My husband and I have gone out for lunch. It’s our 15th wedding anniversary. “What would you like?” asks the waitress.
“Fishfingers and chips, please,” pipes up a little voice.
“Me too, please,” says another.
That’s right. We thought we’d celebrate our anniversary with our grandchildren. (Strictly speaking, they are mine by blood, although my daughter and son-in-law very sensibly decided that the “steps” in our family would be grandparents too.)
It was definitely one of the best anniversary meals we’ve had! Rose and George had a whale of a time, ordering lemonade (I got into trouble for that later!) and ice cream for pudding. They loved the whole grown-up thing of eating out.
My husband and I also loved having their company. And besides, it was half term. Since my daughter changed jobs, I am needed for childcare during the holidays.
I say “I am needed”, but in fact I think I need them just as much! I really love being with them.
But then came the next day when I decided to take them off to a playpark. They’re in high spirits from the second we set off.
“Now make sure you don’t run away from me,” I instructed.
Within seconds, Rose skedaddled down a slippery grass slope and fell.
“My arm, my arm,” she cried out.
A sharp pang of terror shot through me. “Are you alright?” I scream, running to pick her up.
“Ouch,” she said, bursting into tears.
My family often joke that I go from O to 10 in terms of panic within seconds. And it’s true. What if her arm is broken?
“Can you bend it?” I asked, wondering, as I speak, if this is a sensible thing to do.
But what if it was sprained?
Then I noticed that George isn’t there.
Again, that panic shot returned but 50 times worse. “GEORGE!” I yelled out.
Where was he? I felt myself, literally, evaporating. Then a little face appeared at the top of the playground tower standing right in front of me. “I’m here,” he said casually as though I was making a huge fuss about nothing.
“You mustn’t do that,” I said, falling to the ground with relief.
“My arm is better now,” said Rose.
But I’m not. In fact, I think I’ve aged 10 years in as many seconds.
“You’re to stay right next to me, both of you,” I say firmly. “And no more running.”
“Sorry,” they say.
They did and we had a nice time although I couldn’t stop shaking.
Then we went back home and had some quiet time.
I’ve realised that it’s important to structure the day with a mixture of activity and kitchen table play. So I got them to write down some words and sentences. In fact, I bought them some pretty notebooks to do this in. I didn’t attempt any maths because their skills are probably far superior to mine!
We also entered some colouring competitions and make a dinosaur out of empty cereal packets.
“Do you think I will win?” asked George hopefully?
“Well,” I said carefully, “someone has to and your entries are both very good!”
There were still two days to go. What else could we do? The granny word-of-mouth network has already informed me that there is a Halloween pumpkin trail at a local farm.
So off we went! I somehow manged to hold their little hands while laden with Wellington boots and spare coats which we don’t need because the sun is so lovely.
I have to say that Rose and George’s eyes were much sharper than mine! They spotted all the clues, long before I do. “Well done,” I said. Their faces beamed. It was yet another reminder of how important it is to encourage confidence in children.
In fact, that’s one of the big differences between this generation and mine. I can still remember some of the hurtful comments that were made to me about my mathematical inability at school. It was only when I had a kind understanding teacher that my grades improved.
Isn’t it funny how we still remember things like that?
“Gan Gan,” said George, cutting into my thoughts. “Can we go to the gift shop please?”
As regular readers will know, I’m not very good at resisting the “pleases”. So we come back with two furry toys to add to the collection.
On the fourth day of half-term, we went to a wonderful adventure park, which also has rabbits to pet and goats to walk as well as a giant snakes and ladders board to jump on. It’s a great success. But once more, I can’t help feeling on edge if they so much just move away from me. We reach an agreement where, if they go into one of those giant adventure towers, they come out and wave every few minutes while I’m standing outside, looking up.
I wasn’t needed for the fifth day of the week as my daughter doesn’t work then. But I woke up feeling curiously redundant.
I’ve actually got a lot to do. I put my own novel-writing on hold so that I could concentrate on my grandchildren and now I need to make up.
But something is missing. That’s right. My voice. It’s gone! Maybe it was all that calling out “Are you all right”!
Yet I’m also missing something else. My grandchildren’s company! By the end of the day, I find myself picking up the phone.
“Just wondered if you need any help,” I croak…
I had a lovely text last week from one of my friends. “My first baby granddaughter has arrived,” she wrote. “I’m over the moon.”
