Diary of A Modern Gran | Chilling With The Kids

Lady pushing pram Pic: Istockphoto

I ring my daughter to see if I can come over.

“You’re very welcome,” says my daughter. “We’re having a chill out afternoon in front of a film.”

It sounds like a good idea!

They’ve been haring around the summer. We are lucky enough to live by the beach so there’s plenty to do without going far.

But maybe it’s time for a break. After all, school starts next week and it will be full on then.

When I arrive, little Rose and George comes up on the sofa watching a cartoon version of Rapunzel. “Great,” I say. This is always one of my favourite stories. I sit down between them and we cuddle up. “Goodness,” I say within a few minutes. This isn’t the Rapunzel I remember from story books !

For a start, this cartoon Rapunzel appears to have been rescued by a very handsome man who is decidedly dodgy. In fact, it turns out that he’s been that there is a wanted notice on his head – he’s a thief.

But the children are entranced. And so am I.  It looks like Rapunzel is reforming this conman. What a great plot twist!

Much to my disappointment, it’s time for the children’s tea before the film has finished.

“But I want to know how it ends,” I said to my daughter, aware that I am beginning to sound like a petulant child.

“You’ll have to wait until tomorrow,” she says.

In fact, the next day, the weather is so beautiful that we spend it outside. Somehow – I’m not sure why – we start playing a game in the park that my father taught me when I was little. Rose and George take it in turns to stand on my feet and we dance together with me moving mine so they get carried along. They think it’s a hoot. My feet are killing me!

That’s one of the lovely things about being a grandparent. We learn from them. And they learn from us.

Birthday celebrations

Talking of my father, my husband drives me to see my dad who turned 98 last week. He and my stepmother live 5 hours away. I’m not a long-distance driver and usually I get the train. But it’s a complicated journey with lots of changes and to be honest I’m not that keen during the present situation even though I’ve had both jabs.

When I’m there, my daughter rings her grandfather so Rose and George can sing happy birthday. My father who doesn’t always show his emotions, is enchanted. “I do wish we could see them more often,” he says.

But again, the logistics are complicated. It’s a long way for two small children, involving an overnight stay. And my father and stepmother often say they are too tired to have visitors when it comes to the actual day.

Still, my dad is a dab hand at Safe Time as he calls FaceTime. I also ordered one of those online photograph books made up of pics of the children from my phone. They arrive the day after our visit. “How lovely,” says my dad. “Thank you.”

I really recommend them as a way of keeping in touch with distant relatives. Mine cost just under £10 and I thought it was good value for the pleasure it gave.

The following day there was great excitement…

My son-in-law’s parents who live in Wales have decorated the spare bedroom into a children’s room specially for Rose and George when they visit. It looks stunning from the photographs, with cartoon pictures on the walls and cosy beds. “I can’t wait to stay,” says Rose excitedly.

What a lovely thing to do!

Meanwhile, we’re getting into the back-to-school preparations. Or rather they are. “I can’t talk now,” says my daughter when I call. “I’m in the shoe shop trying to get Rose’s shoes. Come back George!”

The last sentence was aimed at my grandson who was apparently heading for the adult section.

The one thing I don’t miss about being a young parent, is the school shoe shopping trip. My children were particularly challenging when it came to choosing styles. I can remember going everywhere to find a pair that fitted when one finally did, my daughter didn’t like the design! So it seems perfectly reasonable to me that she now has a daughter who is the same! “Thanks, Mum,” she says when I remind her of this. It makes us both chuckle.

This term, little George (or big George as he insists on being referred to) is going from two days a week at pre-school to three days. He’s going to be four in a couple of weeks. Where has the time gone?  It’s sobering to think that nearly half his life has been during the virus.

I often wonder what it was like for children who were born during the war. My mother was nine when it started and she used to tell the story of how she saved her six-year-old brother from a doodlebug bomb by hiding with him under a bridge.

Being a grandparent gives me a real sense of history. We’re at the top of the tree now and I don’t feel old enough to be there. Do you feel the same?

On a brighter note, as I write this I’m babysitting. My daughter and son-in-law have gone out to a work-related dinner dance. It’s black tie and long dress – the whole works! George, Rose and I take pictures of them in the kitchen before they leave. It’s the first time they’ve been to a glitzy affair for ages and they deserve it.

That was three hours ago. Since then, I’ve bathed them (we all got soaking wet!) and read them countless stories. My grandson has gone to sleep and I’m pretty sure that Rose is too. Oops. Are those footsteps I hear coming down the stairs?

