“Look Gan Gan,” trills Rose. “We are having tea at Buckingham Palace!”
So they are! Actually, they’re not in the grounds – although I believe you can picnic there now. They are in Hyde Park with Buckingham Palace looming up in the background.
I feel a stab of “Wish I was there” followed swiftly by my own reminder that it’s really good for my grandchildren to spend time with two of the other grandparents.
They need a break away from the normal routine, like so many of us. Especially after the last year and a half.
The pictures keep flooding in on What’s App…
There’s my daughter with Rose doing an exaggerated model-like pose in front of the Chanel shop in London! (No – they didn’t actually go in.)
There they are outside a London phone box!
And then – possibly the most exciting of all in my book – they went to a play by Julia Donaldson in which the writer herself performed along with members of her family and the illustrator Axel Scheffler.
If you haven’t discovered Julia Donaldson’s books, I highly recommend them! There are a joy to read – both for children and adults.
But just as I am beginning to feel redundant, my youngest son and his girlfriend arrive for two days. How wonderful! If only I’d known when I was a young mum with three small children that it would be a rare treat to have them all under one roof.
It’s particularly special to see my youngest and oldest son having proper time together instead of snatched phone conversations or texts. Yet at the same time, I feel sad that this is the week that my daughter, son-in-law and my grandchildren are away.
Still, I am grateful to have two-thirds of a full house!
Learning new things
It’s all too easy as a mum to tell grown up children what they should or shouldn’t be doing and how to do it! Do you agree? Over the years, I’ve tried to bite my tongue if they do or say something that I might not agree with. After all, they are grown-up now and entitled to their own opinions.
But now I feel the roles have reversed! It is them who are teaching me things – in the nicest possible way.
The youngest and his lovely girlfriend introduced us to a game called Boggle which we all played until the small hours.
We also had long walks. Instead of me carrying them as I did when they were little, they helped me over stiles!
They taught me too, how to make a risotto out of ingredients which I wouldn’t usually use. It’s certainly added to my repertoire of five dishes!
And it’s utter bliss to have the washing machine on with three washes a day, just like the old days when everyone was at home.
At least, that’s how I feel although my husband (who hasn’t had children) might not agree. “We haven’t got any hot water left!” he points out.
But he had a great time too, discussing music with them by bands I’ve never heard of. (Personally I’m a Simon & Garfunkel girl.)
I also had a lovely time watching my eldest son play cricket. When he was a child, I spent hours and hours on the boundaries, trying to work out the score. I’m still no wiser but it has been such a pleasure to see my grown-up boy on the pitch this summer before he returns abroad to his pre-virus life.
But one of the biggest revelations was on Friday. It doesn’t seem that long ago since my eldest son drove me to his school as part of practice runs leading up to his test. I used to be terrified!
Now he’s the one who drives me on the six-hour journey (each way) to see my 97-year-old father and my stepmother.
I find it both amazing and awe-inspiring that I can now sit back and let him take the wheel – especially as I’m too scared to go on motorways myself!
It’s not easy for my dad and his wife. They have various medical conditions between them and try as I do to persuade them to get some help, they are not keen.
Indeed, neither of them have been out of the house for years. And that was before the virus.
In fact, the four of us have a great time together. My son talks to his grandfather about learning to drive. I never knew until our visit that he’d had a motorcycle during the war when he was an apprentice at De Havilland. Nor did I know that his father – my grandfather – taught him to drive a car in a field when he was 13. It was only after the war when he was a young man that he took his first driving test.
What a revelation! My son then Googled some of the cars that my father had owned and showed them to him on his iPad. Daddy showed more enthusiasm than I’d seen for ages.
We did the journey there and back in one day because neither of us wanted to stay overnight. There isn’t room to stay at my dad’s house and both my son and I had things we needed to do the next morning.
We’re all heading home…
That’s right! The children are back! I wanted to make sure that I’d finished their washing and got ready for their arrival! In fact, as I write this, I’ve just had a phone call. “Gan Gan,” calls out George from the back of the car. “We’re on our way home!”
I can’t wait to see them. But this week has also reminded me of something. As wonderful as my grandchildren are, I have other children, too. I love them all, including their partners. Happiness for me is having them together. When they’re older, you never know when this is going to happen. So you have to make the most of it.
This isn’t easy – especially when you’re a working granny. I’m all to aware of that. But if there’s one thing which the virus has taught me, it’s to get the right work/life balance.
So what do you make of the news this week that it’s “direct discrimination” to call someone a grandparent at work, even if they are one?
Do you find that term demeaning? Or do you wear your name like a badge of honour?
Have you ever felt discriminated against because of your age?
I’d love to know your views.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ask Modern Gran
Recently, some readers have been getting in touch to ask for advice on family problems.
Tracey from Lincolnshire writes:
“I’m desperate to be a gran. All my friends have grandchildren and I feel left out. I didn’t think I was the broody sort but now every time I pass someone who looks like they might be a grandparent, pushing a stroller, I feel a pang in my chest. My daughter has just finished her long-term relationship because her partner said he wasn’t ready for children. My son has always said he’s never having kids because he doesn’t want the ‘responsibility’. So I don’t see the situation changing in the immediate future. What can I do?”
Modern Gran writes:
“This can’t be easy for you, Tracey. That urge to be a grandparent can creep up on you without you realising. Sometimes it’s because you see everyone else being one. And sometimes it’s because your own broody hormones come to life again.
“The truth is that being a grandparent is one of those things which you don’t have any control over. But you can think about what it’s like for your own children. Your daughter sounds as though she is going through a hard time. She wanted children and now she doesn’t have her partner. The strange thing about heartache is that when you make someone else feel better, you make yourself feel better, too. I’m sure you’ve already comforted your daughter but it might be helpful to point out that she will find the right person one day.
“There are also other ways of having children. A friend of mine had a daughter who found herself single at 40 after trying for a baby for some time. She went to a clinic and, using a donor, had a beautiful baby boy a year later. Not long after that, she met a lovely man with children of his own. And guess what? They had a baby together and are now a happy extended family.
“As for your son, fatherhood (or not) is his choice. But he may change his mind in the future. He might also meet someone with children and you’ll be a step-granny.
“So take heart and be prepared for the unexpected in your life. Meanwhile, enjoy some mother/grown-up child joint activities.”
Grandparent of the Week – Sue, 68
Sue, and her husband Howard, 69, have one grandson Freddie, age 3. They are expecting another grandchild shortly.
“My husband is known as Gruffalo and I’m Nana Sue! Freddie (our son’s child) lives several miles away but we chat a lot on What’s App. We’re also going to be seeing him this weekend as it’s our 44th wedding anniversary! I can’t wait.
“Freddie is a real outdoor boy. When I look at him, I’m taken straight back to when our son was small. It’s a lovely feeling to see the genes being passed on.
“When we’re with him, we build Lego, play with toy trucks and kick a rugby ball around. Freddie has inherited his father’s skills – our son used to be a professional goal keeper. We also have ice creams on the beach and go out on a Lilo boat.
“One of the wonderful things about being a grandparent is watching that continual excitement in their eyes. I also love the humour. Freddie tells everyone that his mummy has a ‘bagel’ in her tummy instead of ‘baby’!
“It’s also inspiring to see Freddie’s enthusiasm now we can be with him more. He’s spent more than half his life under lockdown. Mind you, I do wonder what it must be like to grow up in a masked society. But it doesn’t seem to have affected him.”
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 at https://linktr.ee/thelieswetell.
Also available for 99p on Kindle for July only.