Diary of A Modern Gran | Advent Calendars & Birthdays!

Lady chasing pram Illustration: Istockphoto

“Where’s the chocolate?” asks my husband when I come back clutching a bundle of advent calendars.

Honestly! He’s as bad as the children.

“When we were little, we used to enjoy opening the doors to see the pretty pictures,” I remind him. “We never even thought about chocolate.”

“Well I did,” he said. “I think modern advent calendars are a great idea. And the little ones will be very disappointed if they don’t have them.”

So I post the non-chocolate variety to my grown-up sons, 29-year-old niece and 32-year-old Godson. Then I go back to buy some chocolate ones for Rose and George.

Normally, Christmas fills me with a sense of panic. But perhaps because last year’s was on a different scale because of Covid, I find myself getting quite excited.

It’s also because my granddaughter is going to be 6 at the end of the week. “I get a double birthday ‘cos it’s nearly Christmas,” she announces with a lovely smiley face.

But then she gets a cough. In fact, to be fair she’s had it for quite a while – along with goodness knows how many others at school. She’s tested negative on numerous occasions but I wish it would go away.

My husband is having his fifth session at the end of the week and he can’t afford to catch anything that might delay it, so I’m spending most of my Gan Gan time at their house rather than them coming to us.

Then just as Rose’s cough gets better, George wakes up with the sniffles on Rose’s birthday…

He tests negative too (phew) but he can’t go to nursery and my daughter needs to be at Rose’s school for a lunchtime PTA event. “Would it be all right if you had George?” she asks.

Luckily, I have just finished the final tweaks for next year’s novel. So I cycle round as soon as possible, zigzagging my way through the Christmas shopping traffic.

George seems perfectly well so I decide to amuse him by making a pass the parcel for his sister’s birthday. Did I mention that it’s also the nativity play tonight and that when my daughter brings Rose home from school, we’re having a quick birthday tea before she and the parents go off to watch her performing as a door in the play while George and I are left alone?

I know. There’s a lot going on, isn’t there?

There’s barely time to do the pass the parcel before they rush off but we manage to do it with seconds to spare. Luckily I put two presents in the final wrapping so George’s nose didn’t feel out of joint. If there’s one thing which being a Granny has taught me, it’s being fair.

When they come back, Rose’s face is lit up with the excitement of having trodden the thespian boards. ‘You were brilliant,’ say my daughter and son-in-law. I can’t help feeling sad about being left out but the school – along with many others – was only allowing two tickets per family because of social distancing.

Besides, she’s having two birthdays (rather like the Queen) because on Saturday, there’s a triple birthday party in the village hall with two of her school friends.

Birthdays always make me feel so emotional! How can our Rose be six so fast? It doesn’t seem long since she was a little babe in arms!

Yet I am also feeling a bit nervous. What if I catch the virus at the party and bring it back to my husband?

“You go,” he says firmly. “Rose won’t be six again. Besides, we’ve both been triple jabbed.”

Yet I’m still not sure.

The following day, when I make my usual morning call to my 98-year-old father, I find he is in a bit of a dither. “I’ve been trying to pay my gas bill on the phone,” he tells me, “but I can’t seem to do it.”

Frankly I’m impressed that he’s as mentally astute as he is. “Give me the phone number,” I say. “I’ll try.”

I have to say that I was expecting to be on the phone for some time but hats off to the gas people. I did it in seven minutes flat. If only everything was as simple.

Then I link my father up on FaceTime with Rose and George. “Hello, great-grandad,” they chant.

He’s too tired to talk much but it’s lovely to see the twinkle in his eye. If only we could see him face to face but they live five hours away so our next visit will have to wait until the school holidays.

Then comes the day of the birthday party. “You must go,” says my husband. So I do.

This is the first time I’ve been in a room with lots of children since the virus started And yes, I did feel a bit panicky for a few minutes. But then something strange happened. It began to feel normal just as it had done before all this happened.

“Gan Gan,” says my granddaughter running up to me and giving me a hug. “You’re here!”

I have to hand it to my daughter and the two other mums organising the party. They – and their partners – all did a great job. There were three birthday cakes (I’m so proud that my daughter has inherited my mother’s cooking skills!) and some wonderful games and magic, courtesy of the brilliant magician.

For two hours, I forgot about all the worries of the world.

But just to be careful, I’m going to socially distance myself from my husband for the next few days and take regular flow tests.

This means a certain amount of calling to each other from different rooms.

“What did you say?” I ask.

“I said ‘Where did you put my advent calendar?’” he calls back.

Oh dear. I didn’t actually get him one.

“Just going to the shops,” I reply. “Back soon!”

Problem of the Week

“I know this might sound selfish but my grandchildren’s other granny doesn’t do as much as I do. I can’t help feeling this is unfair. We both live near our grandchildren but she only helps out when she ‘has time’. I’m there every day and am happy to drop everything when I’m needed. I’d like to say something to my son and daughter-in-law (it’s her mum) but my husband says it will cause a row. What do you think?” Anonymous, from London.

Jane Corry writes:

“My gut feeling tells me that your husband is right. It might well cause an argument which could make everything so much worse. Your son and daughter-in-law probably don’t need you to point out that you are doing more than the other granny. They will have noticed it themselves. On the other hand, if one of your social activities coincides with a grandparenting date, maybe you could ask your son and daughter-in-law if they could sound out the other granny to help on that particular occasion. On the plus side, you will be building a special bond with your grandchildren by spending so much time with them. But do make sure that you have some time to yourself, too. And that might mean not dropping everything when you’re called. Good luck.”

Grandparent of the Week – Rachel, 63

Rachel has five grandchildren ranging in age from 20 months to ten years old.

Rachel and her grandchildren“When I first found out I was going to be a grandmother, I was excited but also a little nervous because we’re talking about the next phase of our lives, aren’t we?  I also knew my daughter and her husband had been trying for a baby so I was really pleased for them.

“Four of my grandchildren live in Sussex and one lives in Devon. I like to help out but it’s not always very equal – it’s more like supply and demand! I live next door to my granddaughter in Devon so I do try to be ‘Griggles on call’ so Mummy and Daddy can go out in the evening and I also have her one day a fortnight which I love.

“I used to do the school runs much more than I do now because Covid has changed things. One of my daughters works from home as a result so she is there to pick up the children. Instead, I’ve started to do more babysitting at night instead.

“I also love taking them to places. I was going to take the four older ones to Legoland in the summer but I had to cancel because I tested positive for Covid. They all went instead but when they came back, they wrote me a little note saying they would take me when I was better! For my sixtieth, I took them all to Disney World in Florida.

“My grandchildren call me Griggles because I tend to groan a bit when I get up! They laugh at me in a kind, caring kind of way because they know I’m not very well co-ordinated.

“Being a granny is a great excuse for having an ice cream and going out for a pizza. I also love taking Martha, my youngest grandchild, to playgroup. I’ve made some good friends there. Having grandchildren is a great ice-breaker!”

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

Allison Hay

I joined the My Weekly team twelve years ago, and I love the variety of topics we cover both online and in the magazine. I manage the digital content for the brand, sharing features and information on the website, social media and in our digital newsletters. I also work for Your Best Ever Christmas - perfect as it's my favourite time of year!