“What can I do next, Gan Gan?” asks George after he’d put the teaspoons away in the cutlery drawer. (And yes – he has washed his hands first!)
All kinds of things come to mind. How about clearing out the understairs cupboard which is bursting with stuff which the grown up children no longer want (like an old highchair) but which I can’t bear to throw away.
Or maybe clearing out the garden shed (crammed full with a bicycle that my husband can no longer use, a surfboard, two put-up tents (one of which is threatening to open up again) and countless flowerpots.
Hold on! I must be sensible.
“Would you like to help me sweep the kitchen floor,” I say.
“Yes, please,” says Rose, bouncing up and down as though I have offered her an ice-cream. “May I have the broom?”
George seems content with my blue and yellow spotted dustpan and brush.
That’s all sorted then!
No. It’s not Bob a Job week. (I wonder if that’s still going?)
It’s “Keeping My Grandchildren Amused” week.
My daughter has to go out for a few afternoons and I’m in charge. Actually, I love it. But I do sometimes find it hard to think of things to do with them – especially when the weather is mixed.
So I set them up with some colouring on the kitchen table while I began to unload the dishwasher.
“Can we help you?” askes Rose.
And that’s when the job idea began
Of course, they are used to putting their own toys away. I have to take my hat off to my daughter and son-in-law. They instilled that rule earlier on. But giving the children grown-up jobs to do is much more interesting – both for them and for me!
So I did a quick straw-poll by phone to my granny mates. “I give my grandchildren jobs too,” says a horse-mad friend. “They help me muck out the stables.”
Another granny chum of mine has got her older grandchildren to organise her books in author alphabetical order. “It’s been a great learning exercise for all of us,” she says. “Some of them are forgotten children’s books left over from when my son was young so I’ve had a lovely time reading to them.”
“Mine have been helping me clear out my wardrobe,” says Denise, an old school friend.
“We had quite a few laughs when they tried some outfits on (including my wedding dress) and now they’ve gone to the dressing up box. Meanwhile, I’ve freed up some hanging space which is something I’ve been meaning to do for ages.”
“Mine have been helping me service my bike,” says another. “I’ve shown them how to put on a bike chain if it comes off.”
Do write and tell us about any interesting jobs that your grandchildren have been doing with you. I’d love a bit of inspiration. After all we’ve still got two weeks of the summer holidays left!
Off they go…
Then, at the end of the week, my little family sets off for a five-day camping break.
From the amount of stuff that’s being piled into the car, they might as well be planning for a trip across the Sahara.
The children are very excited. Three other families are going with them and they can’t wait to play with their friends on the beach.
But I can’t help panicking. I know that my daughter and son-in-law are brilliant at watching the children all the time.
Yet things can happen so quickly in a split second.
When I was a child, I remember being on holiday with my parents and going off to buy my mother a chocolate bar as a surprise. When I got back to a spot on the beach, my parents were beside themselves.
They thought I’d gone into the sea and got drowned. My poor father had been swimming up and down looking for me.
Then there was a terrible occasion which is engrained in my mind forever.
Again, I was on holiday with my parents at the age of five when my mother had a life-changing accident.
I won’t go into details but she was in hospital afterwards for three months. It still haunts me over 60 years later. Maybe that’s why holidays always make me super vigilant. But I mustn’t transfer my own fears on my grandchildren.
“We’ll be fine,” says my daughter, giving me a warm cuddle goodbye.
Little Rose writes me a note which she presses into my hand when they go.
“I luv you,” it says.
I have to choke back my tears when they go but after the car is out of sight, I feel better.
Strange, isn’t it?
“We could always go and check them out with a pair of binoculars,” suggests my husband.
He’s only half joking.
Of course we can’t – even though I’m tempted. But one of the lessons I’ve learnt as a grandparent is that our children are grown up enough to have children of their own. We need to be grown up enough ourselves to be there when we’re wanted – and step back when we’re not.
Easier said than done!
Meanwhile, I’m in charge of feeding the cats and watching out for Amazon parcels. But by a stroke of missed timing, the picnic table and chairs is delivered after they’d gone. “Perfect opportunity to drop it off at their camp site,” suggests my husband. “It’s only an hour and a half drive away.”
My daughter is very grateful when I suggest this on the phone but then our elderly dog has a little turn so we don’t go.
