“You won’t be late, will you?” asks my daughter.
“Don’t worry,” I say. “I was only late for you as a child. I’m always on time for my grandchildren.”
It’s true, I’m afraid. When my three were young, we lived in the country and there was always a flock of sheep about to cross the lane or some other hazard to delay the school run.
But to be honest, I am a little nervous about collecting Rose and George from school and nursery respectively. It’s been over a year since I did this regularly and like so many things in this new “trying to get back to normal” world, I’m out of practice.
For a start, both children have grown so much that they don’t fit into the car seats which I have in our car. This means buying two new ones – not cheap! – and also understanding how they work. It’s the only time in my life when I find myself thinking that a degree in engineering might have come in handy.
So we do a trial run
Actually, it’s a static one because we don’t go anywhere. It’s more of an exercise in learning which strap goes under which bit and which one goes over another.
“Gan Gan is going to collect you from school,” my daughter explains to Rose and George, “because I’m going to visit a friend and her new baby.”
It’s actually very exciting. The friend was one of the teenage girls who used to come in and out of our house all those years ago. Now she’s had a baby of her own. I don’t know about you, but I still find it amazing that my children and their mates are grown up!
(Talking of which, my youngest is currently in Newcastle, as best man to the kid who used to sit in our basement along with the rest of the crowd and strum the guitar while I tried to go to sleep upstairs!).
Anyway, back to the school run. I’m so twitchy about getting it right after all this time that a) I leave half an hour before necessary and b) I get my husband to come too.
Parking isn’t easy and I have a dread of not being able to find a space and then being late. This way, I can just nip out and stand in line on one of the chalk flowers on the pavement which marks the two metre distance rule.
Yes! I’m first in the queue! Well, joint first actually. There’s another mum there who’s a friend of my daughter’s and whom I’ve got to know on the children’s sports circuit. That’s another lovely thing about being a local granny. Your own social circle widens. I also love talking to young parents about their lives and how they juggle work and childcare.
“Shall I take a picture of you?” suggests this nice mum. “Just to prove that you’re early?”
“Yes please!” I say.
It reminds me of punching in my “signing in” card during a factory job I once had in the summer holidays as a student.
“Gan Gan!” calls out my granddaughter excitedly as she sees me.
Rose flies into my arms. Once more I remember how excited I felt as a child if my father or my long-distance Godmother picked me up instead of my mother.
But I’m still nervous as we walk to the car. The traffic seems heavier than it did in pre-virus times. Or is it that I’m not used to going out so much?
“Hold my hand tightly,” I instruct.
“I am, Gan Gan!”
Now onto to collect George. I’m glad my husband is driving. That bus is going so fast! Or again, is that my nerves getting the better of me? I realise that I have to get a grip. Otherwise I’m going to pass these fears onto the children.
George’s nursery is two villages away…
The big plus about having a co-driver is that I can leave Rose in the car with my husband while going through the same safety pick-up routine that I’ve just done with her.
It also feels safer from a virus point of view. Then again, they’re all mixing now, aren’t they?
George is full of beans and excitement too! He comes out clutching a picture of a tractor for me (how touching!), another for Mummy and a Father’s Day card for Daddy.
“Look,” beams George. “I can click my fingers now!”
“Brilliant,” says my husband. “I can do that too. Or maybe it’s just the arthritis that’s making my joints screak.”
All strapped in? Great. But when we get to their place, they undo their belts.
“Wait,” I say firmly. “You’re not meant to do that until I say.”
“But we’re here,” says Rose.
“You still meant to keep your belts on until we stop,” I say, feeling like an airline pilot.
“But Gan Gan, we HAVE stopped.”
“I’m still getting our stuff together to get out,” I say. But they’re itching to disembark after a warm day in the classroom.
Now it’s off to cricket!
We’ve signed up Rose for a children’s course run by a national sports scheme. (She does a tennis one, too.) My instructions are to give them a quick sandwich at home and then walk down to the pitch. By this time, my husband (who has mobility issues) has gone home.
“Can we have a biscuit instead?” asks Rose.
“No,” I say.
“Oh, all right then.”
Whoops! How has that happened? The biscuit tin has gone from half full to empty in front of my eyes. The clues are crumbs around my grandchildren’s mouths. Still, at least they’ll have plenty of energy for sport. As for me, I’m exhausted! I was writing all morning but that was child’s play compared with keeping an eye on little ones.
Down on the cricket pitch, Rose and George hare off in different directions. I run after each of them. I swear that one part of my body is going one way and the other in another.
The inevitable happens. “I’ve hurt myself,” wails George rubbing his ankle.
