I’ve just picked up the children from school and we’re in the car.
“I need the toilet,” says George in the back.
“Loo,” I say automatically.
“No,” he insists. “It’s toilet.”
Rose pipes up. “Why do you call it a loo?”
“Because it’s what we’ve always done,” I say.
“But why?” insists Rose.
“I don’t know,” I admit. “We just do.”
In fact, this is just one example of many words which I use and they don’t. Of course it works the other way round as well. Take “I beg your pardon”. This is a phrase which I still use if someone says something I don’t understand.
It sounds quaintly old-fashioned, doesn’t it? But it’s what my mother taught me as a child and it’s stuck.
Nowadays, “pardon” is more common. But I have noticed that children often say “What?” instead.
It doesn’t mean one is right and one is wrong. It’s just the way we were brought up to say things. When I was a child, my grandmother used to refer to a loo as a “convenience”.
But I don’t want to correct my grandchildren because, after all, I’m not their parent. Each generation has their own way of doing it. Besides, now they’re school, they’re learning all kids of words to describe things.
Talking about conveniences, I have to say that we could do with that right now!
We just get home in time for George to get there. “Have you washed your hands?’” I say.
“Yes,” he retorts in a voice that suggests I should know better. And I should! This generation is going to be the squeakiest clean of all thanks to the emphasis on hand hygiene.
Ice cream time…
Then we head down for the beach to buy an ice cream. “When I was a little girl,” I say, “I used to love 99s.”
“What’s that?” asks Rose as they skip along on either side of me, clutching my hand.
There’s another phrase which they don’t seem to have so much nowadays!
“It’s a chocolate flake which goes in the middle of the ice cream.”
“Can I have one please?”
Why not? But it turns out that the kiosk doesn’t have one so they have a double-cone instead as a special treat because it’s Friday. We eat it sitting on the rocks overlooking the sea.
Oh dear, their faces are covered with chocolate. I get out a packet of tissues. “You know, in my day, I said, my mother – your great grandmother – would have used a handkerchief. But we called it a hanky.”
Rose gives me a pitiful look. “Mummy has wipes. They’re really good.”
She has a point. A dry tissue doesn’t do the job right now.
So we walk back home, with chocolate faces (me too as I later discover) and pass a shop selling buckets and spades and all kinds of enticing toys.
“Please can I have that?” asks George pointing to something which I am struggling to put a word to. It’s big and green and could be some kind of animal.
“Sorry,” I say. “You had a treat yesterday with your comics.”
This isn’t like me. I usually cave in immediately. But my daughter tells me, quite rightly, that I mustn’t spoil them.
“Pleeese, Gan Gan,” says Rose.
“I have to watch my pennies,” I say, quite truthfully.
“Why do they need watching?”
“Because they can run away.”
Rose laughs. “Pennies can’t run. They roll.”
Then George chips in. “But Gan Gan. You can put it on your card instead!”
Sometimes it’s easier to let them have the last word…
The funny things they say
Thanks to Jeff for sending this into us.
“I’ve always tried to encourage my grandchildren to read but they are hooked to the TV. Then my seven-year-old granddaughter said to me, ‘You see, grandad, they had to make the film first in order to write the book.’
“I tried explaining that it was often the other way round but she wouldn’t have any of it!”
Ask Agony Gran
“Your problem page last week inspired me to ask you something else about money. I’m on a low income and can’t afford to give my grandchildren (who are 8 and 10) presents except at Christmas and birthday. But their other grandparents are always showering them with expensive gifts. It makes me look as if I’m mean or – worse – that I don’t care, especially when my grandchildren ask me for something if we’re out shopping. Do you have any advice?” Jean (name has been changed) from London
Dear Jean, Yes! I do have some advice. Mind you, as regular readers might have spotted, I always preface this by saying what I would do in your situation. This certainly doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right thing to do. We’re all different. But here goes.
In our day, we only got presents when it was birthday or Christmas. It was a special treat and was all the more exciting for it. On the other hand, it’s hard to explain that to a child who is used to getting a steady flow through the year. The best gift you can give your grandchildren is your love and – if possible – your presence. All sorts of things in life are free such as a walk, spotting wild flowers, card games, reading….The list is endless.
I’d have a little chat to both the parents and the children. Explain that you hope they understand that you can’t be as generous with presents apart from special days but that pennies are short. By addressing them all at the same time, the parents will hopefully reinforce the message to their children. Meanwhile, keep adding cost-free things to that things-to-do-with-the-grandchildren list! ‘
Grandparent of the Week – Tracey
Tracey looks after her two-year-old granddaughter Rudie Bluebell for two days a week while her daughter Leah works as a tattoo artist. Tracey used to be a teacher and then worked in a home as an activities co-coordinator for those with dementia before retiring.
“When my daughter was pregnant, she and her partner decided their child would be called Rudie, whatever the sex. Then they began calling her their little Bluebell before she was born so that’s what she became!
“They live about half an hour from me. As well as looking after my granddaughter for two days a week, I try to be on hand to help out at other times as well. You can’t take your eyes off them at this age, can you? She’s very forward with her talking so we have lots of proper conversations. We play ‘matching’ card games and do a lot of role play using her little kitchen and her café. She loves playing ‘nurse’ with me as her patient! Rudie Bluebell also enjoys camping at family music festivals with me and her mum and friends!
“Once a week, we go to a toddler stroller group and have outings with picnics. It’s lots of fun. I have to say that I’m glad I’m retired now because it means I can give her lots of time. She’s quite bossy and mimics me by saying things like ‘Here we go!’
“Rudie Bluebell calls me Nanu Nanu. It was suggested by a family friend who said, before she was born, that I couldn’t possibly be ‘just’ granny or nanny!
“However, I am constantly aware of the huge responsibility. I recently bumped into someone I hadn’t seen for a long time – she’d just become a granny too – and we both said that we worry much more about looking after our grandchildren than we did when we were bringing up our own children.
“Sometimes I have to stand my ground because my granddaughter is very stubborn. If she won’t get dressed or help me tidy up, I’ll say ‘Mummy does things for you and I do things for you. So you have to do things do. We all do things for each other.’ If it doesn’t work, I’ll distract her and then try again!
“The best thing about being a grandmother is the absolute love you feel for them. It doesn’t matter what goes on in your life or however stressful it is. The love for a grandchild takes that all away.”
Lovely to hear from you!
Thanks to Lorna who sent us this email recently.
“I grew up in Glasgow in the 60’s and my mum went back to work when I was two. My dad worked shifts as a train driver so every day my mum took me to my gran’s and I spent the day with her until my mum picked me up. I loved every minute of the time I spent with my granny and when she and my grandpa retired to Fife when I was six, I used to stay with them for the whole summer (no activity camps or childminders in those days!). Sadly I lost my Gran when I was 13.
“I always wanted that relationship with my grandchildren and I am lucky enough to have Skye, who is four and who lives in the next town to us several times a week. I am her Gan Gan and we have a wonderful relationship – there is nothing like a big cuddle from her. I also have four other grandchildren who call me Granny and who I love dearly, but Skye is the nearest.”
If you’d like to tell us about about your life as a grandparent or what your own grandparents were like, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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. Also look out for it in supermarkets from June 23 onwards.
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