday party this weekend and we can’t wait!
“I was a public health nurse until I retired but I’ve been very careful not to give advice unless I’m asked for it. I don’t want to impose too much!
“The funny thing is that I’m far more worried about them having an accident when I’m looking after them than I was with my own children. Having said that, they haven’t had one yet, thank goodness.
“Some parents commented that their parents didn’t show interest whilst they were growing up. It became obvious it was feelings that were still raw with them.
“So I always ask ours things like, ‘Who did you play with at school?’ rather than just ‘What was school like today’ or ‘Can you show me what you did at ballet?’ rather than ‘What did you do at ballet?’ Sometimes I get a little demonstration!
“I use active listening skills to listen to what they’re doing as well as showing interest and asking questions about their friends.
“I love it when they make me things, like hand-made cards with children’s handprints made into animal shapes. Recently I received a flowerpot with the words ‘Love you Grandma’ painted on the side! That really made my heart melt.
“I also take lots of photographs. They grow up so fast!”
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
Jane’s new novel, The Lies We Tell, is being published on June 24. You can pre-order it now.