Diary Of A Modern Gran | If You Can’t Beat Them…

Lady chasing pram Illustration: Istockphoto

I’m lying on my stomach, with my head inside a very large oblong cardboard box next to my grandson. There is plenty of room to breathe. It’s his “comfort cave”.

“Why aren’t I going any faster?” I ask.

“Because you’re pressing the wrong buttons, Gan Gan,” he says with the weary authority of a boss trying to instruct an aged internee.

“It’s not fair,” I say plaintively. “You haven’t showed me which ones I’m meant to be pushing.”

“Yes I have,” he says.

Well if he did, George did it in such a rush that it passed me by.

“I’ve won,” he crows triumphantly.

You may have guessed by now that we are playing one of those hand-held video games which completely sucked in my youngest son nearly twenty years ago.  (Thank goodness they weren’t that common when the older two were teenagers.)

But it’s certainly helping George’s dexterity when it comes to whizzing round a track with all kinds of special effects leaping up as obstacles.

To be honest, I have my concerns in case he gets addicted.

I’ve also been aware that since he’s got this game, I’ve got on the wrong side of him by suggesting other activities.

Then I did a bit of a re-think. When we came back from school in our days, we needed to relax. This is how my grandson chooses to do it. His parents also have strict rules on switching it off at 6pm. And – here’s the thing – I’m beginning to see why it’s so exciting!

There is something curiously competitive about whizzing round that track. If only I could understand why I always come last when George is first…

“Don’t worry,” he says kindly. “I’ll teach you.”

So we move onto the bigger screen where we can sit on the sofa instead of lying in a box. “Here,” he says kindly, “give me your remote and I’ll win for you.”

Ah… How kind! “Sorry,” he says, when I come second. “I did try.”

He hands back my control and I experiment by pressing a few more buttons myself. Whoops! The screen has gone blank. One of those strange icons floats up with technical language that neither of us understand.

I expect there to be a bit of a fuss about this but he is calmly accepting.

“We’ll have to wait until Mummy is home,” he says. (I’m babysitting him while my daughter has gone straight from work to collect Rose from dance.)

“How about a game of Uno?” I suggest eagerly.

I’ve really got into this card game since the children taught me. But I lose hands-down at that one too.

Then we play another card game which looks like lots of drink coasters. He has one pile and I have another. You have to wait until the top “coaster” has the same pictures as the other. The catch is that one set has miniature pictures which makes this a distinct disadvantage for me. (My sight used to be absolutely fine until my fifties but now I’ve found it’s not so sharp.)

He wins again!

“Well done,” I say trying to sound gracious. Inside, however, I feel rather inadequate. And that’s when I realise. If winning (whether it’s computer games or cards or getting top marks in reading and maths can raise self-confidence) it is surely a good thing. Just as long as it’s all in moderation.

Then we hear a key in the lock. “It’s Mummy,” says George leaping up with excitement.

Phew. I need some relief from all that losing!

“Shall I put on tea?” I suggest.

“That would be lovely,” says my daughter who looks tired after a long day.

At least I can manage to put a pizza in the oven. Well, at least, I think I can. And maybe tomorrow, George might give me another lesson so I can come first on that track!

“Of course I will,” he says, giving me a kiss on my cheek.

After all, if you can’t beat them, you might as well join them…

Agony Gran

“My daughter’s new partner doesn’t have children of his own. He has quite strict rules about how my daughter’s children should behave. My daughter doesn’t seem to object but I feel upset when he constantly tells them off about manners and so on.” Name withheld

Jane says:

This is a really tough one. It must be hard to stand by and see this. But the key for me are your words “my daughter doesn’t seem to object”. One of the things I’ve learned as a granny is that our children are entitled to do things their way because they are the parents after all (unless there are safety issues).

If it was me, I’d have a quiet word with your daughter and ask if everything is all right. Maybe an open-ended question like this might lead to an open conversation between you. It will also, hopefully, show that you are always there to talk. I also wonder if your grandchildren have said anything to you. If so, you might use this as a way of talking to your daughter. Good luck.

