I’m just about to come home from Spain after spending a week with my eldest son for some one-to-one catch up time, when my mobile goes.
“Guess what?” It’s my husband’s voice. “I’ve been asked to babysit – on my own! For a whole hour!”
Regular readers might recall that my husband doesn’t have children of his own. He’s a great pair of second hands when I’m looking after little Rose and George yet he’s never gone solo.
But this is important.
My daughter has an appointment and there is no one else to leave the children with as my son-in-law is at work.
I can’t help feeling slightly concerned. What if one of them falls over? Will he know what to do? Supposing they spring a temperature during the short time that my daughter is away? (We all know that things can happen in seconds.) What if one of them has a meltdown and wants Mummy? This has happened on more than one occasion when I’ve looked after them and it’s not always easy to handle.
Then common sense takes over. My husband has a mobile, I tell myself. He could ring someone if there was an emergency.
Even so, I have to admit that I’m on tenterhooks. So I ring as soon as I reckon his stint is over.
“How did it go?” I ask.
“Brilliant!” he declares.
I can almost see him beaming at the other end of the phone like a student who has come out of his exam, confident he’s got the right answers.
“We played airports with paper planes on a mat they have with flightpaths on it. Then we pretended that we re-enacted your journey back from Spain. After that, we talked about all the different countries in the world.”
“I’m impressed,” I say.
“And we didn’t turn on the television once,” he adds.
“Is that a criticism of me?”
“Of course not,” he says.
I should add that I only put the TV on when I’m desperate – and quite often I can’t even work the controls.
Mind you, my husband is prone to exaggeration so I thought I might get the full story from my daughter when she returns. “He was brilliant,” she says. “The children had a lovely time playing planes. They told me all about it.”
Of course I’m thrilled. But a tiny little part of me feels that my nose is slightly out of joint. Isn’t that awful? Still, it’s good to know that we have backup.
When I return, I’m rather relieved that the children run into my arms and give me proper hugs – not the type that children feel they ought to give out of duty.
“We missed you,” says Rose.
“We missed you,” echoes George, who copies everything that his older sister says.
“I missed you too,” I say.
So much so, that I’m actually really glad when I receive a text from my son-in-law asking if I’d mind doing the morning drop off at school the following day. He has an early meeting and my daughter is working.
“Love to!” I say, despite the fact that I have numerous emails to catch up on regarding my new novel which is coming out this June.
Before the virus, I did the return school run twice a week. But the pattern has changed. Now I usually do pick up. Drop-off is an entirely different matter as I was to discover.
I find myself setting the alarm for 6.30am – a retired friend of mine says there is no such time now in her world! – and start to cycle off to their house. Then I stop. Of course! I need the car to take them to school. So back I go to our place and then set off again for theirs.
My son-in-law has already left for his meeting and my daughter is getting herself ready for work while trying to sort out the children. “They’ve had breakfast,” she says.
But after she’s gone, I produce my bribes…
I don’t like to mention brands but you know those cereals cereals that come in miniature packets? I loved those as a child and Rose and George do too! In the interest of avoiding arguments, I’ve brought two of the same.
They fall on them and we munch them together while watching an educational cartoon. (I did suggest a book first but they weren’t keen and I didn’t want any arguments.)
There’s another half an hour to go before we set off but the time whizzes by and before I know it I’m gathering their various bags which my daughter has left out, including the PE kit. There’s enough stuff here to go on holiday again rather than a day at school!
On the way, we play our favourite game – how many red cars can you spot? How many blue? And so on. Oh my goodness, there aren’t any parking spaces left! Eventually I find a spot at the end of a country lane and back we go, each child clasped firmly in each of my hands. It will be a lot easier when they’re both at the same school this September!
Teachers are waiting, hand san is squirted out into waiting palms – that’s a new thing since I last did the drop off before the virus – and now it’s off to George’s nursery.
By the time I get home, I’m exhausted! How did I do it when they were young? I think we all feel like that at times, don’t we?
I start work upstairs in my study but I can’t help wondering if they’re both alright. It’s a little nippy today. Should Rose have worn tights instead of socks? What if she’s cold? And did I remember to take George’s packed lunch? Yes – I’m sure I did. I’ve got to stop flapping.
Instead, I’ve got to get ready myself. Oh dear. What shall I wear? This afternoon I’m going to Bristol for a meeting with my literary agent followed by a book launch held by a friend. I’m only just getting back into the social swing after the virus, because of my husband’s compromised immunity. In the end, I settle for black trousers with a fancy jacket bought in the sales about ten years ago which seems to work for most occasions. But I’m really not used to dressing up after spending the last two years in jeans!
