Diary of A Modern Gran | Grandparenting Friendships

Lady pushing pram Illustration: Shutterstock

I was swimming in the sea one morning this week when a familiar voice called out across the water. “Jane?”

It’s difficult to recognise people when swimming as most of us are wearing orange caps (for safety).

But when she came closer, I realised that the last time I had seen this person was at baby group, before the virus. In fact, she was a good friend but again, because of lockdown, we’d lost touch.

We had a lovely time swimming along, side by side, and catching up with news. My friend had had two more grandchildren since I’d seen her so now she is on call for four altogether!

Eventually, we went our own ways, promising to keep in touch. But it got me thinking. I’ve made some wonderful friends through being a grandparent. In the early days, it was so reassuring to find others of my age who were also trying to remember how to bring up children after a long gap!

In fact, some of my new friends, thanks to my grandchildren, are the same age as my own children. They’re the young ones who showed me the ropes at playgroup when I couldn’t work out how to put up the pushchair.  Sometimes they ask me for advice on other matters – which is a real compliment! Mind you, I can’t pretend to have got everything right in life but somehow, just telling them that makes them feel better. It shows that we don’t have to be perfect.

Isn’t it wonderful how each generation can help each other? You don’t have to be close by for this to happen either. I’ve got a friend who writes every week (no emails for her!) to her grandchildren. She talks about her week and she also sends little puzzles like crosswords. The youngest is only four but as my friend says, she hopes her granddaughter will keep those letters for when they’re older. What a lovely thing to do!

A Difficult Decision…

My heart went out to my daughter and son-in-law this week. They were due to go away this weekend to a best friend’s wedding. I was all ready to move into their place for two days but when I arrived with my suitcase (isn’t it amazing how much you need for a short space of time even when you live round the corner?), I found my daughter had taken George to the doctor to get him checked because he’d sprung a temperature and was definitely off-colour.

The doctor couldn’t find anything specific but my daughter decided she ought to stay at home. Personally, I think they made the right choice. But my heart went out to both my daughter and son-in-law. They’d been looking forward to the wedding for ages.

It took me back to the time when my daughter was two. My first husband and I had been invited by a celebrity to join her in a VIP box to see Nana Mouskouri. I was SO excited.! One of my neighbours was babysitting (she and I took it in turns to look after each other’s children every now and then).

But then, four hours before we were due to go, my daughter developed a terrible rasping cough. We have asthma in the family and I simply didn’t feel I could leave her. I felt very embarrassed cancelling at such short notice. Yet at the end of the day, family is more important than anything or anyone. Don’t you think?

The Things They Say

“All these political arguments over who should lead the Tory party, reminds me of one of THE most embarrassing things I ever said as a child. I was about ten and was sitting in the back of a school friend’s car. There was a general election coming up and talk turned to that. I should say here that I’m no expert on politics (despite having trained as a journalist) but I found myself trying to join in the discussion. I was a very shy child and easily got tongue-tied when speaking to adults. Maybe that explains why I managed to get the second letter wrong of the word ‘election’. That’s right. By mistake I put an ‘’r’ in instead…

“Let’s just say that a deathly silence ensued. I didn’t even know what the word meant but I sensed it wasn’t the right thing to say. When I got home, I told my mother who roared with laughter. When she explained, I was mortified. I don’t think I’ve got over the embarrassment…”

Ask Agony Gran – My New Granny Neighbour Wants To Be Best Friends!

“I’ve started going to a baby group with my new grandson and discovered that one of my neighbours is there with her grandson. She’s latched on to me and keeps asking me to go round to her place so our grandchildren can have a playdate. So far, I’ve managed to say I’m busy. The truth is that we don’t have anything in common. She’s a real moaner and always sees the negative side of life. At the same time, I don’t want to offend her? What should I do? P.S. Our grandchildren get on very well.” A from Bedfordshire

Jane says…

“The amazing thing about life is that it throws us all together, doesn’t it? I sometimes think it’s a bit of a test to see if we can get on, even if we don’t seem like great matches! Maybe your neighbour is reaching out to you here for help. Perhaps she’s nervous about looking after her grandson alone, or even lonely. We all feel like that at times when we’re caring for little ones. You could be doing her a good turn even if her negativity is unsettling. Maybe you could suggest an outing every now and then to a playpark rather than to each other’s homes? If possible, go separately. This will make it easier to leave when you want to. It will also provide a more varied environment. Perhaps she won’t moan so much when you’re both busy supervising your grandchildren on swings etc! Give it a go! You might be surprised. If nothing else, you’ll be doing a good turn – just as one day, someone will do to you. Good luck!”

Grandparents of the Week – Mary and Roger, Devon

Mary (70) and Roger (72) have 4 grandchildren. One lives in Australia and the other three live close by.

Mary, Roger and grandkids

“Our daughter Janey has three children, Tabitha 6, and twins Harry and Monty, 13. Roger does quite a lot of school runs with Tabitha and we also have the boys round for dinner once a week. It gives them ‘adult’ time. We’re pretty much on call for all of them. I’ve loved watching them develop over the years. The boys ask us questions like ‘What did you want to be when you were young?’ and ‘What would be a good job for us?’

“Tabitha is just priceless! If she wants to do something, that’s great. If she doesn’t, she won’t! She loves playing with buttons from my button box and we make bracelets out of beads. She also enjoys playing with her teddies.

“It was very hard not seeing our grandson Edward (7) for three years because of the virus. He and our son and daughter-in-law live in Melbourne which had a very long lockdown. We Facetime once a week. Yesterday he told us all about a school trip. We managed to get out there over Christmas but we had a lot of catching up to do. By the end, we had managed to rebuild our relationship with him.

“I can still remember my own grandparents very clearly. My mother’s mother lived in Yorkshire. She was very dour and stern but I loved her. My paternal grandmother and grandfather came to live with us when they got old. I remember my grandfather giving us 3p every time he got his pension.”

Roger says:

“I love seeing the children growing up. When I collect Tabitha from school, she drags me by the hand to the school guinea pig hutch. She also chatters all the time in the car and we play little games. She doesn’t like the red light at the traffic lights so we made up a little song about it going green! We also have a joke about whether I’ve got a snack for her. I’ll pretend I haven’t brought it but she knows I’m teasing!”

Jane’s new book – out now!

Jane Corry is a novelist and journalist. Her Penguin seaside mystery is called WE ALL HAVE OUR SECRETS. Available in supermarkets, bookshops and online.

Do you have a secret? Emily and Francoise do! So does Harold, Emily’s elderly father. All three live by the sea in a rambling house that is hiding all kinds of memories. Buy the book from supermarkets, bookshops and online at https://linktr.ee/janecorry.

Jane is giving away free bookmarks to celebrate. If you would like a bookmark, please email moderngran@dctmedia.co.uk

Janes new book and QR code to order


If you’d like to be our grandparent of the week, or let us know about the funny things you grandchildren say, please email us at moderngran@dctmedia.co.uk.