Diary of A Modern Gran | The Art of Reasoning

Lady chasing pram Illustration: Istockphoto

“We’re just about to have a late afternoon walk,” says my daughter when I arrive to play. Sometimes I wonder if I am keener on games than my grandchildren. At this time of the day – especially after school – they just want to crash out on the sofa to watch cartoons.

So a walk sounds a great idea. There’s just one problem.

“I want to take my balloon,” says George.

I should say here that this is not any old balloon. It’s rather special-looking with a pale blue background and white spots. He got it from a birthday party earlier in the week and it’s been coming with him ever since. (Rose received a sticker card of tattoos, more of which later.)

“You’ll lose it,” I say. Whoops! I must remember that they’re not my children. I shouldn’t interfere too much.

“Gan Gan’s right,” says my daughter. “It might fly away.”

I have ghastly visions of George running into the road after it. Why is it that my brain always turns to the worst scenarios possible? My other granny friends are the same. We think it’s because we’ve heard and seen too much over the years. I really must try to be more measured. Luckily my daughter is on the case.

“George,” she says in a much more reasonable voice than I might have used at that age. “You can take your balloon if you want but if it blows away or gets pierced, then you won’t get another. Do you understand?”

He nods, tears still glistening on his lovely long eyelashes.

Good luck to that, I can’t help thinking. There’s no way the balloon will last the course.

So off we set, George clutching Mummy’s arm with one hand and the balloon in the other. (I’m in his black books for my balloon comment.) Rose and I trip along behind.

We’re going to see a new community area which the local council has opened. It’s rather special with amphitheatre-style levels and grassy bits. Work started before the virus arrived and now it’s finished. It feels like another step forward.

“Race you, Gan Gan!” says Rose.

I like to think I’m reasonably fit thanks to swimming in the sea, tennis and dog walks, but my five-year-old granddaughter beats me easily.

Then it’s George’s turn. “Why don’t you give me the balloon?” I ask.

“No,” he says firmly. And off they go, racing along the track. George and the balloon are joint winners.

By the time we walk home, dusk is falling. The balloon is still in George’s hot little sweaty hand.

“Remember to hold it tight,” says my daughter.

“I will,” says George solemnly.

I have to hand it to my daughter. If this had been her or her brothers thirty odd years ago, I’d have had a standoff about the balloon. But my daughter has negotiated her way through what might have been a big drama. Instead, we’ve had an argument-free, pleasant evening walk.

I’ve often thought that today’s generation are much better at some aspects of parenting than we were. Funnily enough, the same topic cropped up when I interviewed our Grandparent Of The Week (see below).

I’d love to know how you “reason” with your grandchildren when they don’t want to do something. Do drop us an email at moderngran@dctmedia.co.uk.

Bonfire night

Meanwhile, Rose and George are getting very excited about Bonfire Night. I am actually quite keen to go. This is unusual for me as I’m not very keen on fireworks. But I want to see the children’s excited faces as they “ooh” and “ahh” at the sight of all those pinks and reds and other rainbow colours shooting across the sky.

In the end, I don’t go, partly because my husband has almost zero immunity at the moment due to hospital treatment. I know the display is taking place outside but it’s not worth taking the risk.

It’s the right decision but I do feel a touch of regret at missing out on that part of the children’s lives, even though it is just one evening. That’s the thing about families, isn’t it? There’s a lot of balancing when it comes to sharing time.

Take my 98-year-old father. He’s more than due for his booster jab. But my sister and I have spent hours (literally) trying to get through to his surgery (hundreds of miles away from both of us) to find out when it will happen. He and our stepmother are housebound so they require a home visit. But when someone in the bookings department finally picks up the phone after 54 minutes (our third attempt of the week), we’re told that there might be a wait of nine weeks because they are short staffed for domiciliary visits.

Our father has been so terrified by the news which he watches throughout the day, that he won’t allow us to visit until he’s had the jab. I can see his point but it’s extremely worrying. Nine weeks is a significant time to wait at that age.

