Diary of A Modern Gran | Life Goes On

Lady chasing pram Illustration: Istockphoto

“We don’t have to go,” says my daughter thoughtfully.

But of course they must! My son-in-law and daughter have been invited by one of his brothers to see a big Welsh rugby game in Cardiff.

The date has been in the diary for ages.

I’m looking after little Rose and George during the day on Saturday and staying overnight at their place.

It’s only a week since my father has passed away and obviously I’m still in grief. All kinds of thoughts are running around my head. Memories keep coming back too of happier times.

But right now I’m so glad to be needed. It gives me a sense of purpose.

Little Rose and George are extremely excited! “We love it when you babysit,” says Rose. “We can do whatever we like.”

Actually, this isn’t true. Well not really.

We start the day with tennis…

We all love playing in our family. To my delight, little six-year-old Rose and five-year-old George seem to have a natural aptitude.

The class starts at 9am on Saturday morning which is a bit of a rush to be honest. It takes so long to get them dressed and breakfasted and out of the door! (Where did you put your gloves?)

But it’s worth it to see their happy faces as they knock the balls over the net and run round the court with their friends.

“I’ve got a ‘well done’ sticker,” says George proudly at the end.

It’s clear from Rose’s face that she’s a little disappointed. Her brother sees that. “You can have it if you like,” says her brother. How very kind.

Then we walk back to our place through the town.

“Can we get some toys?” asks Rose

“How about some more art materials,” I suggest. At least I know they’ll be put to good use rather than buying another soft toy that gets lost at home. Besides, my daughter is constantly tidying up. Space is at a premium and she’s banned me from buying any more ‘rubbish’.

“What’s that?” asks Rose, pointing to an easel. I explain it’s a frame to put a canvas on.

“Can we have one?” she pleads.

“Another day,” I say. We’ve already bought some new watercolours.

Our arts and crafts session on the kitchen table takes us through to the afternoon – very handy as it’s tipping down with rain.

The funny thing is that I was worried about how I’d be able to entertain them for a whole day with weather like this. But actually, thanks for the painting, it goes past quite quickly.

So fast in fact that George is really tired by the time we get to 6pm. He zonks right out. Great!

Rose is not so easy to get to bed. In fact, she keeps coming downstairs and I have to bribe her to go back. “If I do,” she says, “can I have a weasel?”

It turns out she means an easel!

“Yes,” I say. It’s 9 o’clock and I’ll agree to almost anything.

Then George wakes. He feels really hot. I take his temperature. Now I don’t know if you’re familiar with these modern monitors. I’m still learning my way round it. It seems that an orange light means something is up. But it’s flashing red which indicates a very high reading.

So I give him Calpol and ring my daughter. “Would you like us to drive home?” she asks.

“No,” I say conscious of the two and a half hour drive in the dark. “I’ll manage.”

George’s temperature fluctuates all through the night. By midnight I’m really worried. I sleep next to him taking his temperature every hour.

My daughter receives my nocturnal messages when she wakes up at 7am the next day. “We’re on our way back,” she says.

Meanwhile, Rose has a party to go to. I dress her up in the outfit that’s been put out. Oh my goodness. She looks as though she’s almost 10 instead of nearly 7!

A lump forms in my throat.

My daughter has left everything ready including the party present. I’m extremely impressed to see that it’s wrapped up in sturdy brown paper with lots of pretty handmade patterns on it. I think I might try that for Christmas presents. I hope you are better at wrapping up presents than I am! The paper always seems to tear when I do it and my corners look really botched…

My husband kindly comes over to look after George for the short time it will take me to get Rose to her party and back. I don’t want to take him out in the cold air.

Soon after that, my daughter and son-in-law return. Thank goodness! I never liked it when one of my three was poorly when they were little. But it feels more of a responsibility when it’s not your own child.

It turns out that quite a few children in his class have had similar symptoms over the weekend.

“Maybe it’s because they were isolated during lockdown and weren’t able to build up their immunity,” says my husband. He may well have a point.

Poor little George continues to be full of cold and snuffles for a couple more days. Both my daughter and her husband are working so I step in. I find myself juggling my own writing and funeral calls with playing snakes and ladders or practising the art of letter formation in his ‘Learning to write’ book. All he really wants to do is watch the iPad. I feel this is a bit of a cop out but at the same time, he hasn’t been well.

Am I being a bad Gran? I hope not.

Then I get a call from a distant cousin whom I’ve tracked down on the Internet so I could tell him about Daddy. His mother had been my father’s first cousin and they were great friends as they were both only children.

Talking to Colin about it brings back all the sadness and grief. But I can’t show it in front of my grandson. I have to wait until I get home.