Maybe it’s for the best. I don’t want to disrupt their break by appearing and disturbing family dynamics. (Luckily our dog is now on the mend.)
Meanwhile, I am at a bit of a loose end. I’ve got my work – next year’s novel is almost ready! But without the children to be with, I feel I need to do some other things as well.
Excuse me, when I nip into the loft. It’s a job I’ve been meaning to do for ages. Perhaps I’ll find some treasure…
Sharing a laugh
This week, I played tennis with a grandfather friend. We were swapping tales about how lovely it is to be grandparents.
“In fact,” he quips, “if I’d known how wonderful it is, I’d have chosen to have grandchildren first!”
A problem shared
This week’s problem comes from Mary in Cornwall.
“My grandchildren who are 9 and 11 came to stay with me at the beginning of the summer holidays. We had a lovely time although I was rather hurt when my daughter-in-law picked them up and they complained to her that I made them go to bed at 8pm. Apparently they go to bed much later at home so I suggested to her that they might not be so tired if she was firmer about lights-out. She seems to have taken offence. My son thinks I should apologise. I don’t know what to do.”
I sympathise for you, Mary. But from my own experience, I know that grown-up children don’t like being told what to do – even if the advice is well meant.
Rules and habits have changed since our day. And I’ve noticed that bedtime seems to be one of them. Personally, I’d have a heart to heart with your daughter-in-law and explain that you really didn’t mean to offend.
Tell her that you think she’s a wonderful mother – maybe point out some of the good things your grandchildren have told you about her as well as plus points which you’ve noticed. Suggest you draw a line over what happened before. Perhaps invite her on a mother-in-law/daughter-in-law lunch/walking date with just the two of you!
This might not say sort everything out immediately but it’s a start.
If you’ve got a problem or you’d like to add your own piece of advice, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Newsflash – should schoolchildren be vaccinated?
We’ve had some mixed views on this one.
“More research needs to be done before we experiment on children like guinea pigs,” says one reader who didn’t wish to be named.
“I think all secondary school children should be vaccinated so they don’t pass the virus onto us older ones,” says another reader.
Meanwhile, the papers have been full of discussion about changing the exam system. Plans are being considered to scrapped GCSEs and put more emphasis on average grades rather than just exams for A-levels
What do you think? Do you feel your grandchildren are under too much pressure to perform well at school? Let us know at email@example.com.
Grandparent of the Week – Linda (74)
Linda and her husband Roger (76) have two grandchildren, Alexander (14) and Emily (10). Linda is a writer. Her latest book is called The Little B & B at Cove End and is published by HarperCollins.
“I am Grandma and Roger is Granddad. We are their only living grandparents.
“We take them walking in the woods behind our house and they love going to Berry Pomeroy Castle which is just up the road and exploring the wood and the green lanes around there. We also cycle with them – along the Exe estuary and the canal, and also in Haldon Forest, and on the velopark at Clennon Valley. They enjoy making dens under the dining room table and sleeping there. We take them to out of the way coves that not many find. Wet day activities include playing Scrabble or Cluedo and they love a treasure hunt around the house. Both like to bake.
“They do squabble and the only answer to that is five minutes’ quiet time in their rooms. Emily answers back and can be very cheeky and I deal with that by saying I don’t want to listen to her by just walking away into another room. She soon says ‘sorry’.
“We try to give advice by showing by example. That said, we do talk a lot about respect for others, and others’ opinions. We also chat about the importance of helping in the family so the work is shared out.
“Both our grandchildren have been very aware from an early age that I have hearing difficulties. Alex always makes sure I am looking at him before he starts to tell me something – he tends to reach out to touch my arm or he’ll swing himself around so he’s facing me. He answers the phone for me if Roger isn’t here to do it, and without being asked. Emily is pretty good in shops as she knows I find it difficult to understand what the assistants are saying, especially now everyone wears masks. She doesn’t have to wear one as she’s only ten years old so she relays what is being said, slowly and clearly. However, they both find it absolutely hilarious that I mis-hear sometimes and get things totally wrong and often with very funny effect! I don’t make a big thing about being deaf.”
Jane’s New Thriller
Jane Corry’s new Penguin family drama, THE LIES WE TELL, is 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.