Oh no. I have visions of broken bones and a visit to A & E. But it turns out to be a mixture of a very small bruise and frustration because he’s too young to join the course.
“I want Mummy,” he sobs.
So I distract him with the spare cricket bat I’ve brought with me from home and we play our own game on the sidelines. “You’re my servant,” he says to me.
Where did he get that from? Sometimes children come out with the most amazing things, don’t they?
When he gets bored with that, I take out a pair of snakes from his bag to keep him amused. The game goes like this. I pretend to be scared of them and he thinks this is hysterically funny. I hate snakes. Just as well these are rubber.
By this time, I’m on my knees. Literally.
“Hello,” says a lovely voice. “Everyone all right?”
It’s my beautiful daughter. I’m not sure who’s more relieved to see her. Me or the children.
“Thanks so much,” she says.
“Any time,” I hear myself say. “How about next week, too?”
Well, I need to get back into the saddle so to speak.
Then I leave them to some mother and children time and go home via the sea for a quick dip. It’s a little wavy but it chills me out.
As I make my way home, the phone rings…
It’s my 97-year-old father. He’s on what he calls Safe Time – his name for Face Time. (Actually I think this could catch on!)
“Thank you for the present,” he says.
I’d sent him some cheeses and chocolate from his local deli as a Father’s Day present. If only we lived nearer. But I visited straight after the rules were eased and my eldest son and I will be driving down shortly.
For a minute, I think of all the Fathers’ Days in the past.
I don’t think they were a big deal when I was a young child (I was born in the mid 1950s) but perhaps they should have been. What do you think? Mind you, I always think these days are very difficult for both children and adults if their loved ones have passed away.
My own husband doesn’t have children of his own but the dog always gives him a card. He’s also treating us both to afternoon tea at a local hotel! Aren’t animals clever?
“Is there a grandparent day?” asks my husband hopefully.
There is. It’s on Sunday October 3rd this year.
“Great,” he says. “I’ll start to make a list.”
He’s only joking. At least, I think he is.
What do you think?
Should children be offered the virus jab? We’d like to hear your thoughts. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grandparent of the Week – Rosanna, Dorset
Rosanna Ley is in her mid-sixties and lives with her husband Grey in Dorset. Rosanna, an author, has two grandchildren, Julian (2) and Tristan (5) who live with their parents in Copenhagen.
“Tristan was born in Newcastle but then my son Luke was offered a job in Copenhagen. Tristan was only a few months old when they moved.
“I told myself that because Newcastle was a long way from where we live, Copenhagen wasn’t that much further. But I was still upset that I might not be able to see them all so often. My daughter-in-law’s mother lives in Poland and her father has sadly passed away, so I’m very aware they don’t have any family there at all.
“Before the pandemic, I got to see my eldest grandson about four times a year (we’d go there twice and they would come to us twice). But I haven’t been able to see them for a year and a half because of travel restrictions. That’s very hard especially as Julian has grown up a lot since then. He’s had his second birthday now and is toddling around.
“I do feel close to them but it’s not the same when you don’t see them on a daily or weekly or monthly basis. We have lots of video calls which is lovely but there’s no substitute for a warm hug. Julian probably thinks I’m some strange person who pops up on the screen to chat!
“I did notice that when Tristan got to the age of four, it ‘clicked’ that I was daddy’s mummy. That was really nice! They also do a lot of things in nursery in Copenhagen about family. The children bring in family photos and they create a family tree made of pictures.
“I am hoping that it will be different when they’re older and able to come over here on their own. I like to think that they will see me as their grandmother by the sea.
“Meanwhile, I have drawings and photos which they’ve sent me on the fridge door. I also post them presents like books and puzzles. And I make sure I ask Tristan specific questions such as what he’s done at nursery today.
“I’m very proud of the fact that they are multi-lingual. Danish was Tristan’s first language when he was really small. His mum also spoke to him in Polish and my son spoke to him in English. It’s a great start in life.
“I can’t wait to see them again. I miss them so much. Before, when they visited, it was wonderful when they arrived although they were often tired. I learned you have to go at their pace. I also learned to hide my tears when they left. You have to keep your feelings locked in or else they’d be upset too.
“My husband is not their biological grandfather but he is really good at getting down on his hands and knees and playing with them. They call him Grey Bear and I am Janma!
“I can’t wait for the day when they come to stay with us as teenagers. We’ll be ready for them!”
Rosanna Ley’s new book The Orange Grove, an emotional drama set in sunny Seville, is being published by Quercus in paperback on June 24.