Doors, cancelled dancing lessons, piano lessons – and Kindness Day…
On Tuesdays, I usually arrive at my daughter and son-in-law’s house to look after George while my daughter takes Rose to her after-school dancing session.
But this week there’s a change of plan. “Thanks so much for coming, Mum,” says my daughter. “But I think we’re going to skip dance this afternoon. Rose is too tired.”
It’s the right decision.
Sometimes there’s the temptation to sign children up for activities and then feel they need to go because we’ve paid for it – even if they’re exhausted.
I remember that dilemma well. So I think my daughter is being very sensible.
In fact, when I look back, I think I probably signed up my children for too much. Or maybe it was because I had three of them which meant three separate lots of activities plus to fit in around my work as a freelance journalist.
We also lived in the middle of nowhere which meant that every excursion racked up the miles – and time. It didn’t help when we were met with a flock of sheep in the middle of the lane which would add on an extra 20 minutes that I hadn’t factored in.
Even though we live in the middle of a town now, the experience has clearly left its mark on my daughter. “I don’t want us to always be rushing around like we used to as children,” she says.
Ouch! I often wonder about the knock on effect of parenting down the generations.
We do or don’t do things because of examples that our parents set. And now our children are repeating the pattern!
I’d love to know what Rose and George are going to be like if and when they are parents. Maybe they’ll revert to the way we did it in our day! But I guess that’s just how the cycle goes.
Meanwhile, talking of activities, there is great excitement. Roles have been cast at Rose’s school for the nativity play.
“Guess what she’s going to be?” says my granddaughter.
A star like her mummy had been? Mary? Half a sheep? (My eldest son had great fun being the front end when he was six.) Or maybe the narrator? (like my youngest who kept chipping in with comments from the audience while his siblings were performing!)
“No,” says my daughter with a twinkle in her eye. “A door.”
“A door?” I repeat. Then I remember one of my granny rules. Never ask too many questions unless they’re absolutely necessary.
“How lovely,” I say.
But inside my head, I’m wondering which door they’re referring to.
The stable door perhaps? What will my granddaughter’s role involve? And just as important, what will she wear? This was always a big problem for me as I’m hopeless at sewing. In fact, my linen cupboard still contains several mismatching pillowcases with scooped out half circle ends as evidence that they were used for costumes once upon a time.
“I’m going to be dressed in black,” announces Rose. “And I’m going to stretch my arms out at either side because I have to open and shut to let all the characters in.”
Wow. I’m warming to this idea. How imaginative! There’s only one problem. I won’t be there to witness this amazing spectacle.
“I’m afraid that tickets are limited to two each,” says my daughter. “This includes the parents.”
What? I can’t go?
I feel like Cinderella during her pension years.
“It’s because of the virus,” says my daughter. “They have to cut down on numbers.”
I can’t help feeling really disappointed. Of course, I totally take their point about social distancing. But I have another suggestion.
“I was thinking it was about time that Rose started piano lessons,” I say. “I’ll pay.”
“That’s really kind Mum,” says my daughter, “but I think she’s got enough activities going on.”
I’m rather disappointed about that one, too. As a child, I was desperate to learn the piano but we didn’t have room for one.
When we did move – and were finally able to get a piano – I was considered too old to start and my younger sister had lessons instead. So when my eldest child was born, I promptly bought an old piano. (We still have it.)
Each one of my children did piano exams when they were young and to encourage them, I began to learn myself in my late thirties.
Unfortunately, I failed Grade One. Yes – I know! But I took it again just to prove to the children that it’s character building to keep going. I even played a duet with my daughter once at one of her concerts! (Mine was the easy part.) Since then I’ve tried to learn on and off over the years but have had to give up each time because of family commitments.
In fact, the last time I had a lesson, was pre-virus when George was going through his “limpet-stage” and wouldn’t be prised away from me when I was looking after him. So I learned all my scales with him sitting on my knee.
It was the only way to play! Then the virus came. End of lessons.
Talking of activities, maybe I ought to have a look at my own schedule.
I’m the kind of person that thrives on rushing around.
But last night – after a day which involved several dog walks, a swim in the sea, a game of tennis, my booster jab and flu jab at the doctors and four hours at the computer on my new novel – I fell asleep in front of the television.
I’d got to that stage where the TV screen was looming in and out in the way it does where you’re nodding off.
“I’m sorry,” I said to my husband at about 9.30pm, “I’ve just got to go to bed.”
But just before I do I send a text. It’s to my old piano teacher. “I was just wondering,” I type. “Could I start those piano lessons again please?”
Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings…
“Do you know why we wear poppies?” I ask Rose after I come back from our local Remembrance Day service.
“Yes,” she nods solemnly. “It’s to remember people.”
“You’re right,” I say. “But it’s to remember, in particular, people who died in wars.”
She nods solemnly. “War isn’t nice.”
“No,” I say, thinking about the stories my father has told me about the Second World War. “But sometimes we have to fight to stand up against bullies.”
“That’s when the Queen tells her armies to fight,” she says.
Wow. This is pretty heavy stuff for a five-year-old. Then again, Rose has always felt she has a personal connection with Her Majesty ever since she wrote to her two years ago and received a reply from one of the ladies in waiting!
I try to change the subject slightly. “It’s important to be kind in life,” I say.
“Yes,” she says.
In fact, I don’t need to remind her of that. Rose is one of the kindest children I’ve ever met. So is George. That reminds me. Last Saturday was World Kindness Day. If you missed it, it’s never too late to do a random act of kindness. You can also read Everyday Kindness: A collection of uplifting tales to brighten your day, edited by LJ Ross and published by Dark Skies Publishing. Authors (including me, Sophie Hannah and CL Taylor ) have donated a free short story to raise money for Shelter. I do hope you feel like reading it. It’s available on hardback and on Kindle, through bookshops and Amazon.
Grandparent of the Week – Patsy, 74
Patsy has just turned 74. (When I interviewed her, we were delighted to find that we share the same birthday!) She has four grandchildren aged between four and nine, from two sons. Two live in the same village and the other two are a mile and a half away.
“The closer ones are at the local school and nursery so I pick them up on a Friday and see them once or twice a week. I’m currently collecting the others from school one day a week and bringing them home to feed them! Sometimes I have them at the weekends. I have a dog and they love walking with us.
“The school pick-up is fine because I can walk there with the dog and stand outside. We don’t have to wear masks now. The assistant is at the gate and reads out their names. The youngest comes running to me with arms outstretched. It’s a lovely feeling.
“Last week, I had two of them staying for two nights because both parents were working away. It was quite busy getting them ready for school and giving them breakfast. In the rush, I forgot a grandchild’s lunch and had to go back!
“I never expected my boys to live near me when they were grown up. I thought that when they went off to university, they’d live somewhere else afterwards. So it’s wonderful to have them close by with their families.
“We’re all quite sporty. My grandchildren have sailing lessons at the local sailing club; another has started rugby and another football and they all go for swimming lessons. I swim all the year round in the sea. The nine-year-old used to come with me but now does rugby.
“I love chatting to them. It’s rewarding – and challenging when they ask questions. Recently they wanted to know about how the tides work and also why clocks change and it gets darker in the evening. They’re not easy concepts to explain!
“My granddaughter is very artistic and is always making cards for us. Recently she did a drawing of the dog.
“This month we have lots of family birthdays. I had a lot of fun shopping for the four year’s present. In the end, I got a fork lift truck. He loves tractors and diggers! But the best present for me is having their company.”
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.