“I’d so like to see Rose and George,” he says plaintively. “But I don’t want you to come before I’m jabbed in case we catch something from you.”

We’ve all been double jabbed too (my booster is next week) yet he understandably wants to play safe.

I promise that we will visit as soon as we’re all “done”. But frankly, it breaks my heart.

So instead, we arrange a Facetime call. This hasn’t proved very successful in the past because my father is rather deaf. But we give it a go.

“Look, great-grandad,” says Rose, holding up her arm that’s got a colourful sticker on it from the party. “I’ve got a tattoo!”

“You’ve got a what?” he booms.

“It’s not real,” I say quickly.

“What’s not real?”

“I’ve got a balloon,” says George, holding it up.

“Ahh,” says my father. “I used to like those, too.”

And for a few moments, there’s that flash of shared understanding which makes everything feel alright.

Ask Modern Gran

“My grandchildren are aged eight and ten,” writes Susan from Norwich. “During the virus, they were allowed to go to bed later than usual because my son and his partner were working from home and also had to help with home schooling. Routine seemed to go out of the window. But even though life has gone back to its usual pattern now, my grandchildren are allowed up until 9pm or even 10pm. Then my son complains that they won’t get up in the morning. I told him they should put them to bed earlier but his partner has taken offence and accused me of interfering. (This has also happened in the past when I’ve given advice on other matters.) Now she’s being very cool to me on the phone. I don’t live nearby so I can’t just pop round and reason with her. Now I don’t know what to do. I’m really worried my grandchildren aren’t getting enough sleep. They always sound exhausted when I speak to them.”

Jane Corry writes:

“I do feel for you, Susan. Children’s bedtimes do seem to be much later than they were when we brought up our children and the virus definitely changed routines for many of us. I also understand how difficult it is not to voice your views about issues like bedtime. But the truth is that not many parents like being told what to do even though you saw it as well-meaning advice.  You say you have done this before so maybe this was the last straw for your son’s partner. Perhaps she thinks you are criticising her as a mother. How about ringing your son’s partner and saying you’re sorry that you’ve offended her and you realise that your advice might have been seen as interfering? Tell her that you know how hard it must have been during the virus when they had to juggle work and home school. In other words, try to build bridges. You don’t mention if you’re seeing them this Christmas but this could be a good time to get together. Concentrate on having fun and resist the temptation to mention bedtime or any other subject which might be seen as troublesome. Don’t see this as giving in. View it as  building firmer ground from which you can all start again. Good luck.”

Grandmother of the Week – Elizabeth, 68

Elizabeth and Lexi

Elizabeth and Lexi

Elizabeth is a part-time adjudicator working for regulatory bodies. She has two grandchildren, Lexi, aged three, and Freddie, 18 months.

“My daughter, her husband and their two children live two hours away. I see them every couple of months. We do a lot of outdoor activities like pond swimming. My daughter Kat is a marathon kayaker and Lexi has her own little kayak! One of my favourite days was when Lexi was six months old and we went along to watch her mother in a race. I was changing the baby on the side and we all met on the finishing line! This winter, we are all going skiing together which I’m really looking forward to.

“Kat is a better mother than I was. Parents nowadays seem more thoughtful. I was more confrontational – well, not exactly, but I would say things like ‘…because I told you to.’  Now I try to copy my daughter’s techniques and I find they work. Kat will resolve an issue with the children by talking to them about it and understanding what the problem is and seeing if there is a compromise. At a certain point, she’ll become firm and doesn’t back down. I admire that.

“I was a working mother (I spent thirty years in the police force). I didn’t expect to be so besotted by my grandchildren – but I am. I love being with them. They are lots of fun. They call me Elizabeth and sometimes ‘Mother’ because that’s what they hear their own mother calling me!

“We’re very lucky in that there are four generations of us. My 92-year-old mother sees Lexi and Freddie quite often too. They give her a lot of joy.

Great-grandmother Mary with Freddie and Lexi

Great-grandmother Mary with Freddie and Lexi

Love reading?

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