Have you just become a granny for the first time? Or have you become a granny again? If so, do tell us about it. Email: email@example.com.
Congratulations to another of my granny friends who is selling in the Clipper Round The World Yacht Race. Good luck, Julia!
This is one of the most strenuous boat races you can do. So we’re all really proud of her. It also shows that you’re never too old to take up a challenge.
“Both my children have got grandchildren, aged between three months and five. We all live in the same area but I usually see my grandchildren about once every fortnight.
“Recently, my son admitted that he and his wife felt hurt because they don’t see very much of me.
“My daughter has had a similar conversation with me but, to be honest, I don’t want to be a hands-on gran.
“I have my own social life and I don’t want to lose it. I’ve seen others having to give up a great deal to be a hands-on grandmother and that’s not for me. I know this may sound selfish. I’m very happy to see my grandchildren, but I’m more of a ‘one or two hours a week granny’, than a full-time one. I’m also aware that as I’m in my early 70s, I may not have many years to enjoy while I’m still fully active.
“Do you think that’s selfish?” Name withheld
That’s certainly not for me to answer, but I can say that I think we are all entitled to our own way of thinking.
In fact, I have a couple of friends who feel the same way as you.
It can sometimes be difficult to separate love from the number of hours you put in.
It’s perfectly possible to love your grandchildren and not want to be with them all the time. Let’s face it, it is a big commitment. Some take to it more easily than others – rather like some take to motherhood more readily.
However, I do think it might be worth having some frank discussions with your family. Perhaps you could explain that you really do care for them all but that you also want to have your own life and that you’ve reached the age where you realise that actually you may not have long for this.
Obviously, it’s also important for your grandchildren to feel loved. But that old saying of “quantity is not quality” is worth considering. Maybe one or two quality hours with your grandchildren is just as important as being with them for longer.
Life is a balancing act, isn’t it? Good luck.
The Funny Things They Say
“My seven-year-old granddaughter is learning to spell.”
“Why does this word have an H in it,” she asked me the other day.
“Because it’s silent,” I explained. “You don’t say it.”
“Then why is it there at all?” she asked
“To be honest, I couldn’t think of a good reply.” Margaret, Doncaster
Nor can we, Margaret!
The government has told schools that they need to tell parents what their children are being taught about sex education. This sounds like a sensible idea to us. At least then we can all be prepared for some awkward questions…
Thanks to Andrea for sending this in.
“I read with amusement your column about parents’ evening. Last year, my daughter and her partner were both away when parent’s evening for my 11-year-old grandson came up. They asked me to go along instead. I had a really interesting talk with the maths teacher about how maths is taught nowadays. (I’m a former teacher myself.) My grandson was worried that I might have embarrassed him but when he told his friends, they said I was ‘cool’!”
Hats off to you, Andrea!
“Get your grandchildren to help you tidy up! You never know what they might find.
“My teenage grandchildren recently came to spend the weekend with me. I’m downsizing so I got them to help me tidy out some drawers into a ‘throw away’ and ‘keep’ pile.
“I was about to chuck some old magazines when my 15-year-old granddaughter spotted an old Jack and Jill comic dating back to 1958. I only assume my mother had kept it and that it had somehow come with me on our various moves afterwards.
“Here’s a picture!” Aileen from Harrow
This is definitely one to treasure, Aileen!
Where To Take The Grandchildren
Thanks to Jim who emailed to say he had a great day out here with his grandchildren.
He went to The Shambles, York.
“This is an old street in York with buildings that go back to medieval times. My teenage grandchildren were really interested to find out that it was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1056. I have to admit that I didn’t know that! There are lots of narrow, twisty streets which are fun to explore. Someone told us that they inspired some of the locations in Harry Potter!”
If you’d like to recommend a place you’ve taken your grandchildren to, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Children’s Book of the Week
A good book to pick up and enjoy with your grandchildren!
The Story Orchestra. The Planets by Jessica Courtney (Tickle, £16.99, Francis Lincoln Children’s Books).
Just press a button and you will hear the most beautiful music! This enchanting hard-cover picture book tells the story of a brother and sister who have adventures in our solar system. Although it is described as being suitable for three-to-five-year-olds, I think it will charm all ages.
If you’d like to get in touch or share your favourite books or days out, please email us at email@example.com.