I wear my mask on the train and am quite relieved to see that most people are doing the same. It was so lovely to catch up with my agent and talk about this year’s novel as well as next year’s. So much goes into the planning of a book as I’ve mentioned before in my columns.
I do hope you enjoy We All Have Our Secrets which comes out in June. Details of my book are at the end of this column.
Then onto the launch party which was great fun. I find myself talking to a rather well-known author who happens to mention his grandchildren.
“I’ve got two of my own!” I say.
“Really?” He raises his eyebrows. “You look too young.”
He ought to see my eye bags when I’m not wearing any make-up!
We spend a while chatting about how wonderful it is to be a grandparent. By the end of the conversation, I realise we haven’t even discussed our books!
Before Rose and George, I might have been rendered speechless or at the least extremely shy at meeting such a celebrity. But grandchildren can be a wonderful mutual meeting point. Can’t they?
By the way, if you’ve got any stories about secrets, do drop us a line at email@example.com.
The funny things they say…
Thanks to Roger for sending this one in.
“I looked after my grandchildren recently when my son and his wife were away overnight. They are ten and eight and quite lively. I didn’t let them out of my sight and even followed them round the house.
“Eventually, the ten-year-old turned round and said, ‘Please Grandad. Give us some space. I just need some peace and quiet.’
“That put me in my place! But it also made laugh because he sounded so adult!”
Ask Agony Gran
“I’m about to make my will which I should have done a long time ago. But I don’t know what to do. I have two children, each of whom has two children (my grandchildren). My daughter is married to a very wealthy man so money isn’t a problem. But my son earns very little and his wife is unable to work for health reasons. I’d like to leave most of my savings (which aren’t that big) to my son, hoping my daughter will understand. But I’m also worried that she will feel I didn’t love her as much. What do you think?” Anonymous
“Wow. This isn’t easy, is it? Money can cause terrible divisions in families. But it was your phrase ‘hoping my daughter will understand’ which really stood out for me. Have you talked to your daughter about this? Are you going to leave an explanatory note, attached to the will? Or are you just banking on her getting the message?
“If it was me, I’d talk to her before you make the will and ask her how she would feel about your intentions. I would also suggest that you leave her something special which has sentimental value to show you care. But I would do something else too. I would buy an equal amount of Premium Bonds for each grandchild, including the ones whose parents are well-off. Circumstances change, after all. They might need this help in a few years’ time. Still, as I say, this is only my view. Good luck!”
Grandparent of the Week – Patricia
Patricia and her husband have three grandchildren. They live in the south-west.
“I have three grandchildren, George (17), Ruby (11) and Harry (9) who live about an hour away. I probably see them more in the holidays when we help as much as possible looking after them whilst the parents work. In term time, it’s probably once a fortnight when they come for an afternoon or we go to visit them for lunch.
“Ruby and Harry love to come to my workshop and make things especially at Christmas, when they make presents for their parents. Last year it was aprons!!! I think it’s good for children to use their hands and be creative.
“We have a motor home called Trixiebella so in the long summer holidays they love a day out in it! A favourite place is Burford Wildlife Park. We also love camping in our favourite campsite just outside Bath, where there are lots of families and children who play together. In the evening, we light campfires and cook sausages. Great fun!
“They are growing up so quickly. George passed his driving test a week after his 17th birthday – a proud moment. He is very independent now, but very chatty when we see him and helpful in sorting our computer problems out. Role reversal comes sooner than you realise!!!
I can’t believe I used to read him Thomas the Tank Engine. He used to be wide-eyed listening to it. Now he prefers stories about racing car legends.
“I still read to the smaller ones – it’s something I love to do. I swap names in the stories which makes them laugh. Bedtime stories are the best. They are always eager to listen. It’s a wonderful thing to do when they’re tucked up in bed and sleepy. But it’s such a fantastic achievement when they start reading by themselves. Ruby is an avid reader and will read anything at all, Harry likes action books with pictures. Our local bookshop is very good at helping me choose the right interesting books for them.
“The best thing about being a grandparent is the total love and trust from them. When they accidentally call me Mummy, it makes my heart melt.
“I feel very privileged to be a Granny and be trusted with little people. It is, as all grannies say, totally different to being their parents.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.