“Okay, everyone,” I say. “We need to get out of the house.”
I’m looking after little Rose and George for the afternoon. We’ve been playing cricket in our garden but it’s not very big and we’ve already sent the ball over the fence three times.
So it’s definitely time for a change of scene.
But in this post-lockdown world, I‘ve underestimated how difficult it is to get small ones togged up and ready to go
For a start we appear to have lost a shoe. Two shoes in fact. One from each child.
It turns out that the dog had been playing with them in the garden. (One is under a bush and the other is in a tomato plant pot.)
Then I can’t find their coats.
“We didn’t bring them,” pipes up Rose.
It was sunny then. But the weather has turned.
So I put Rose in a cardigan which I discover in her day bag and find a jumper for George in an old chest of drawers which is stuffed with twenty-year-old clothes from my grown up boys. (Hoarder? Me? I’m just sentimental.) It’s so big on him that it looks a bit like a sweater dress – the kind my mother had knitted from a pattern in this very magazine.
“I don’t want to wear it,” protests George.
Then the phone rings. It’s an insurance company that I’d rung earlier for a quote. “Sorry,” I say. “I can’t talk now. I’m in a zoo.”
Finally, we get out of the door.
We head to my favourite shops at the seaside…
“Are we going to buy something?” asks Rose hopefully.
“Yes,” I say as I hold their hands tightly while walking down our high street, trying to avoid as many people as possible. (We’re being cautious because my husband is having hospital treatment soon.) “I need to buy a birthday present for one of my friends.”
“Can we have a present too?” ask George.
“Not today,” I say mindful of the fact that I’ve been told not to spoil them so much. “It’s nice to buy presents for other people and I thought you might like to help me choose something.”
“What’s your friend called?” asks Rose.
This particular chum is called Bev. We met as journalists when we were very young in our 20s and then bumped into each other after our children were born. She’s one of my closest friends now.
But to my chagrin, I forgot her birthday. Every New Year’s Eve, I normally put all my friends’ birthday dates in the new diary.
Last year, like many of us, I was rather stunned by world events and didn’t do many of the things I usually did. So now I need to buy a belated present.
‘What about this?’ asks Rose picking up a giant paper windmill.
“I love it,” I say, “but it’s a tricky shape to wrap.”
“This is pretty,” says George diving for a glass vase.
Swiftly I help him put it down again. “That might break in the post,” I say.
Then I spot a lavender pillow!
“I love the smell,” coos Rose.
“Me too,” chirps George who likes everything that Rose does.
Guess what? We leave the shop with two giant paper windmills and three lavender bags.
So much for my resolution not to buy anything for the children. I reckon it costs me as much in presents during granny days as an average hourly wage!
“Just say no,” says my husband. But I can’t. I don’t want them to think of me as mean gran.
“Thanks so much for the lavender bags,” says my daughter the next day. “They really helped them sleep.”
Hah! She speaks too soon. Two evenings later, I’m babysitting
Within seconds of her parents leaving, Rose does her usual thing and nips downstairs to sit next to me on the sofa. We read a book and then she wants to watch a children’s cartoon on my iPad. I’d ever have let mine get away with this at that age but it is the school holidays…
There’s a furtive knocking on the window. It’s OK – just my husband who’s comes round to watch a quirky comedy series that sounds rather interesting.
Rose turns up her volume on the iPad.
Just as well because we can immediately tell that the comedy isn’t suitable for young ears. So we swiftly turn off the TV.
“How much do you think she heard?” whispers my husband.
Nothing, judging from the way Rose’s eyes are still glued to the iPad.
Oh dear, George is beginning to stir on the monitor.
“Shouldn’t we be a bit firmer about bedtime?” says as my husband with the conviction of someone who’s never brought up small children.
I used to think that. In fact, I spent hours and hours lying down next to my youngest in an attempt to make him go to sleep all those years ago. But it never worked. So I’ve given up.
Maybe I’m just a bad gran.
After about an hour, my husband goes home and Rose and I have another stab at bedtime. I read her a story but it’s hard to make the words out in the dark and I can’t turn on the light because she and George share a room. So I make up the words instead.
