“Look Gan Gan!” says my four-year-old grandson George when I go round to their place. “We’ve got tattoos!”
What? I am immediately transported back to the time when I was bringing up my youngest teenager alone. One evening he returned from an evening out with friends, sporting what I thought was a ballpoint ‘smiley face’ on his shoulder. It turned out to be a DIY tattoo.
To say I was upset, was an understatement.
That teenager is now a radio journalist and has several more tattoos. I’m not happy about the “decorations” as my 98-year-old father calls them but I’ve learned to see them as part of my youngest son’s “self-expression”.
Yet I wasn’t prepared for my grandchildren having one.
“It’s alright, Gan Gan,” six-year-old Rose assures me. “They peel off.”
So they are tattoo transfers. Phew! That’s alright then. It turns out that they were a Christmas present. In fact, they’re rather fun.
“You just cut them out, soak them in warm water and then press on your arm,” instructs Rose with a knowledge beyond her years. “Can you help me put on this dragon please?”
Except that somehow I managed to squash the transfer and it ends up on my hand instead.
I’ve also inadvertently taken the dragon’s head off so the resulting “tattoo” looks like a tornado or a splash of blood, depending on which angle you look at it.
“Mum!” squeals my daughter coming in. “Have you cut yourself?”
“No,” I say. “It’s fine.”
There isn’t much time to explain because they’re off to the pantomime.
Oh yes they are!
But oh no I’m not…
I’m feeling pretty choked about this one.
I bought us all tickets back in the autumn when we thought it would be alright. And yes, I know some people are going into close spaces. But I have to be careful because of my husband’s low immunity. So with great reluctance, I’ve decided not to go with my little family.
Even so, I feel a bit like Cinderella as they leave. Am I being overcautious? A lot of my grandparent friends are still going to the pantomime with their grandchildren even though some of them are vulnerable for various reasons.
I suppose we all have to make our own decisions. Yet I can’t help thinking about them all afternoon, wishing I was there but knowing that if I was, I would be worried every time someone coughed.
Then the phone rings…
They’re calling me from the car on the way back. “Thank you so much for the tickets,” they chorus. “We had a lovely time.”
A picture pings through on my mobile. It’s Rose and George standing by the stage with Snow White on the backdrop.
“Don’t worry Mum,” says my daughter kindly. “There’s always next year. Do you want to come out for a walk with us tomorrow instead?”
That would be lovely. I have to say that I rather like the week between Christmas and New Year. The shopping/card panic is over and around us, people are doing simple things like going for walks and swimming in the sea (yours truly amongst them!)
Then my phone pings again. It’s a video. George is practising on his bike in the park with my son-in-law running alongside. There’s a whoopee from my daughter. “YES!” she calls out. “You’re doing it without stabilisers!”
It reminds me of the day that Rose first did the same. It’s a rite of passage. And it seems particularly exciting that it’s happening at this time of year.
Meanwhile, Rose and George are having a wonderful time having one of their uncles around – my eldest son.
But it’s almost time for him to go back to his own life. They’re really going to miss all those fun and games. I can’t believe that school starts on Tuesday. My daughter is starting work and I’m going to be doing school run pick-ups. The proofs of my new novel are also due to arrive and I’ll be spending the next couple of weeks reading through them before they finally go to the printers.
By now it’s New Year’s Eve
“See you next year, Gan Gan!” trills my granddaughter.
“Where does the old one go?” asks George, puzzled.
Good question. It seems so strange, doesn’t it? Especially after the year we’ve had.
Then, on New Year’s Day just as my husband and I are about to settle down to an evening film, the phone goes. It’s my eldest son sorting out arrangements for his last day. As we chat, there is a loud scream. It’s my daughter. But with a mother’s intuition, I can tell it’s a good scream rather than a bad one.
Rose’s tooth has just come out! As we were speaking, my granddaughter had just come downstairs triumphantly clutching the baby tooth which has been wobbling away for weeks behind the new adult one.
What luck that I am on the phone when it happens! It’s almost like seeing it live.
