It’s gone 10.30pm. Half an hour past my bedtime. And more than three hours after theirs.
But I just can’t get Rose (7) and George (5) to sleep.
“What will Mummy and Daddy say?” I ask them.
“But Gan Gan,” says Rose with one of her dramatic shrugs. “We’re not tired.”
It was always going to be a bit of a gamble. After all, our last sleepover wasn’t a great success. Granted, the children were much younger then – three and two if I remember rightly. They got homesick after an hour so I had to summon help from the parents. Just as well they live round the corner!
Then came the virus. Enough said.
Since then, I’ve babysat overnight at their place several times. Because they were in their own environment, it’s been fine.
But now they’re really excited about being at our place – and it’s keeping them wide awake!
The sleepover starts off well enough. Rose and George arrive with enough luggage for a long-haul flight. There are clothes and books and teddies and spare shoes and even Rose’s violin that I gave her for Christmas.
My daughter checks out their bedroom for hazards and understandably rejects the bedsheets because there are some dog hairs on them. (How did our lab-springer get in there?) I replace them with a sheet that just has one dog hair. Only joking.
Then she goes to doll up for Celine Dion (more of which later). So we have tea – good old pizza – followed by bath time and stories. I dig out some of my own children’s old favorites, including the Topsy and Tim series.
“Can we have another one?” asks Rose who can easily read them herself now. George can read several words too. It made my heart warm to see them enjoying stories which their mummy and her brothers had.
Then it comes to lights out. “But we’re not tired!”
So – oh dear – I give in with the iPad. “Just ten minutes,” I say to them. “And you’ve got to stay in bed.”
Half an hour later, they are still glued to the screen with me by their side, to monitor the content. We listen to an Americanized gingerbread man story which goes down very well. “Gan Gan,” says George. “Can you buy us some gingerbread men in the morning?”
“Anything,” I say, “as long as you go to sleep.”
This doesn’t work either.
So then Rose decides she wants to write a story of her own. She does this a lot. I like to think she’s going to be a writer when she’s grown up. She composes a lovely story about children spending the night with Gan Gan and still being awake when it’s dark outside. Then she recites it to us all. It brings a lump of pride to my throat.
“Is everything OK?” texts my son-in-law who’s on standby for collection in case I can’t cope.
“Fine,” I text back.
Well it is, really. Isn’t it?
Meanwhile, my daughter has gone to a Celine Dion tribute concert with a friend. I love the fact that they each have girls’ and boys’ nights out. That didn’t happen very often in my day.
Eventually – and I honestly don’t know how – they drop off. Phew! I crawl into bed but guess what? I can’t sleep. Supposing they fall out of bed, despite some plastic safety tubular things that my daughter has put on both sides of the mattress? So I keep getting up every two hours to check.
“At least they’ll have a sleep-in in the morning,” murmurs my husband.
But no. They are up at 6.45am! What’s more, they don’t look a bit tired.
So we have breakfast (they love those “mini” cereal packs!) and Rose writes another page of her story and then – is that the time? – I take them to their 9am tennis lesson down the road.
“What about my gingerbread men?” George reminds me.
“I promise I’ll get them on the way back,” I say.
Mummy and Daddy arrive to meet us at tennis. “We had a great time at the concert, Mum. Thank you.” I have to say that they are appreciative but there’s no need because I love helping out.
Then I stagger back home, via the bakery to buy gingerbread men. Part of me is tempted to go back to bed. But I can’t. I’ve never been one for resting during the day. But at the same time, my heart is light. Although it’s wonderful to have my grandchildren, it’s also a big relief to have returned them safely.
Yet for years, bedtime was just one part of my daily routine with my three children. Now, looking back, I just don’t know how I did it. Do you feel the same?
PS These gingerbread men are delicious! I’m afraid I couldn’t resist. Now I’ll have to buy some more for the children…
Do you have any tips on how to manage a calm sleepover for the grandchildren? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ask Agony Gran
“I became a granny when I was in my early fifties. I loved the fact that I could do lots of physical things like push a pram up a hill without any problem and playing football with them in the park. But now I’m 66 and over the last year, have found myself getting really tired. I’ve got six grandchildren now and I find it hard to cope when they all visit at the same time. I can still play some games with them but I don’t have the physical energy I used to. When I tell my daughter that I feel older, she says it’s all in my mind.” Michelle, Kent
I think this will ring bells with many readers, Michelle. I remember an aunt saying that she was surprised at how tired she became during her sixties. I feel the same myself at times. I think we need to be kind to ourselves and accept our limitations. Having said that, it might be a good idea to get yourself checked out at the doctor and ask for some general blood tests. One of my grandparent friends did this and found she was low on iron.
I suspect that your daughter’s remark about it “being in your mind” is partly because she doesn’t want to think that you’re getting older. That’s normal. None of us like to think of our parents getting that way. But we can’t hold back time!
Meanwhile, there are lots of ways you can get involved with grandchildren apart from physical exercise. Maybe you could do some craft activities or play board games or invite them to rummage through your wardrobe for fancy dress clothes. Mine love that!
However, I must say that when I feel my energy levels dropping, I find that exercise actually helps. I often Zoom into www.thegirlwiththepilatesmat. It’s free and full of fantastic routines for all ages, including some especially for seniors.
One in ten children have watched pornography by the time they are nine, according to a new survey. Shocking, isn’t it? What do you think can be done to stop this? Email us at email@example.com.
Thanks for your feedback on last week’s column.
We asked for some teatime ideas.
“Two of my grandchildren don’t eat meat. So when they come over, I make a quiche with cheese and broccoli. I ‘cheat’ with ready-made pastry to save time. They love it.” Vanessa, Surrey
“You can’t go wrong with baked beans on toast if you’re in a hurry!” Fred, London
We also asked what you thought about the state pension changes.
“I’ve worked hard on my life and have only just got my pension. I was meant to have had it earlier but then the change came in. I’m very grateful to have it now but I feel angry it was delayed. I feel sorry for people who don’t have it yet and might get their delayed too.” Name withheld
For more information, visit www.waspi.co.uk, the website for Women Against State Pension Inequality.
The Funny Things They Say
“My grandson was very disappointed the other day when I bought him a toy only to find it needed a battery. But he was so pleased when it finally worked. Then my husband sprained his knee and went to the doctor. When he came back, my grandson said, ‘Did he give you a new battery, grandad?’” Sandra, London
Where To Take Your Grandchildren
Every week, we’re going to suggest an outing for grandchildren in different parts of the country. If you’d like to suggest somewhere, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eureka! The National Children’s Museum, Discovery Rd, Halifax HX1 2NE. Tel 01422 330069, www.eureka.org.uk.
This has lots of great interactive activities to encourage learning through play.
Children’s Book of the Week
If your family is moving house, this charming book might help the children.
Welcome To Hinch Farm by Mrs Hinch. Illustrated by Hannah George. £12.99 Puffin
Three brothers are moving house with Mum and Dad. But they don’t want to leave their old one. A lovely story to comfort us all when it comes to change.
Jane Corry is a journalist and author. Her latest novel WE ALL HAVE OUR SECRETS is about an elderly father, forced to confront secrets from his past. Published by Penguin Viking, £7.99.
Would you like a free short story by Jane? You can get one by signing up to her newsletter on www.janecorryauthor.com. There are also some writing tips for anyone who wants to try one of their own.
Join Jane here every week for her brilliant column, Diary of a Modern Gran, full of great advice and entertainment!