“George,” I say. “Please come here.”
We’re in a large retail store on the outskirts of town. My daughter needs to get some arty crafty stuff to promote the school Halloween PTA event (more of which later!).
My job is to keep an eye on my four-year-old grandson because, let’s face it, shopping with little ones is “enough to blow up my pacemaker” as one of my granny friends puts it.
But he won’t listen.
Instead he is scooting off down an aisle and I am scooting off after him.
Goodness me! The aisles are full of Christmas goodies. “Look at this!” I say to George, pointing to an all-singing, dancing snowman.
He stops for a minute to tweak its orange nose and then races on.
“George,” I plead. “You have to stay with me.”
He gives me a cheeky grin. “No.”
It’s no good. I shall have to tell tales…
“He won’t do what I say,” I tell my daughter.
“Just be firm,” she advises.
“George,” says my daughter. “Be kind to Gan Gan. She’s trying to help me.”
To be fair, my grandson hasn’t been feeling quite himself in the last few days. He’s had a bit of a cold (he tested negative) and maybe now he needs to stretch his legs. Well he’s certainly doing that all right in this store!
I manage to finally calm him down by buying him a little notebook with a novelty pen (plus an identical one for his sister). Bribery? Yes. I’m not ashamed to admit it.
All this takes me back to the days when I would tear my hair out as a young mum trying to take the children round the shops. In fact, I distinctly remember bursting into tears in Milton Keynes shopping centre (about thirty years ago) when my three were really running rings round me.
“Don’t worry,” said an older woman, stopping. “I felt like doing that when mine were small too. It gets easier.”
Actually I’m not sure that’s true (although her words comforted me at the time). Children just go through different stages and each one brings its joys and its challenges. Don’t you think?
Perhaps I’d better explain. The day after the shopping trip, I pop round to my daughter and son-in-law’s house to see if I can help with tea time. “Actually, Mum,” says my daughter, “it would be brilliant if you could come shopping with me.”
Oh no. Not again!
This time, she’s in search of 30 pumpkins for the Halloween PTA event which I referred to earlier.
“Surely you won’t find that many,” I say.
But my daughter has already scouted it out so off we go to a local supermarket where we heave 30 specimens into two trolleys. (So much for the physio session I had yesterday to help my writer’s arm! I can feel the aches starting all over again.)
I can’t help feeling proud of my daughter
Personally I never got involved in PTAs mainly because I had my hands full with looking after the children and writing. But – and this is confession time! – I do recall being persuaded to cook a side of salmon for a school barbecue. I didn’t want to do it because we were going on holiday the next day but the PTA chair twisted my arm. Unfortunately, I forgot to clean out the oven properly before going away. When we returned, there were maggots crawling all over the place inside the oven.
Yes I know. Terrible, isn’t it? I’ve always been scrupulous about cleaning cookers ever since.
If only I could say the same for my kitchen floor! It’s positively sparkly although not for the reasons you might imagine.
“Isn’t that glitter?” asks my husband, pointing to a silver patch under the table.
“Yes,” I say nonchalantly. “It’s when I was doing some craft play with the children. I can’t get it off.”
I rather like it actually. In fact, I might have started a trend here. I can just see a new “George and Rose glitter flooring” range springing up!
“And isn’t that sticky tape I can see hanging from the peninsula unit?” asks my husband.
So it is. That must have come from when the children and I were wrapping presents the other week. I’m always tearing off bits and sticking them on the backs of chairs or whatever’s close to hand – and then forgetting to use them.
You might think I’d had enough of shopping for one week but then my 98-year-old dad rings.
“Hello great grandad,” chirps Rose and George.
But he isn’t in the mood for chatting. It seems he needs a vacuum cleaner and so I order him one on the internet.
He rings the next day full of indignation. “The box is full of bits!”
Now my father used to be an engineer and he still has all his marbles. But he’s from an age where a vacuum cleaner comes as a whole. Meanwhile my stepmother has got herself into a right old state because she is convinced he’s going to electrocute himself even though it isn’t plugged in.
I try to reassure them both but it’s no good.
“What are you doing?” asks my husband.
“Buying a train ticket,” I say.
Looks like I need to make the five-hour trip to my dad’s to sort this one out. Maybe, one day, Rose and George will do the same for us. Just as long as they don’t take me shopping…
Dear Modern Gran
Do you have a family problem? Share it with Modern Gran by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“My daughter and son-in-law have been trying for a baby for years. After many disappointments, they decided to adopt and have been told that they are going to have a ten-year-old boy who has been in foster care for most of his life. I can’t help worrying about this. What if it doesn’t work out? From a selfish point of view, I am concerned about whether he will accept me as a grandmother and how I will feel about him. It’s all so different from my friends who have had blood grandchildren. Do you have any advice?”
Jane Corry, Modern Gran, says:
“It’s always hard to know exactly how you feel about anything until it happens. I’ve a feeling that you might be surprised by your own feelings once this young lad arrives. At the moment, your thoughts are just that. Thoughts. Not facts. But when you are face to face with a boy who is making a fresh start, I wouldn’t mind betting that these worries will fade because you’ll be busy trying to help him settle in along with the rest of the family.
“Perhaps you could focus on his interests. What does he like doing? Can you join in? Maybe you could sit down together and watch a football match or his favourite TV programme. How about asking him to ‘help you’ with your computer or iPad or phone, even if you can do it yourself. It always usually raises people’s self-esteem if they can help others.
“Can you get him involved with some of your interests? I have an artist friend who amuses her grandchildren by giving them paints every Sunday morning for a creative arty session. You could also help him make an album with old photographs of the family to explain who is who. Then you could add some pictures of you and him doing things together.
“Lots of grandparents have grandchildren who don’t share their own blood. All you need is love and wanting the best for a child who has had a raw deal in life so far. This may not come immediately. You might need to work at it. But it’s achievable. Good luck.”
Grandparent of The Week – Breega
“Becoming a granny for the first time, ten years ago, was such a special moment as we were at the hospital in Texas when Jasper was born.
“Two years later our second grandson, William was born in London followed by his brother Isaac in Plymouth. We were at the hospitals then, too. What special blessings they all are.
“I love the fact that they are all different. Nine-year-old William is the quieter of the two and Isaac is more mischievous! They are both very sporty and well-mannered like their cousin Jasper, in Dallas.
“My husband and I live in Spain so unfortunately we don’t see them very often, especially during this Covid time. But thank God for FaceTime where we speak to them regularly. I actually caught the virus and still have long-term Covid. In fact, my family were on the phone last night, checking up on me. Hopefully we will be going to the UK next month and Dallas next year.”
If you would like to get in touch about being a grandparent, please email email@example.com.
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.