Diary of A Modern Gran | Parents’ Evening

Lady chasing pram Illustration: Istockphoto

“Good luck,” I say to my daughter and son-in-law as they head off for parents’ evening.

“Thanks,” they say.

My daughter looks quite excited. (Maybe it’s the prospect of an evening out!) But I can’t help feeling rather twitchy.

Perhaps it’s because it takes me back to my own experiences both as a schoolgirl and a mum.

After all, parents’ evening is a big thing, isn’t it?

Do you remember your own? I distinctly recall waiting nervously with my grandmother (who lived with us) until my parents returned from seeing my teachers. The verdict was always the same. “They said you’re very conscientious,” my mother would reassure me. “And you’ve got a great imagination when it comes to stories. But you really must try harder at maths and science.”

“I do try,” I would say, my heart sinking. I did, too. But I just didn’t have that kind of brain – and I still don’t.

When my own three were at school, their parents’ evenings were wildly different. I was always being told that my older two were conscientious and that my daughter especially loved the social aspect of class!

But my youngest says he doesn’t mind me saying that I often had to end up explaining to teachers that he had missed certain school days during crucial A-level years because he was on tour with his band.

As a result, I often came away from his parents’ evenings feeling like a failed mother. (In the event, he and the band became quite famous and played at headline festivals. He is now a well-known music podcaster. In fact, the headmaster even contacted my son to congratulate him on his success!)

Then there was the evening when I had to do two lots of parents’ evenings for two different children on the same night and got their teachers muddled up!

But they were teenagers by then. My grandchildren are only 7 and 5! Are parents evenings really that important?

“Yes,” says a granny friend who happens to be an educational psychologist. “You can tell a lot from that age. In fact, it’s a crucial stage because this is where you might spot issues such as signs of ADHD and hearing difficulties and problems with concentration. Then parents and school can work together to tackle them.”

Gosh. Suddenly parents’ evenings are beginning to sound like serious stuff. In fact, Rose and George appear to have tapped into the vibes. “I hope the teacher likes my writing,” says Rose plaintively.

“Of course he will,” I say. Recently I gave Rose a notebook in which she writes stories after lights out when she can’t sleep. They have wonderful titles like the “fairy picnic”. When I read them, I am bowled over because I loved writing stories too at her age. Meanwhile George is great at numbers. In fact his adding up is better than mine.

But the older I get, the more I realise that the important thing  – at least in my book – is to encourage confidence in children as well as a sense of self-esteem without being arrogant. It’s too easy to feel like a life-long failure if a teacher (or indeed another child) puts you down.

I subscribe to a meditation app and one of the experts recently passed on advice that her father had given her as a young woman when she’d been rejected for a job. “Just do what makes your heart sing,” he said.

I think that strikes exactly the right note.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking by. My daughter and son-in-law will be back soon. I don’t want my grandchildren to get all het up about parents evening. So after tea, I distract them with a stack of reading books. They love rhyming books – some rather silly ones in my opinion – but then again, if it makes them laugh while they read, why not? It teaches them fun as well as words!

We’re right in the middle of one when we hear the front door opening.

“Mummy!” calls  out Rose, running down the stairs. “What did my teacher say?”

Honestly! You’d think she was expecting her A-level results!

“Lots of lovely things about you,” they reassure her.

Phew! I feel myself sighing with relief.

Later, as I leave, I hear my daughter and son-in-law giving each of my grandchildren a cuddle and praising them. My heart fills with pride. I love the way that they have both grown into wonderful, responsible yet fun parents.

It almost makes me want to go back and start my mummy days again. Then again, maybe not. Just think of all those parenting evenings I’d have to go through….

So instead, I grab my racquet and cycle down the lane. If I’m quick, I might just get to my weekly evening tennis session. Much more fun than multiplication tables!

Do you have any stories about parents’ evenings for your own children, or grandchildren? We’d love to hear them. Just email us at moderngran@dctmedia.co.uk.

Ask Agony Gran

“My grandchildren are 12 and 14. Since starting secondary school, they’ve started saying rude words. My daughter and son-in-law sometimes tell them off and sometimes ignore it. They say it’s just a stage. I’m worried that if it’s not stopped quickly, they’ll go in like this.” Name withheld

Jane says:

I can see why you’re worried. To be honest, I agree with you. Bad habits are best cured if they’re stopped sooner rather than later.

However, you are the grandparent here and not the parent. So some might say it’s not up to you. It’s very common for grandparents and parents to have different opinions about bringing up children!

On the other hand, you’re perfectly entitled to have rules in your own house. So you could ask them not to speak like that when they are with you. Maybe you could make it into a game and find alternative words that don’t offend.

One granny friend who had her teenage grandchildren for three weeks over a summer holiday got them to write out the offending words in big capital letters and then tear up the piece of paper.

Another explained exactly what each word meant and said that these words could hurt people. She said it worked better than simply saying “don’t”.

I’m not recommending any of these tactics. I’m just sharing other people’s approaches. Good luck!

Your Feedback

Thanks for your emails about how we worry about the world for our grandchildren’s sakes. Here are some of your thoughts:

“I worry about the world too and the future that our grandchildren have. But I’ve started helping them to see where the different countries of the world are in the atlas and in maps. At least then, they will know where places are.” Jan

That’s a good idea, Jan. See our Children’s Book of the Week below!

“When my grandchildren have sleepovers at our place, I teach them to say their prayers. We keep it very simple. ‘Please give peace to the world.’” Carole

“When my grandchildren quarrel, I try to help them negotiate and see each other’s point of view. It’s my small way of showing them that peace can be achieved. If they and others can do this as adults, it might help to spread peace generally.” Name withheld

Funny Things They Say

“My grandson is doing a project on underwater wildlife. When I collected him from school, he gave me a big hug. Then he said, ‘If I was an octopus, Nanny, I could have eight arms to hug you with.’ This really warmed my heart.” Maggie from Bedfordshire

It warmed ours too, Maggie. Thank you.

Family News

Have you given up work to help look after grandchildren? If so, you’re not alone. A recent survey showed that 500,000 people between 50 and 65 have taken time out of work to help with childcare, including grandchildren.

Do you think we should be paid for this? Let us know by emailing us at moderngran@dctmedia.co.uk.

Where To Take The Grandchildren


Thanks to the reader who wrote in, recommending BeWILDerwood, the magical woodland play parks located in Cheshire and Norfolk. There are massive tree houses, giant swings, slippery slopes, mazes, storytelling and much more! For more details visit norfolk.bewilderwood.co.uk or cheshire.bewilderwood.co.uk.

Children’s Book of the Week

First Atlas book

Every week we pick out a book that you can share with your grandchild. This time, First Atlas, Miles Kelly Publishing. £6.99

A lovely bright book full of facts and maps, including a poster to colour in. You might learn a thing or two yourself – I did!

Jane's Books

Jane Corry writes family dramas for Penguin. Six of her novels have been in the Sunday Times top ten. For writing tips and a free short story, sign up to her website at www.janecorryauthor.com.