We’re in one of our local seaside shops where I have promised to buy seven-year-old Rose and six-year-old George a present for going to bed on time during last night’s sleepover at our place.
My grandson fulfilled his part of the bargain, but Rose was up and down the stairs until gone 10pm. After that, I couldn’t sleep myself because I was worried that one of them might go walk-about, even though we have a stairgate in place.
So I should say that Rose can’t have a present, but how can I? Her little shiny face is beaming up at me. “Please may I have this, Gan Gan, please?”
She is pointing to a little plastic case which contains three little babies, three little cots and three little high chairs. The price is more like the cost of a birthday or Christmas present than a bribe present for something she didn’t even do.
“That’s too expensive,” I say firmly.
“Oh but I love it. Pleeeese!”
Oh dear. I’m torn. Not just because I’m weak when it comes to my grandchildren but because I remember wanting one of those dolls that cried real tears but never got one because it was too expensive. Fifty-five odd years later, I can still feel the pain.
“I’ll ask the lady behind the counter to put it to one side for when it’s your birthday,” I say, mentally thinking that I will buy it later then hide it until the said date.
Her little face falls. “But Gan Gan. I would really like it now, please. I LOVE those babies and I want to give them a home.”
My resolution is wavering even more. And yes, I know. Don’t say it. I ought to make her wait.
“If I do buy it,” I say, emphasising the “if”, “will you go to bed at a proper time in future.”
I should say here that Rose fell into this “can’t sleep” habit about three months ago. So far, nothing seems to have helped but maybe this might!
“Yes,” she promises with such convincing earnesty that I truly believe her. In fact, I swear she believes herself.
“Alright,” I say as she flings her arms around me.
“Let me get this right,” says my husband when I tell him about this later. “You’ve given her a generous present for something she didn’t do, which is also an advance payment for something she’s promised to do but probably won’t.”
That’s about it. Or is it? Lots of adults can’t sleep at night either and we feel sympathetic for them. So why should we expect children to go to bed when we say. Everyone’s different. It’s not as though Rose is particularly tired in the morning either. Still, maybe the plastic triplets will be the answer!
Meanwhile, George – who did fulfil his part of the bargain in going to sleep – is heading straight to the checkout. His eyes have lit up at a grinning face with a zip for lips on the counter display. “Please may I have this, Gan Gan?” he gasps.
The price is half that of the triplets. But I can see why he’s so enchanted. The grinning face reminds me of the kind of a felt gonk which my mother had made me in the early 60s. Remember those?
“It’s a worry monster,” my grandson corrects me.
“What’s that?” I ask. It never ceases to amaze me how much I learn from these children.
His words fly out excitedly. “You write down the things you’re worried about on a piece of paper and then you posted them into his mouth. After that, you zip it shut. All my friends have got one!”
It worries me a bit that George wants a worry monster (there’s a certain irony here that we’re both worried!), but I also remember how important it is to be part of the crowd at school. So of course, I buy it.
The following morning, I go round to help out with the children while my daughter is upstairs painting the loo walls. (I’m very impressed.)
“Look,” says George excitedly. “I posted a letter into the worry monster last night and this morning I got one back.”
He shows it to me. Instantly I recognise my granddaughter’s writing. It says, “I realy love you”.
“‘Really’ has two letter ‘ls’ ,” I can’t stop myself saying. “You can remember that because ‘really’ is a strong word so it has an extra ‘l’.”
“Mum,” says my daughter warningly.
Whoops. Too late, I realise that George might cotton on to the fact that Rose wrote it. But if I don’t remind her of the single ‘l’, she might think that’s the way it’s really spelled. Apparently, the modern method (or one of them) is not to correct every wrong spelling but to let children learn in time. Personally, I don’t agree. Surely by then, the error will be planted in their mind as right?
But George is beaming. It’s as though the tooth fairy has visited but even better. Instead of leaving a one-off pound, the Worry Monster has left something far more precious.
In fact, I’m tempted to go back and buy a worry monster for myself.
“You don’t need to,” says a retired psychologist friend when I tell her. “You can just use the age-old worry method of writing down your fears and then burning them safely or ripping them up.”
Of course. I’d forgotten that one.
But a bit of paper isn’t as cuddly as this Worry Monster. So excuse me. I’m off for an early night with my new friend with the zipped lips. I need to catch up on a night’s sleep after that sleepover…
Have you got any tips on how to help children with insomnia? Do email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ask Agony Gran
“I look after my two-year-old grandson one day a week while my daughter works. This includes getting him ready for bed. However, he hates having a bath. This has become a bit of a battle. Do you have tips?” Name withheld
Thank you so much for getting in touch. I wonder if he’s actually scared of the water rather than just disliking it. One of my children was like that. You could try a really shallow bath or a rubber hose which you attach to each tap. Some children seem to prefer them.
Try to make bathtime fun by getting some bath toys (there are some reasonably-priced ones around). Perhaps he could take in a washable toy as well and bathe that?
You might also try changing the order of evening events by giving him a bath before supper.
If all else fails, ask your daughter if you can just give him a quick flannel-down wash at the basin, At least that way, he won’t associate what he sees as an unpleasant experience with your granny days. Good luck.
“I was interested to read last week’s email from the granny whose grandson has Down’s Syndrome. When our granddaughter was born with Down’s Syndrome, we were worried about her future too. But we got in touch with the Down’s Syndrome Association (as you suggested) and they gave us lots of practical advice and help as well as putting us in touch with a local family. Sometimes, when I take my granddaughter out for a walk in a pushchair, I get the odd curious or sympathetic comment. I make a point of telling that person how much joy our granddaughter has brought us and how happy she is herself. Her little smile lights up the room.” Name withheld
Thank you. Just in case anyone missed it, here are the details for the association again, www.downs-syndrome.org.uk.
The Things They Say
“My seven-year-old grandson’s class has been learning about tadpoles.
“The other day, my husband began coughing. ‘It’s just a frog in his throat,'” I said.
“Just spit it out, Grandad,” he said. “I can take it to my teacher.”
Thanks, Angie for sending this in!
Having problems with your memory? You might enjoy a new book called Mind Games: Over 150 Puzzles to Boost Your Memory and Train Your Brain by Dr Tim Beanland and the Alzheimer’s Society. Published by Century, £18.
“I’ve been playing my own version of Scrabble with my grandchildren (aged 8 and 6). Under my rules, they can just put a word on the board without joining it up with another. It has helped them with their spelling. They’ve got quite good even though their words are usually just three letters. Now I’ve started to show them how they can be joined up with others. They love it!’ Pam
Thanks, Pam. Sounds like fun. We’ll give it a go!
Where To Take The Grandchildren
I’m always keen to share great ideas for days out with the grandkids – and I appreciate your ideas, too. Email email@example.com.
This time I’ve picked The World Of Beatrix Potter, Crag Brow, Bowness-on-Windermere, Windermere LA23 3BX, UK. Tel: 015394 88444
Visit the settings and characters of well-loved figures like Peter Rabbit, Jeremy Fisher, Jemima Puddleduck and many others. The author was deeply inspired by the Lake District – and we can see why. This is a lovely place to go for all ages.
Children’s Book Of The Week
Here’s a great book to read aloud with the grandchildren. Don’t Take A T-Rex Out For Tea by Harriet Evans, illustrated by Michael Slack, £10.99.
This enchanting board book should bring a smile to everyone’s face. Our young tester loved the pop-up dinosaurs while the adult reader enjoyed the funny rhymes.
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.