“I hope you’re alright,” emails the widow of one of my father’s friends. “This is a strange time between the death and the funeral.”

I’m grateful for her words. It is indeed a strange time.

Meanwhile, a certain big day is approaching. Rose is going to be seven! She’s having a little party the day before – just a group of little girls in her class. My daughter is going to be doing a tea party with nail painting and cooking and other things.

What a good idea!

At the weekend, they’re going to London on a train to see two of their other grandparents. How exciting! They are also going to see the London lights.

Thank goodness I have my grandchildren. Life continues. Lessons are learnt. It’s a reminder once more that families are so important in life, even if they bring their challenges.

Achoooo! Oh no. I’ve started sneezing. I hope I’m not going down with George’s lurgy. I simply don’t have time for being poorly myself…

Ask Agony Gran

“I have eight grandchildren from three different sets of couples in our family. They are aged between two and twenty. In the past, I have sent each of them a Christmas present to the value of about £20. This year, I simply can’t afford it. However, I don’t want them to think I don’t care. Do you have any advice?” Name withheld

Jane says:

I think there will be a lot of grandparents feeling the same way. The rise in bills is making most of us cut down. Yet I also understand your worries. If it was me, I’d have a quiet word with each set of parents involved and also your teenage grandchildren who are old enough to understand.

Explain that you have to cut down but that you still want to give them something. Allow yourself a budget for each child and ask the parents or children if there’s anything they’d like for that or whether they’d prefer the money instead. Premium bonds are also a good option. Being truthful about your finances will be a good lesson for your teenage grandchildren too.

Presents don’t have to be material things or money. They can also be time with you. How about having a special ‘treat’ day with each child as their Christmas present. This might be a cookery or art session. It might be a trip to a museum or somewhere else they want to go which doesn’t take you over your budget. If you’re handy with the computer, Google “‘free places to go to’ in your area” or get one of the grandchildren to Google for you.

Experiences like this can be the best present of all. The most important thing is to enjoy each other’s company. Have a lovely time!

If you would like to ask for advice about a problem, please email us at moderngran@dctmedia.co.uk.

The funny things they say…

Thanks to Rose for emailing this in.

“The other day, I was talking to my 5-year-old grandson about his cousin’s upcoming birthday.”

“How old is she going to be, Gaga?” he asked me.

“She’s going to be nine,” I said.

“So how old is she now then?”

“She’s 8.”

“OK. So how old are you Gaga?”

“I’m 21.”

He looked at me wide-eyed and said, “Oh Gaga, you’re sooo old!!!”

“Haha. If only he knew how old Gaga really is. Bless him. This made us laugh!”

If you’d like to tell us about anything funny that your grandchildren have said or done, please email us at moderngran@dctmedia.co.uk

Family news flash

It’s not just adults who are having problems sleeping. So do children. According to a recent study, more than 60,000 under-18s had been prescribed the hormone melatonin in March 2022 compared with 20,881 in April 2015.

Do you have any drug-free tips on getting your grandchildren to sleep? If so, do email us at moderngran@dctmedia.co.uk.

Thanks for your emails

Thank you so much for all the kind emails you have sent me.

Cathy has given me permission to share this.

“I remember after my mum died, I sat my almost 3-year-old on my lap and told my little daughter that her nana had gone. I expected some sort of emotion. She just looked at me and said, ‘Oh dear that’s sad. Can I have a bag of crisps now?’ OK. Not much I could say about that. But maybe your grandchildren can draw some pictures for their great-granddad.”

Children’s Book Of The Week

Covers of our suggested books

I was thrilled to receive this suggestion from Suzanne in Canada. Suzanne is also a distant cousin of mine. We found each other through the DNA genetic testing site 23&Me. It turns out that Suzanne is a librarian in Seattle and had some of my books in the library. Isn’t that a coincidence? We correspond quite regularly. It’s one of the nicest things that has happened to me during 2022.

“I am always reading a ‘chapter book’ to my six-year-old grandson (right now it’s Knight’s Castle by Edward Eager), but I add in some picture books. His absolute favourite is Doodleday by Ross Collins (Gullane Children’s Books, £7.71) which we read over and over. It’s about a little boy whose drawing of a fly comes to life.”

If you would like to suggest a children’s book, please email us at moderngran@dctmedia.co.uk.

Looking For A New Book?

Jane Corry’s latest novel is called We All Have Our Secrets. It’s about two generations of a family living by the sea – with their secrets. Published by Penguin £7.99. You can buy at booksellers or online.


Janes new book and QR code to order


Allison Hay

I joined the "My Weekly" team thirteen years ago and, more recently, "The People's Friend". I love the variety of topics we cover both online and in the magazines. I manage the digital content for the brands, sharing features and information on the website, social media and in our digital newsletters.