Diary of A Modern Gran | Parents’ Evening

Lady chasing pram Illustration: Istockphoto

“A preparation evening at George’s nursery?” questions my husband when I say I’m off to babysit. “What exactly does a four-year-old need to prepare for?”

“Big school,” I say.

I can hardly believe my grandson is going to be a full-timer next September! It doesn’t seem any time since he was born.

Meanwhile, George, Rose and I do a jigsaw puzzle and then watch TV while my daughter is out.

“No Gan Gan,” he says, sighing at my incompetence. “You press this button on the remote control. Not that one.”

If nothing else, he should get top marks for techie skills when he makes this next academic leap!

The following day I’m off again…

“Another school meeting?” says my husband raising his eyebrows

Maybe he thinks I’m having a secret assignment. In a way, I am. I love babysitting my grandchildren It’s great to spend time with Rose and George and it’s also rather nice to be in another house. They are the only people whose home I go into as we’re being very careful due to my husband’s low immunity.

“Yes,” I say. “Rose has got a parents’ evening.”

“It’s a bit young at five, isn’t it?”

I’m not sure.  To be honest, I can’t remember any of my three having one so early on in their school career. Unless I missed it.

Maybe, somewhere in the attic where I store all the children’s old paraphernalia, there’s a “Please fill in and return promptly” school slip which I’d failed to fill in!

Still, I think it’s a great idea. It’s good to have feedback on both sides.

My daughter and son-in-law are going together. It’s the first proper parents’ evening at my granddaughter’s Big School and it feels like a rite of passage.

“Tell you what,” I say. “Why don’t you go out for a meal afterwards?”

There’s cunning to my logic. After the children are asleep, I can watch that program of mine which my husband isn’t keen on. Did you read that article in the paper this week that says that couples who have two televisions often end up watching different programs in different rooms?

I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not.

But I do know that I’m really fed up with all the nasty murders that my husband is addicted to. My current favourite is more of a black comedy.

Anyway, it turns out that I don’t get a chance to watch it after all because the children and I get too bound up in our own version of Storytime. It goes like this. I listen to Rose read her school reading books. (There are two this evening. My “best” is about a granny who’s always getting things wrong.) And then Rose makes up a long story for George to go to sleep.

The two of them are still sharing a bedroom. I have to say I had my doubts about this but it seems to work.

At least it did until tonight. “May I come down with you when George is asleep,” whispers Rose.

It’s 8.30 by now. “I think it’s time for bed,” I say. “You’ve got school tomorrow.”

Just then the front door opens.

“Mummy and Daddy!” trills Rose.

She runs down the stairs.

“Your teacher is so pleased with you, Rose!” says my daughter. “We are so proud of you.”

Oh. That’s lovely! I feel as proud of her as if she was my own child.

My mind goes back to various parents’ evenings with my three over the years. There was one when, after one of the teachers had remarked on my 17-year-old youngest son’s absence, I asked if he could take three days off to go on tour with his garage band.

They reluctantly agreed but, not surprisingly, it didn’t go down well!

Later the band played at Reading Festival and the headmaster told my son that he wished he’d been a musician instead! That son is now a radio journalist.

“Maybe grandparents ought to have a parents’ evening,” suggest my husband. “You know, like a regular review of what they do right and what might be improved. A bit like work appraisals.”

Goodness! I don’t like the sound of that. I’d be hauled up by my daughter for all kinds of things such as eating tea in front of the television. (I’m only partly joking. She and my son-in-law are always saying how grateful they are. In fact, it’s me who’s grateful to them for letting me be part of the family.)

Sandwich generation

Later in the week, I have a five hour drive each way to see my 98-year-old father and his wife. I don’t really want to stay the night because of commitments at home. Besides, they can’t cope with anyone staying for more than two hours because they get too tired.

Regular readers might know I am part of the sandwich generation. Like many of you, I am helping to look after my grandchildren but also – along with my sister – trying to help our housebound father and stepmother at long distance. It’s really worrying.

Still, the good news is we’ve been told they will get their third vaccination at home next week. This is after several hours on the phone, trying to get hold of the right people at their surgery.

It seems that domiciliary visits have got waiting lists in their area of up to  nine weeks because of staff shortages.

I just hope they fulfil their promise. If you’ve had problems organising a domiciliary visit for vaccinations , please email us at moderngran@dctmedia.co.uk.

Finally, I end my week with supervising Friday evening tea (over-cooked chicken dinosaurs) and bath time with the little ones while my daughter and son-in-law are at work. “I love you, Gan Gan,” says my granddaughter, flinging her arms around me after I’ve got her into her unicorn pyjamas. George, not to be outdone, gives me a little kiss on my cheek.

My heart melts. What a lovely thing to say. Maybe I could put that on my own school report…

Ask Modern Gran

“My son wants me to come to their local pantomime in December, with him and my eight-year-old grandson,” writes Andrea from Norfolk. “But I’m worried about being inside with lots of children in case I catch the virus. On the other hand, I don’t want to let them down – and I also want to see my grandson’s excited little face! I’ve just had my third vaccination, by the way.”

Jane Corry writes:

“There are no easy answers to this one,” writes Jane Corry. “It’s possible to still catch the virus even if you’ve been vaccinated. And we know that children can spread the virus. Yet I also understand that you don’t want to miss out. If I were you, I’d explain all your worries to your son if you haven’t already. Then really it’s up to you. However, I’m a great believer in following your gut instinct in life. What does your heart tell you to do?

“It might help to consider some alternatives? Could you put on your own little show at home together with puppets, perhaps and music? We did this last year and it was great fun. All the adults and children in our bubble took part. There are lots of different way of celebrating Christmas together as a family. Good luck.”

Grandparent of the Week – Julie, 72

Julie is a retired HR manager. She then went onto to become a project manager with her husband Richard. They have seven grandchildren aged between 7 and 11.

Julie and her family

Julie and her family

“My husband and I went on a sabbatical to New Zealand just before the virus. We were intending to go to Australia to see two of our grandchildren but then our flights were cancelled because of the virus. We were lucky to get home. It was a real blow not to see our Australian grandchildren and we miss them terribly. However, it’s lovely that our other five live close by with their parents (two of my sons and my daughter).

“It was ironic really because my daughter, her French husband and their two children were living in France until just before lockdown. But then they came here. So the five of them are more or less on my doorstep and they have lots of fun cousin time.

“I’ve got all their birthdays written down! You need to when there are so many. My daughter has just started training for a new career in her forties – I am so proud of her. So we help out with childcare as much as we can. I’m happy to drop everything for them – you do, don’t you? We also have a dedicated children’s bedroom. There are only two beds in it so any extra grandchildren sleep on the floor! We’ve also got a ‘sleep-out’ which is a glorified name for a caravan in the garden.

“I often speak French with my daughter and son-in-law’s children. It’s great fun. My French grandchildren call me Bibi (I’ve no idea why!) and the others call me Granny!

“The best part about being a grandmother? In a way, it’s an extension of you. They all have lovely characters and yet they’re different. It’s such a joy!”

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