“Gan Gan,” trills a little voice on my phone. “We’re going to the beach. Would you like to come too?”
I wish! In fact, I’m having to isolate for various reasons that I won’t go into. I’ll be able to get out and about by the middle of this week. But in the meantime, my small grandchildren are finding it hard to understand why I can’t leave the house.
“It’s because of the virus,” I hear my son-in-law explain on FaceTime. “But it’s getting better, isn’t it? And do you remember why?”
George’s big brown eyes widen. “Because of the vax,” he says.
“Vaccination,” corrects Rose.
“Well done, both of you,” says my son-in-law. “And that means that the world is getting…”
“BETTER,” yells George jumping up and down.
“Well, not for everyone,” says my son-in-law. “There are some children in the world and adults too who haven’t had the chance to have the vaccination.”
“It’s difficult to get it to everyone.”
There are some questions which are hard to answer. And this is definitely one of them. How do you explain the unfairness of life to children when they see everything in black and white?
Sports day fun
Meanwhile, even though I can’t be with my grandchildren, their parents are very good at sending me updates.
“Rose had her sports day today!” says my daughter excitedly. “She ran really fast!”
In fact, none of the parents or carers are allowed to be there because of social distancing. But school did send a video. It was almost as good as being there.
“No it wasn’t,” says my husband, pretending to sulk. “We missed out on tea and biscuits.”
He’s only half-joking! Grandad has a very sweet tooth!
Personally I’m more interested in my granddaughter’s winning streak. I’m so proud of her!
I try explaining this during my regular morning conversation to my 97-year-old father who is very hard of hearing.
“Crumb, you say?” he shouts down the phone.
“No, Daddy. Run.”
“Run? How can I do that at my age?”
“I’m talking about Rose, Daddy.”
Eventually he gets it. “She’s like me, then!”
It’s as though a light bulb has gone on. Instead of scrabbling around for conversation, I simply have to listen as all his memories tumble out with stories playing cricket as a lad and how he won a prize cricket ball.
“I remember that,” I say. “It used to sit on the mantelpiece when I was growing up. Where is it now?”
Oh dear. I shouldn’t have asked that. He is back now to being glum.
“I don’t know,” he says.
That’s the thing about the passing of years, special memories do get lost…
It makes me even more determined to keep piling stuff into my grandmother’s old pink and sage green chintz-covered ottoman chest which I can’t even close because it’s stuffed with photographs and baby clothes and sports and music and exam certificates.
But on a happier front, it’s lovely to think of my father’s gift for running passing down to my children and now my grandchildren. (The “winning prizes at sport day” gene definitely left me out although the funny thing is that I’ve become sportier as I’ve got older!)
Isn’t it incredible how physical features find their way down the generations too? I always remember how thrilled my mother was when she first saw her first grandson, shortly before she died. “He doesn’t have any earlobes,” she said delightedly. “Just like me!”
If only the same could have been said for my youngest son who acquired plug earrings during his teen years until he lost one and the hole miraculously closed up. But that’s another story!
When I ring the next day, my son-in-law is getting the children off to bed while my daughter has nipped out for some evening shopping. I am constantly impressed at how they tag team. “I thought I might put them to bed an hour later,” he says, “so they sleep in on Sunday morning and can then stay awake for part of the match.”
No need to ask which match!
By the time you read this, the results will be out. But at the moment, little Rose and George are busy making flags and getting very excited. No doubt these will be memories that they will store away and tell their children about.
I’ve suddenly realised that there isn’t long now until the end of the school summer term. It seems strange after all the starts and stops we’ve had.
I always used to worry about how to amuse my three during the holidays. We lived in the middle of nowhere. But here, in a seaside town, there is much more to do.
Then my eye was drawn to an article in my regular paper. “Children need time to do nothing,” said the journalist. There’s definitely something to be said for that. If they don’t get bored, they won’t know how to be independent and amuse themselves. But since becoming a granny, I’m reminded how hard it is to find a balance.
My daughter and son-in-law always give the children some downtime during the day. But if arguments start up, sometimes the only thing to do is get them out in the fresh air for a distraction. Do you find that?
Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy “Grandparent of the Week” below. Marguerite and I started school together at the age of 8. We lost touch but got together a few years ago. We’ve had some great telephone conversations about how much we love being grannies!
That’s one of the things I’ve learned since Rose and George was born. You make so many extra friends when you become a grandparent. Not just with people your age but also with young parents at playgroups. I’ve also become “pen pals” with regular readers of this column who email me regularly. How lovely is that!
I’d love to know what friendships you’ve made since becoming a grandparent. Do email and let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grandparent of the Week – Marguerite, 65
Marguerite lives in Brighton with her husband John. They have two granddaughters, Robin, 6, and her sister Clara, 4.
“We see our grandchildren as often as possible, but getting there is at the whim of the awful M25. It can take between an hour and a half and four hours to drive. Last week, we had a special request from Clara. ‘Can Grandma come and stay overnight and take me to school?’
“How could I not?
“I blush to say that, in the drama of the ‘putting on of socks’ and the ‘Yes, you do have to wear shoes,’ I forgot my mask but Clara walks so slowly that we were suitably socially distanced from everyone else. Robin bounded ahead with ‘Papi ‘ and Clara and I brought up the rear hand in hand. Having a trusting, tiny hand in mine is the most marvellous thing. I kissed Clara goodbye and into the nursery class she went, with a lunch bag almost as big as herself!
“Reading aloud has been – and is – a really big part of my relationship with the girls. It also brought us even closer during lockdowns. Robin is a shy child, who has to be tamed like a shy bird. I went up into our loft and brought down all the old fiction I loved as a child like The Secret Garden. Every day, while Clara had her afternoon nap, I would read to Robin on FaceTime.
“I got very big on accents! My husband’s family is from Yorkshire, so I was proud to be told that I was doing a credible impression!
“Curiously, on becoming a grandma, I was overcome by an overwhelming urge to knit. Probably because I knew that tiny clothes would not take ages to finish.
“I love the fact that my grandchildren are both very different. Robin is more intellectual and Clara is a chatterbox, who loves to engage grown-ups in conversation. She likes to bring people out and her opening gambit is (staring earnestly into your eyes), “What’s your favourite colour?” Hers, pink and purple of course – the same as her ‘biggie’ Robin. I love the way they acquire language.
“I really suffered from not being able to cuddle them during the pandemic. It’s such a relief to return to some kind of normality. When the rules were relaxed, Robin ran and hid when she saw other children in the playground. It’s understandable after not being allowed to mix for so long and I am relieved that she has now regained her confidence.
“The children love coming to see us on the coast and they are coming for a week in August when our daughter goes back to work. I adore them unconditionally and all my nurturing and protective instincts are rekindled. Once, when we were at a petting zoo, a large llama lunged at them. I spat at it (well, a sort of “pah!”) and it jumped back. My daughter was thoroughly embarrassed.
“The wonderful thing about having grandchildren is that you can take a step back mentally and watch them develop, rather than being in the thick of all the minutiae of caring for them, as when I was a mother. Being a grandma is a badge of honour for me.”
Jane’s New Thriller
Jane Corry’s new Penguin family drama, THE LIES WE TELL, is now number 6 in the UK best-selling paperback chart. It tells the story of Sarah who will do anything to stop her teenage son from going to prison. Even if it means breaking the law herself. You can buy it from supermarkets, bookshops and online https://linktr.ee/thelieswetell.
Also available for 99p on Kindle for July only.