“No, Gan Gan,” she says firmly. “That’s not right. It says this.”
Then she repeats the words verbatim. I’m sure she’s going to be an actress.
When I go downstairs, I hear Rose talking to herself on the monitor. My eyelids are getting heavy after a long day and I’m feeling sleepy. Why is it that my preferred bedtime seems to get earlier as my granddaughter’s gets later?
Finally, she dozes off. I creep upstairs to check her. Both Rose and her brother are sleeping soundly. Phew!
Then my friend texts. “Thank you so much for the lavender pillow. I’m just off to bed now and am taking it with me.”
Everyone’s going to sleep except for me!
Then I sit bolt upright. The front door is opening. Burglars? No, it’s my daughter and son-in-law. “What time did they go to bed?” they ask.
I can’t pretend. “George has been out for ages but Rose only went off ten minutes ago,” I admit.
“Never mind,” they say. “Thanks so much for babysitting.”
The irony is that when I get home, I’m not tired any more. So I order my dad a sky blue woollen jumper for his 98th birthday which is coming up soon. It’s from a company that I’ve ordered from before, so I know he’ll like it. (At his age, he knows his own mind!)
The company promises to deliver within two days and sure enough, I get an email to say it’s arrived.
“I haven’t had it,” says my dad when we chat the next day.
He’s getting a bit confused nowadays but my eighty-year-old stepmother confirms that nothing has been delivered. Oh dear.
When I take another look at the delivery confirmation email, I see that a photograph is attached. The package was indeed delivered but it was left between the black and the green bins by the side of the house.
Luckily it wasn’t thrown out by mistake!
I think of contacting the company but I don’t want the courier to get into trouble. We’ve all got to be kind to each other in this ‘new normal’. Don’t you think?
In fact, kindness is probably one of the best lessons we can teach our children and grandchildren. It’s good to see that nowadays it’s much cooler to be kind than it used to be. In my day, children could be quite horrid to each other at school.
I still remember being teased for having bright red lips. Isn’t it strange how you remember such things all these years later?
Then the phone rings. It’s the insurance company again. “Did you have a nice time at the zoo?” asks the polite-sounding girl.
Zoo? Then I remember. “Actually I was joking about being in a zoo,” I say. “I was with my grandchildren when you called before.”
“Oh,” she says.
But I can tell she doesn’t. Wait until she’s a granny…!
RIP to Jill Murphy, author of The Worst Witch series who died last week. My children loved her books – and so do my grandchildren. If you don’t know them, they’re definitely worth checking out.
Many congratulations Alison
You might remember that Alison was expecting her first grandchild.
Last week, her daughter gave birth and now Alison is the proud grandmother of Freddie.
Don’t they both look happy!
You Tell Us
Last week I asked if you feel your grandchildren are under too much pressure to perform well at school. Thanks for getting in touch.
NO, says Beryl, a retired teacher from Leeds. “I think we need to encourage children to aim high. When my grandchildren were little, I taught them to learn their tables by heart and it’s stood them in good stead. Learning isn’t always easy but it’s important.”
YES, says Anne from Hertfordshire. “I was made to feel stupid at school because I had a poor memory. It affected my self-confidence. My granddaughter is at a school where everyone is encouraged to learn at their own pace. I’m glad of that.”
We’ve all been shocked by pictures and reports of world events – especially in the last week. But how much should we talk to our grandchildren about this? Please let us know your views. You can get in touch with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
A problem shared
“My 12-year-old grandson was such a sweet little boy. But in the last year, he has started being very cheeky to me,” says Sandra from Dorset. “He’s always answering me back and doesn’t seem to have any respect. When I told my son (who shares custody with his ex-wife), he said he didn’t want to make a big thing out of it after the divorce and the difficulties of lockdown. But I think my son and his ex-wife should teach my grandson that it’s wrong to be rude, especially to his elders.”
