‘Mum,’ says my daughter. ‘I’m really sorry to ask you this but could you possibly have George for an extra afternoon while I work?’
Now the whole point of being ‘granny on the doorstep’ is to be available. That’s what I suggested when I offered to help out with childcare. But it can be a bit tricky when you’re a working granny as well.
I’ve been lucky enough to work from home for the last forty-odd years. But I do have deadlines – just as I did when my own children were little.
Yet since Rose and George were born, my priorities have changed.
I don’t want to miss out on the funny things they do. I also want time to appreciate the hugs and cuddles.
So of course I will have George for that extra afternoon. It so happens that I have a quiet period at the moment until the next stage of my novel.
People sometimes ask me how long it takes to write a book. It’s usually a year from the first draft through various editing stages and proofreading until publication.
However, there’s always a crossover of a month or two when you’re working on the final stages of the book that’s about to be published this year and the early drafts of next year’s book.
This can be confusing. In my early days as a novelist I mistakenly used the wrong heroine’s name! Luckily, I spotted it before it went to my editor.
But back to George. When he arrives, my husband is doing his own homework on the kitchen table to the sound of one of his favourite bands. (I daren’t say which one as the music drives me nuts and I don’t want to offend them. You never know. One of their mothers might be reading this!’
‘George,’ says my husband. ‘Come and sit next to me. I’m going to teach you to pay bills.’
‘Birds have bills,’ chirps George.
‘Clever boy,’ says my husband. ‘But these are a different kind. My kind of bills used to be made of paper but now they appear on my phone.’
‘Can they fly like birds?’ asks George
‘They certainly make the money fly out of the bank account,’ snorts my husband. ‘Now watch carefully. One day you will have to pay bills so you need to know how to do it.’
‘Hah,’ I say. ‘When it’s time for him to pay bills, there’ll be another way of doing it.’
I can’t even imagine what kind of new technology will be around in our grandchildren’s future. Can you?
Meanwhile there’s a bleep on my phone. I thought I’d turned off my notifications. But one seems to have got through.
Oh. I need to reply to this email. It’s work and it’s urgent.
There’s only one thing for it.
‘George,’ I say. ‘Come up to my study and I’ll find you something far more interesting than bills.’
I sit him down on the carpet and give him some colouring pencils and a dinosaur cartoon which I’d printed from the computer.
Then I sit up at my desk and reply to the urgent emails. But I can’t resist checking the rest of my inbox in case there’s anything else that needs sorting.
‘Gan Gan,’ says a little voice. ‘Do you like my picture?’
‘Wow! I love it.’
‘I’m going to give it to Grandad,’ he says. ‘Then I will write him a bill.’
No flies on this one!
Trip to London
Later in the week, I go to London for three whole days. It’s the first time since the virus started and I can’t help feeling a little apprehensive. Even though I presumably got immunity from my bout of Covid, it still feels unreal.
I’m going for two reasons. I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to Nicholas Parsons’ memorial service by his lovely widow Annie. And I’m also taking my youngest son and his girlfriend out to lunch to celebrate his birthday.
The memorial service was so moving.
There were some lovely readings, tributes and funny stories from celebrities like Angela Rippon, Paul Merton, Gyles Brandreth and many others. Sheila Hancock read ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ and to everyone’s amazement, a black cat suddenly appeared and began walking down the side aisle!
I was particularly moved by Nicholas’s son Justin who read a letter he had previously written to his father, thanking him for all the wonderful things that Nicholas had done as a dad and what a wonderful grandfather he was.
It’s got me thinking. Some grandparents are famous because they’re celebrities. But in a child’s mind, a grandparent is special, whatever they do. Or at least they should be.
What were your grandparents like? Have they influenced the way that you ‘grandparent’ now? We’d love to know. Do email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Funny Things They Say
Thanks to Barbara who sent this one in.
‘I’ve been trying to lose weight. Recently I had my seven-year-old grandson round to stay the night. He couldn’t sleep and came downstairs – just in time to catch me eating a biscuit with my cocoa.
‘Nanny,’ he said. ‘If you do that again, I’ll put you on the naughty step!’
Ask Agony Gran
My mum has married again after being widowed some years ago. She’s in her 70s. Her husband doesn’t take much interest in my children who are her grandchildren. Until she married him she was always popping round and spending time with us. Now that doesn’t happen and I can’t help feeling resentful. He doesn’t have grandchildren of his own.
Oh dear. This can’t be easy. But nowadays, families come in all shapes and sizes. Maybe your mum feels torn too? She might well want some time with her new husband especially as neither of them are spring chickens. Yet she might also be yearning to be with her grandchildren.
I would suggest a heart-to-heart with her. Maybe say you understand she needs to be with her husband, but also explain, in a non-confrontational way, that the grandchildren miss her. Perhaps you could organise some family outings where the new husband could come along as well.
He might well feel awkward about coming into another family. You say he doesn’t have grandchildren on his own so perhaps he doesn’t realise how important that special bond is. Maybe you and your children could think of a name to call him which might make him feel included.
Take things one step at a time. New families aren’t built in a day. My advice is to avoid confrontation. Sometimes we have to bite our tongues to keep family peace.
Grandparent Of The Week
Jo (55) from Devon has two grandchildren, Billy (2) and Gracie (6). She is known as Nanny.
‘I’ve helped to look after them since they were a few months old so my daughter could go back to work. I now have Billy one day a week and then collect Gracie from school.
What do I love most about being a granny? I think it’s the children’s unfettered joy and their curiosity for the world. Billie absolutely loves seeing the squirrels in the local park and Gracie is fascinated by anything to do with nature. If I’m ever feeling a bit like ‘life’s boring’ or I’m not having a great day’, I just pop round for a little cuddle and that makes everything good.
Family is very important. On the Tuesdays when I have Billie, we spend time with my 83-year-old mum so he has his great grandma as well.
For me the only difficulty is timing. I have Billie and Gracie until just before 5pm and then I have to be at work at 5.15. ( I work as front of house at a local sports centre.) It’s a bit of a rush but it’s more than worth it to be with my grandchildren.
I usually babysit at their house but I did have Gracie over one night and we camped in the back garden. She loved it and so did I! We had snacks and read stories but she didn’t want to go to sleep!
My advice to new grandparents? Don’t give too much (advice) to parents. Also enjoy those moments with grandchildren because they bring so much joy. Make the most of it! Not everyone is lucky enough to have grandchildren.’
Jane’s new book – out June 23!
When Emily makes a mistake at work, she goes running home to Cornwall. But it seems that someone else has moved in during her absence. This absorbing book explores the complex relationship between father and daughter.
Jane Corry is a Sunday Times best-seller and writes thrillers about families. You can order Jane Corry’s new Penguin novel ‘WE ALL HAVE OUR SECRETS’ from booksellers and online. Or you can scan this code. You can pre-order here: http://linktr.ee/janecorry. If you would like a free bookmark, or to get in touch about anything else, please contact us at email@example.com.