Diary of A Modern Gran | How Was It For You?

Lady chasing pram Illustration: Istockphoto

The night before Christmas…

Somehow we’ve seen three Father Christmases in the last week.

And it’s led to some confusion. Let me explain…

In a previous column, I described meeting Santa on the Polar Express.

He asked Rose and George what they’d like for Christmas and to our surprise, they announced they wanted a violin and a guitar.

My daughter declared that there was no way they were having them because a) they are very expensive b) there wasn’t room in the house and c) she remembered her own screechy experiences on the violin not to mention her brothers’ attempts at the said instrument.

But then we bumped into Father Christmas number two. This was during a wonderful local illuminated festive trail in one of our seaside parks. I was so busy taking arty pictures of my grandchildren bathed in purple and pink lights that I did a double take when we rounded the corner and came across – yes, you guessed it!

It was Santa with his usual banter. ‘So what would you like for Christmas?’ asked a bearded chap who seemed slightly younger than the last one.  (Mind you that could be the illuminations.)

“A guitar and violin,” trilled Rose and George.

“You know,” says my daughter afterwards to the children. “We can’t always have what we ask for.”

Rose frowns. “Is that the same Father Christmas as last time?”

“Of course, he is,” I say, feeling horribly guilty because I don’t like lies.

“Then he’ll already have the guitar and violin on his list,” she declares confidently.

Oh dear.

Then –  it’s not just in pantomime that everything happens in threes – we bump into a third Father Christmas who happens to be walking round town, raising money for charity. He looks suspiciously like the husband of one of my tennis friends.

“What are you hoping for Christmas?” he asks Rose and George.

You can guess what they said…

It’s no good. I simply can’t bear the idea of them being disappointed. So I have a quiet word with my son-in-law. “Do you mind if I buy a guitar and violin?” I ask.

“That’s very kind,” he says.

So I find this rather good music site for kids and order what I considered to be reasonably-priced instruments with good reviews. But oh no. Seconds after I’d clicked “Buy”, I realised I’d ordered an acoustic guitar and not an electric one.

I tried to get hold of customer services but they’d closed and a voice informed me that it would be much easier if I went to their website.

Please no. I feel so much happier talking to a real person, don’t you? But I did as I was told and went to the section marked “cancellations”, only to find that the delivery was “already on its way”. That was quick. Now what?

To cut a long story short, I ring at 9am the next morning and get through to customer services quite quickly. Yes! A very nice man tells me that I simply have to accept the order when it comes and then take it back to my nearest drop off point which happens to be 10 miles down the road and back.

“Hah!” snorts my husband. “The cost of petrol could probably buy a quarter of a guitar.”

Meanwhile, my son-in-law has tracked down an electrical substitute. My daughter announces that she was always going to give them a guitar and violin anyway and would I mind if they gave the children the audio book player that I’d initially bought for them.

It’s so complicated that I’m not quite sure who is giving anyone what, at the moment.

But does it really matter in the scheme of things?

The most important thing is that we are together. Except that we’re not.

Like many of you, this will be my first Christmas without a loved one. My father’s death keeps coming back to me at unexpected moments, as though it can’t be true.

But something wonderful has happened. My eldest son is back from Spain for 10 days. He is one of those natural uncles who is brilliant at playing games with the children and larking around. It’s lovely to have my boy back. He might be 39 but he will always be my Christmas baby, born halfway through December. I always remember bringing him home with my first husband and wondering what we should do next. Feed him? Change nappies? What novices we were!

Sometimes, looking back on the past, makes me feel quite exhausted. Do you feel the same? Yet at the same time, I’m also very grateful that somehow we managed to muddle through it and bring up children who then have their own children.

Then I went to a festive gathering with some friends and chatted to someone who has taken in a Ukrainian family. She was describing how the children have settled down very well at school although the poor mother is still adapting to this new life that the world has thrown her into.

It struck me once more, as it always does at this time of the year, that the only important gift we can give each other is love and peace.

This was reinforced when we all went to the children’s carol concert on Christmas Eve in the village church. How lovely it was to see the little ones singing their hearts out, about love and kindness and faith.

So I wish you all a peaceful Christmas. Mind you, I have a feeling that as it’s going to be very noisy. An electric guitar? What was I thinking of…?

Christmas Day…

I’m writing this just before my column is printed, to say that I hope you all had a good Christmas – and also to give you an update on ours.

You’d have thought that I’d learned about batteries, wouldn’t you? After all, I can’t count how many Christmases my first husband and I bought toys for our children without reading the small print on the box to say they needed a triple A or a double A or whatever.