The Funny Things They Say

“My seven-year-old grandson and I got stuck in traffic the other day behind a big lorry. ‘It’s a traffic jam,’ I explained.”

“Is that because the lorry has jam inside?” asked my grandson.

Hazel from Loughborough

This made us laugh – and think! Why not “traffic marmalade”…

Family News

Grandparents apparently live longer if their grandchildren visit regularly according to a news report this week. We’d like to know if Zoom visits count too – many grandparents aren’t lucky enough to live near their children.


Many thanks to Thelma for sending this in.

“Although I am not a gran, I really enjoy reading your weekly column. I am now nearer eighty than seventy and can relate to the tales you tell of your family. I am interested in the places visited and reports of what the children say.

“I taught for 27 years and love meeting old pupils. One couple, who were both in my class at a village school, had what were known as learning difficulties, but now run a business between them. The first time I bumped into the wife, I looked at her two young girls and couldn’t resist saying, ‘I know who you married.’ The girls looked so much like their dad. I still bump into the whole family when we are out shopping.

“Another lad I taught was a bit of a bully, and I treated him firmly but fairly. He was thrilled to see me last year and introduce me to his baby daughter. I must have got something right.

“I often taught infants in the mornings in a town primary school, where I taught in most of the classes over the week. In the afternoon I taught 10- and 11-year-olds in a class I shared with the headmaster in a village school. I had to keep my wits about me as after teaching 6-year-olds, the 11-year-olds felt almost my contemporaries. They were often as tall as me too. It made me wonder whether grans have noticed the same contrast when they have little grandchildren one day and big ones another day.

“Keep up the good work. It keeps me in touch with modern children and modern grans.”

Divorce and Grandchildren

“Your agony gran column last week rang bells with me. My husband and I divorced when our children were in their twenties. I waited until they were grown-ups because I thought it might be easier on them but I didn’t think about what it would be like when they had children. I find it very hard when I hear that my ex-husband and his wife have been round to visit the grandchildren, especially as he lives nearer than I do. But I keep in contact by ringing my grandchildren and visiting whenever I can. It’s just something you have to deal with. Of course, I make sure that I never say anything negative about my ex. That wouldn’t be fair for the children.” Name withheld

Grandparent Tip

“I’ve got a fun game that I play with my grandchildren when they’re a bit restless or are toying with their food. It’s called ‘If I was the king’. Everyone takes it in turns to say what they would do if they were the king. It might be giving food to the hungry; or watching cartoons all day or…well almost anything! Sometimes my grandchildren say things which make us laugh and sometimes they say things which make us think. I highly recommend it!”

Thank you, Eva. We’ll try this one out.

Where To Take The Grandchildren

This week my suggestion is Winchester Science Centre & Planetarium.

Looking for something to do?  How about visiting the “Solar System Adventure” exhibition and the “Galaxy” exhibition. It’s a great way for the whole family to get star-struck! It’s always good to have days out which combine excitement with education, don’t you think? Both exhibitions are on until November 26 but, as you can see from the website, there are lots of events after that, too.

Children’s Book Of The Week

That's Not My Christmas Tree book cover

I love these touchy-feely toddler books by Usborne. I know it’s not Christmas yet but you might be stocking up already! PS. Look out for the little white mouse on every page…

That’s Not My Christmas Tree by Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells is available from from Usborne for £12.99, but you can get it for £6.99 on Amazon at the time of writing.

Coming To Find You book cover

Jane Corry is a journalist and award-winning author. Her latest novel is Coming to Find You.

When Nancy’s brother goes to prison for murder, she runs to the old family holiday home Tall Chimneys to hide from the press. But the home has its own secrets, going back to the Second World War. This Sunday Times bestseller is published by Penguin, £8.99. Available in print, digital and audio.