Oh dear, Sandra. We do sympathise. It’s almost more hurtful when a grandchild is rude to you than it was when your own children might have done the same because a) we don’t expect them to behave that way and b) because it’s hard to tell them off as we might our own children in case it causes a rift between you and his parents. I think you did the right thing to talk about it with your son. I can see his point of view. Your grandson has been through a double lot of trouble: his parents’ divorce and the virus. But at the same time, certain rules need to be stuck to. Perhaps you could try a different approach. When my children were rude, I used to read a book with them called Horrid Henry about a little boy who behaved badly. It made them laugh but also provided a platform to talk about the subject. You could also tell your grandson that it actually hurts you physically when he answers you back and that it gives you a pain in your heart (if it does). Maybe he doesn’t realise the impact of his behavior on you. Also try to distract him by starting a new hobby together. An active granny friend of mine goes roller-skating with her grandchildren. Another takes her grandson to the local swimming baths every Sunday. But there are lots of other things you could do together that aren’t so energetic. How about asking him to teach you how to do things that he knows about and you don’t? Perhaps it’s a computer skill or maybe the music he listens to. It can really boost someone’s confidence to pass on their knowledge to others. Rudeness is sometimes caused by a lack of confidence and self-esteem.
If you’ve got a problem, please email us at email@example.com.
Grandparent of the Week – Joan
Joan and her husband Tony live in Ontario, Canada. Tony is a distant relative of mine whom we traced during lockdown! It’s been a real joy to discover them and exchange emails.
“Tony and I are grandparents to three boys, ages Alexander (13), Nathanial (10) and Benjamin (7). The three-year difference in their ages is planned. None of us wanted 2 to 3 in university at the same time.
“It’s amazing how our roles as grandparents change. It was safety, diaper changes and food (which we made for all three boys when they were babies) and now we have morphed into the role of advisor, mentor, support system and chauffeur when they need it.
“Before the pandemic changed all of our lives, we spent time picking them up from the bus stop and had fun listening to all the adventures at school that had made their day. We loved hearing about what had happened at school, about their friends and ‘what the teacher said’.
“We arrived at their home one day and were met by one very excited grandson (Nate). ‘Nanna, Boppa, (their names for us),’ he said. ‘Daddy has the bathroom under destruction!’
“He was so correct – our son in-law was redoing the powder room of their house and it was ‘destruction’! Thankfully their dad is very talented and it is now all back together.
“Alexander, being the oldest, has had more time with us. We took him along with his Mom and Dad to California at age 7 months.. He was amazing. When we boarded the plane in San Francisco to come home, we noticed a professional looking women who boarded after us take one look at our Alex and pull the ‘Oh, there is a baby on board’ look. By the time we landed at our home airport she wanted to take him with her. Our Alex is still a charmer and the most advanced ‘techie’ we know. If we have some troubles with IT our Alex can dig us out!
“Our middle grandson, Nate is our resident expert on dinosaurs. I think he is a budding palaeontologist as he knows so much about them. We are now planning a trip with them to Alaska which will take place in July 2022 if the dreaded pandemic doesn’t interfere. On the way back to home base we hope to take him to the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta to see the world class Museum dedicated to reconstructing actual dinosaur skeletons. Nate also loves cars and wants a ‘Lambo”. His Great Grandfather would be so proud of him. A Lamborghini may not be a Ferrari but it is close.
“Our Benny is our bonus grandson and what a joy he is. He spreads joy wherever he goes. We feel so badly for him. He is going into Grade Two this fall enrolled in French Immersion but hasn’t ever been to ‘big school’. All of our grandsons haven’t been to physical school for 15 months and as many others, been online to learn. I am so proud of them as they have done extremely well adjusting to the ‘new normal’. Daddy has worked from home and Mommy has been the only one going to work as her students are not capable of learning on line. He developed a fascination for ‘Mocamos’ (motorcycles) so we arranged to have a friend come with a very big Harley Davidson motorcycle. He got to sit on it and our friend fired it up. The look on his face was absolutely priceless. Our boys are excellent swimmers and when we get a winter not affected by climate change they are wonderful skiers.
“We feel so blessed to have them all as part of our life. The sleepovers at Nana and Boppa’s are wonderful and as long as we have internet connections and lots of popcorn they are such a happy lot.
“We feel very fortunate to have them in our life. The bonus is that we all live within 15 minutes of each other.”
If you’d like to be a Grandparent of the Week, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.