My grandson’s George’s face was a picture of utter joy when he opened his electric guitar box. But then it crumpled when we realised we needed the one battery size which wasn’t in the house! So my son-in-law nipped down to the supermarket which was still open and peace was restored.

Well, not exactly “peace” because the result was pretty loud although surprisingly harmonious!

Rose’s face was also a picture of bliss when she opened her violin. This didn’t require batteries. Phew! But oh no! It didn’t make a sound when the bow was drawn across it. Then we realised we hadn’t put the “bridge” on it. We eventually found this in the thrown-away paper in the box but it still didn’t make a noise.

Were we doing anything wrong?

“I can’t see what,” says my daughter who used to play the violin herself.

Naturally customer services was closed on Christmas Day and won’t be open for a few days. So I put out a What’s App plea to friends. “Does anyone play the violin? If so, can you tell me where we’re going wrong?”

So far, there’s been no response…

Meanwhile, I’ve explained to my granddaughter that we’ll get it fixed. Little Rose is being very brave about it – there isn’t one tear or tantrum. It’s just as well I bought that old keyboard from a charity shop the other week for £12. It works brilliantly and is keeping her happy.

As I write this, my husband and I are home now. Frankly I feel exhausted even though I haven’t had to do any work. (My daughter kindly wouldn’t let me. “Just play with the children, Mum, while we get lunch ready.”)

They say the best thing about grandchildren is that you can give them back at the end of the day.

I’d like to add something to that. The best thing about being a granny guest at Christmas (well, one of them) is that you get to play table football (a present from one of the other grandparents) and don’t have to do the washing up!

How was your Christmas? Have you learned any lessons that you’d pass onto others? Please tell us by emailing moderngran@dctmedia.co.uk.

Ask Agony Gran

“I’m scared about my grandson learning to drive”

“My 17-year-old grandson is about to start having driving lessons. I know it might sound silly but I’m really scared in case he has an accident. My younger brother was killed in a car crash when he was 18 and I’ve never got over it. I don’t like to talk about my fears to my son and his wife, or my grandson. But it’s like a heavy stone in my heart. It’s also why I don’t drive myself.” Marion, Kent.

Jane says:

Oh Marion, I am so sorry. What a terrible thing to happen. It’s no wonder that you haven’t got over it. It’s actually much more common than we might realise to carry sorrow like this for years – and then transfer it to a current situation. If I were you, I’d be very open with your son and daughter-in-law and tell them about your fears. They will probably reassure you but to be honest, no one can tell you that your grandson won’t get hurt one day. We just don’t know how life is going to turn out. It’s part of the pain of loving someone. Yet maybe you can see it from another point of view. What if you transferred your fears to your grandson so he became too scared to drive or maybe do other things? Might that limit him in life? Is that something you’d want?

Asking yourself these questions might help you – and the family. Having said that, young drivers can be a worry because of lack of experience. The good news is that there are some good driving courses around which can provide more experience for drivers who have just passed their tests. Depending on your budget, you might want to consider giving him one. Check out www.gocompare.com and look up advanced driving courses. Good luck.

If you’d like to share a problem anonymously, email us at moderngran@dctmedia.co.uk.

Family News

Wow! According to a recent survey, families round the world will spend up to 156 per cent of their monthly income on Christmas.

Have you got cut back this year? Do you save up for it during the year? We’d like to hear your views. Please email us at moderngran@dctmedia.co.uk.

The Funny things They Say

Thanks to Wendy for sending this one in.

“A friend’s daughter was asked if she wanted to play Mother Mary in the school nativity.

“‘Oh yes,’ she said, ‘but I don’t want to have a baby!’”

If your grandchildren have done or said anything funny, please email us at moderngran@dctmedia.co.uk.

Children’s Book of the Month

Maths Like A Ninja book coverHere, we’ll recommend a book for your grandchildren every week. If you have any suggestions, email us at moderngran@dctmedia.co.uk.

Maths Like A Ninja by Andrew Jennings is an essential maths tool kit for every child. (Bloomsbury, For Key Stage Two children, Seven year olds upwards)

If your grandchildren need help or practice with maths, this looks both helpful and user-friendly.

Coming To Find You book coverJane Corry is an author and journalist. Her new book is called COMING TO FIND YOU (published by Penguin). When her stepbrother is sent down for Life, Nancy seeks refuge from the press in an old seaside house. But does she know more than she is letting on?

Eighty years earlier, the owner of the house was a B & B owner who was also a member of Churchill’s Secret Army. Can Nancy find out Elizabeth’s secret – and find peace herself?

You can pre-order it here.

For a free short story, please sign up to my newsletter on my website www.janecorryauthor.com.