My stomach is churning. My knuckles are white. I want to be sick.
“Pleeese come with us, Gan Gan!” says my seven-year-old granddaughter.
How can I say no?
Reluctantly, I take my place. The woman in charge checks we’re safely in. I grip the rail in front with both hands, my heart racing.
And we’re off! My stomach is falling as we swing from left to right and then round before going up and down. I close my eyes. It’s easier that way. I also do my meditation breathing.
You’ve guessed it! We’re at an adventure park with the kind of rides I’ve always said I’d never do again after being absolutely terrified by a rollercoaster ride when I was 14. (Fifty odd years ago.)
In the past, I’ve also been scared witless by two other experiences at amusement parks. One was when my daughter was ten and she insisted on going on a “tidal ride”. The waves engulfed us and when I surfaced, I couldn’t see her. Thankfully, I found her a few feet away, swimming happily but it makes me sick to think of it.
The third was when I took my youngest son, then aged three, onto a rocking horse on a roundabout. I was told to put him on my knee but during the ride, he began to slip. Despite yelling “help” to the woman in charge, she didn’t see me immediately. By the time she did, I was hanging onto my boy by the tips of my fingers. Thankfully, she caught him but again, the horror stays with me. (He’s now a 32-year-old podcaster.)
So what on earth am I doing here now? To be honest, it’s because I don’t want my grandchildren to see that I’m scared. I feel I should set them an example. Besides, it all seems very safe.
“Are you ok, Gan Gan?” calls out Rose who is in the chair next to me.
“Sort of,” I try to say before the wind whips away my words.
I turn round to check on my six-year-old grandson George who is in the seat behind, grinning with excitement.
Phew. We’re coming to a halt. I stagger off, behind my grandchildren who are running towards their parents begging to go on the next amusement. It’s a “whizz-down the tunnel in a boat” ride.
“Why don’t we go on this one together?” suggests my daughter.
I like the idea of mother/daughter bonding to heal the memory of the tidal wave. But then I find that adults have to go in separate boats.
“I wouldn’t have done this if I’d known I couldn’t have hung onto you,” I call out to my daughter.
Too late. We’re shooting down a tunnel. I can hear someone screaming very loudly. It’s me. When I get to the bottom, I feel a huge sense of relief and a sense of achievement. Am I finally conquering my fears?
Yes and no. I turn down the entreaties to go on the big roller coaster. I have my limits. But I do go on a lower, smaller-version one instead.
After that, I actually volunteer to go on something that goes up and down. In fact, I’m the only adult sitting there with gappy-toothed children on either side of me. Perhaps I’m mad.
Then something strikes me. It’s all very well conquering our fears. But sometimes it’s just as brave to say no.
“I’d like to tell you something,” I say to Rose and George as I kiss them goodbye while they stay on with their parents. “You never have to do anything you don’t want to in life.”
“We know,” sings Rose in a voice that suggests she’s heard all this before. George isn’t listening. He has his eye on the next ride.
But it’s true, isn’t it? I’ve been there and done it today. But if I don’t want to do it next time, I won’t.
I think I will!
Did you know it’s Grandparents’ Day on October 1?
I first heard of Grandparent’s Day a few years ago when I saw a card in a newsagent’s window.
Oooh, I thought. That sounds interesting.
But I didn’t get a card. My daughter wasn’t aware of it either. Nor were any of my friends.
In fact, it provoked a mixed reaction amongst most of us.
“I think it’s pure commercialism,” declared one of my granny friends. “Before long, it will be Grandchildren’s Day and we’ll be expected to give THEM a card.”
“Actually,” said another, “I think it’s a rather nice way of getting the grandchildren to express appreciation for us.”
But what’s the history behind it all?
When I looked it up, I found that in 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the declaration that the first Sunday after Labor Day would be “Grandparents’ Day”.
I also found out that in 2021, Pope Francis declared that the fourth Sunday of July should be World Day for Grandparents and the elderly.
It certainly seems that Grandparents’ Day appears to take place in different countries at different times.
Now, in case you feel like it , is the time to drop a hint or two to your children before October 1st arrives – this year’s official date for UK Grandparents’ Day.