“So they didn’t need the pliers then,” jokes my husband. “Or the string attached to the door handle. What’s the going rate for a tooth nowadays?”
It turns out that it’s £2. “It was the only coin we could find in the house,” says my daughter ruefully the next day. Surely that’s a sign of the times. Since the virus, lots of us have stopped carrying cash for hygiene reasons.
“Guess what? Gan Gan,” says my granddaughter breathily when I ring her. “The fairies left me money – and a thank you note for my tooth!”
So my daughter remembered!
When she and her brothers were little, I went to great pains to forge fairy handwriting and leave thank you notes too!
Fuelled by nostalgia, I race upstairs to my second drawer down in an old chest of drawers which my first husband and I had bought years ago. It’s where I keep special things from our children’s babyhood. I’m sure it’s here somewhere. Yes! Here it is. A little pink box with our daughter’s first baby tooth in it and her note – in her sweet little childish writing – to the tooth fairy.
Next to it is my forged “thank you” reply to the fairy.
So much in our lives has happened since then. If someone had told me back in the 80s about all the ups and downs ahead, I’m not sure I’d have coped. But we have.
In a way this has given me courage to face the future. Many of us have gone through – and are still going through – uncertain times. We wonder how we’re going to cope. But the truth is that when it does happen, we usually find the strength to swim though. Especially if we have help from others.
So if you’re facing an uncertain future, take heart. We are all in this together and we are here for each other. Let’s remember that.
It can be our new year resolution.
Ask Modern Gran
“I’ve been widowed for three years but have recently re-connected to someone I was at college with many years ago,” writes Anne from East Anglia. “He has been divorced for some time. We always got on well and it seems that’s still the case. We’ve met up a couple of times – observing social distancing – but now he’s talking about selling his house and moving closer to me. (He lives three hours away). I’d like to give it a go but I’m worried in case it doesn’t work out. I’m also worried about how my grandchildren are going to react and my son (their father). I’m not sure they’d be happy about having a grandfather/parent substitute. They live nearby.”
There are quite a lot of us who will identify with this. And we all might have different responses. Some will say that you’re entitled to your own life. Some might warn that you risk upsetting your family. Others might say that a change like this can also bring new joy and happiness to everyone. Then again, blended families aren’t always easy.
The truth is that there’s no knowing how it will turn out. But I can tell you one thing. Life doesn’t go on for ever. Nor does good health. If you don’t take a risk or two – about anything – you might have regrets.
How about considering a half-way option? Maybe you and your gentleman friend could agree on a trial run. Instead of selling his house, perhaps he could rent near you for six months or a year.
If it was me, I’d also have a frank discussion with my son and tell him how I feel. Explain that it would be nice to have some romance and friendship in your life. I hope he will understand. Older children don’t always. In fact, a dear aunt of mine used to say, “They are not yet wise” when there were hiccups among the “younger generation”. This is reassuring because it suggests there is still time for this to happen!
I’d also advise you to be honest, rather than hiding a relationship. You will probably all feel better for that.
Here’s to a wonderful future for you!
If you need help with a worry that’s niggling away, do email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us know if you want to be anonymous.
Grandparent Of The Week – Carol from Hertfordshire
Carol has a 20-year-old step-grandson and three granddaughters aged 13, 11 and 9.
“I used to see a lot of my 13-year-old granddaughter Evelyn until Covid. She still comes round to visit but not as often because I have poor health and we are being very careful. Recently Evelyn tested positive after seeing me but she is better now. I tested negative.
“I’m very close to Evelyn. She’s quite giggly! She loves singing and dancing and does little displays for me. Yesterday she came round to see me with one of her friends. They go to drama school together. They went up to Evelyn’s bedroom (she has her own one in my house) and put on false nails and eyelashes! My daughter came round too. It was lovely to have a house full of people. My step-grandson is at university. We text each other which is nice.
“For Christmas, I’m giving them all money. It’s hard for me to go shopping and it also means they can get what they want.
“The best thing about being a nanny? The cuddles!”
If you would like to tell us about your life as a grandparent, please email us at email@example.com.
“If I had known grandchildren were so much fun, I would have had them first!”
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.