“Can’t I stay down with you for a bit?” she pleads.

Why not? It’s not as if school is tomorrow. We might as well make the last of the summer holidays.

Besides, it’s a perfect opportunity to watch the end of Rapunzel!

Grandparent of the Week – Jo, 71

Jo has three grandchildren. Scott (24) and his sister Kirsty (22) and their cousin, nine-year-old Chiara

Jo and grandchildren“My granddaughter Chiara lives in Glasgow. Her father (my son) has sadly passed away. I try to see her about four or five times a year but it was difficult during lockdown. Last time I visited, we went to Edinburgh Zoo. It was lovely. I come from Scotland although I now live in Devon.

“Scott and Kirsty live in Eastbourne now but they grew up in Portugal. Scott came over here to go to a local college when he was 14 and he lived with me for a few years. It was lovely – he’s such a respectful, helpful boy – and we built up a real bond. There’s something very special about that first grandchild although I love all three of them the same.

“I feel very lucky to have grandchildren of different ages. I can explore the magic of childhood with Chiara and with the older ones we can go out to dinner and talk about adult things. When Kirsty was a teenager, she often used to ask me questions about puberty and I’d give her advice about boyfriends.

“They’re always showing me how much they care by giving me big hugs and also buying me little gift. Kirsty recently gave me a very pretty glass ornament.

“All three of them call me Gran. It’s the best name in the world!”

Tell Us What You Think

Last week, we asked if you helped your grandchildren do their homework. Here are two opposing views from readers.

“No,” says Jean, a retired teacher from London. “They need to make their own mistakes. Also, everything has changed so much since my day that I might make a mistake. I find it hard to understand the new way of reading and writing.”

“Yes,” says Carole from Newcastle. “I oversee their homework when they come to me after school. I also love helping them with family history projects.”

Should Children Be Vaccinated?

I know we’ve talked about this before but the subject is back as headline news this week. Now it looks as though children from the age of 12 will be offered the jab even though some experts are divided.

Do let us know what you think by emailing moderngran@dctmedia.co.uk.

Problem Of The Week

“My 14-year-old grandson has become very introverted. He used to be a very sociable boy, always out with friends. But during lockdown when he couldn’t see them, he spent most of his time playing on his phone while his parents worked in the house. I did express my concerns but my daughter-in-law thought I was interfering.

“When lockdown ended, I’d hoped things would change. But they haven’t. I don’t live near them but I can hear from the flat sound of his voice that things aren’t right. He’s even told his dad that he doesn’t want to go back to school.”

Gail (not her real name) from East Anglia

Jane Corry, Modern Gran, says:

“I feel for you, Gail. As grandparents, we want to do something but we are also worried about ‘interfering’. It’s also hard when you live far away and can’t see for yourself what is going on.

“Your grandson is not alone. There have been several reports about teenagers feeling depressed and not wanting to go out. I wonder if you could have a quiet word with your son and suggest he talks to the doctor. He might then refer your grandson to a specialist who could help talk him through his feelings. There’s also a very good charity called Mind which you can contact on www.mind.org.uk.  They have some helpful tips online, too.

“It might be that when term actually starts and your grandson hears about what his friends are doing, he’ll change his mind. It’s important that school knows what’s going on too. Is there a friendly teacher who might have a supportive chat? Did he have a passion for something before lockdown which they could encourage? Even a kick around the local park might help.

“Finally, how about asking if you could come and stay for a few days? Your son and daughter-in-law might welcome the extra help if they are working. You could also reassure your daughter-in-law that you’re not interfering – just concerned. Tell her that she’s doing a great job. Sometimes, when well-meaning grandparents make suggestions, their children and partners think they’re being criticised. It’s a fine line to tread. Good luck.”

If you’d like to share a problem, email Jane at moderngran@dctmedia.co.uk.

The Things They Say!

This one comes from George from Lancashire.

“Last weekend, our nine-year-old grandson came over for a sleepover. When we said it was time for him to go to bed, he replied, ‘Mum said I could stay up all night!’

“Really?” I said. “Shall we ring her to check?”

“No,” he replied, looking shamefaced. “I actually feel quite tired so I’ll go up now.”

“Then he went to sleep without any trouble. We didn’t let on that we knew he’d been telling a whopper!”

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.

The Lies We Tell cover

Allison Hay

I joined the "My Weekly" team thirteen years ago and, more recently, "The People's Friend". I love the variety of topics we cover both online and in the magazines. I manage the digital content for the brands, sharing features and information on the website, social media and in our digital newsletters.