But for me, every day is a grandparents’ day. Just talking to my two – even if it’s only on the phone – reminds me of how lucky I am.
Having said that, if they would like to buy or make me a card, I would love it. I’d add it to the little collection on my dressing table where I keep all the special things they’ve sent me over the years.
I’d love to know what you think about Grandparents’ Day. You can let us know by emailing email@example.com.
There was great excitement when I collected my grandchildren from school last week. “We watched a video about a little boy who was about to run over the road to get his ball,” declared George.
“Yes,” chipped in Rose, “but his friend told him not to. He went and got his mother instead.”
They chatted about it all the way home in the back of the car. The message had clearly gone in. Well done to schools for educational videos about road safety that don’t just “tell” children what to do but also “show” the message loud and clear.
“I do a school run with my grandchildren and we’ve been caught out by the sudden rain bursts in between the sunshine. So I splashed out on some cheap macs for them all which can be folded into almost nothing and keep them in my handbag. They came in very handy last Thursday when the heavens opened!” Sandra. Glasgow
Thanks, Sandra. I think I’ll do the same. We were caught out last week too!
Thanks to Gabrielle, one of our regular readers, who sent this after reading my column about old friends.
“I caught up with an old friend this summer who now lives down the coast from my brothers who I was visiting.
“We’d been together at primary school and lived in the same town. We went to the same grammar and last saw each other after A levels at the school leaving when we were 18.
“Now both aged 69, we had 51 years to catch up on and talked the whole day long!”
“I’m part of a group of women who’ve stayed in touch since our children were at school together. The others are all grandparents apart from me and one other. This friend and I have bonded because we both felt left out when the others talked about their grandchildren. But now her daughter has announced she is pregnant. My own daughter has had a series of early miscarriages over the years. Of course, I’m pleased for my friend but I feel the odd one out now.” Name withheld
This must be very difficult for your daughter and her partner. And it is also difficult for you. As parents, we feel our children’s pain.
If I was you, I’d do two things. I’d support my daughter as much as possible – which you are probably doing anyway. This might be talking about it when she wants to; not talking about it when she doesn’t; and maybe doing some research into consultants who specialise in miscarriage. (One of my granny friends did that and her daughter gave birth two years later).
The second thing I’d do is widen my friendship circle. Do new things. Join new groups. Enrol at the local gym. Join the u3a (University of the Third Age) which organises lots of different activities including talks and table tennis. www.u3a.org.uk.
Meanwhile keep hope. We don’t know what is going to happen in life. Good luck.
The Funny Things They Say
“My grandson has just started doing geography.”
“Grandad,” he asked. “Why is the world also called Earth? We don’t just have soil. We have the sea as well.”
“I wasn’t sure how to answer that.”
Tony, Milton Keynes
Children definitely keep us on our toes, don’t they?
Where do you live? According to a recent survey, you’re more likely to live longer if you’re on the south coast of England. Perhaps the weather has something to do with it. I had a great aunt who lived to nearly 100. She didn’t live on the south-coast but she walked a lot (on her zimmer frame towards the end) and drank a glass of whisky every night.
If you’ve got any tips for a long life, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Days Out With The Grandchildren
If you are in the capital, head to Horrible Histories Terrible Thames Tour, www.terriblethames.com. Leaving from Tower Bridge Quay, booking is essential.
Thanks to Granny Susie who sent in this recommendation.
“We took our grandchildren aged 12 and 10 on this river boat trip. They loved it! We learned a lot about Henry V111, Anne Boleyn, Captain Kidd and others!”
Children’s Book Of The Week
I’m Not (Very) Afraid Of The Dark by Anna Milbourne, illustrated by Daniel Reiley and published by Usborne.
I picked this because lots of children – and adults – are scared of the dark. This is a lovely, helpful book with lots of clever little holes to show stars and the night sky. It helps us to realise that the dark can be wonderful and exciting if we know what to look for.
Jane Corry is a journalist and award-winning author. Her latest novel is Coming to Find You.
Coming To Find You is told from the points of view of Elizabeth, who lived in Tall Chimneys by the sea during World War 2, and Nancy who lives in the same house in the present day. This Sunday Times bestseller is published by Penguin, £8.99. Available in print, digital and audio.