Diary Of A Modern Gran | A Special Party

Istockphoto © Lady chasing pram Illustration: Istockphoto

Oh dear. I’m late. For a very important date.

It’s my granddaughter’s eighth birthday party!

Her actual birthday is tomorrow but this afternoon, after school, my daughter has invited a small group of school friends back for tea and games.

I’m actually late because I got caught up in a Christmas shopping queue at the pharmacist.

I know it’s no excuse, but when I get there, the party is in full swing. How lovely! We are playing wonderful traditional games mixed with a dollop of the new.

My daughter has found some really clever arty-crafty shapes for each guest to colour in and to take home. There are butterflies, flowers, and well, all kinds of things. They could be hung on the Christmas tree or maybe in their bedrooms. In fact, I’ve got my eye on the rainbow design!

It keeps them engrossed for least 15 minutes, which is a big thing in my book. Then we go on to “pin a lid on the teapot”. The closest wins! My daughter has drawn a large picture and pinned it on to the under stairs cupboard door.

We are each given cut-out paper lids and then have to stick them on the drawing. Did I mention that we are blindfolded? There is hilarity when I try because I am considered to be ancient by everybody else. I’m actually only in the just over 65+ age group, but that probably seems a lot when you’re eight.

The winner gets a prize but we all have a wonderful time. “It’s like stick the tail on the donkey!” I announce. I am met with a sea of blank faces. “What’s that, Gan Gan?” asks my granddaughter puzzled.

I start to explain but Alexa cuts in to start the dancing and then, of course, there’s the birthday tea.

Wow! There are heart-shaped sandwiches and some delicious chocolatey squares plus food to cope with all the different allergies that we have nowadays.

I’m going into detail here because it seems that nowadays, the traditional parties from our day are few and far between. In the last few years, my grandchildren have had entertainers and one occasion, a batman car that went past the house.

Mind you, that was during the virus when we weren’t allowed to socialise with others, so we just stood by the door watching.

I take my hat off to my daughter, and also my son-in-law who takes little George round town for a walk. Gorgeous as my grandson is, this is a girls-only treat.

Meanwhile, Rose’s party reminds me of those exciting birthday parties when we were young when we’d wear dresses with little, short cardigans which our mothers had knitted. (She always used the patterns in My Weekly!) Pass the parcel was also a big thing, wasn’t it? And so was sleeping lions. In fact, I recall some horrible girl from my class dropping a space hopper onto my face to make me move and lose the game. Nowadays, thank goodness, we’re all much more aware of bullying.

“My grandson had a traditional birthday party too,” says an old friend when I ring to tell her about Rose’s. “I think the trend is to make parties simpler and smaller.”

Then I came across another friend whose daughter and son-in-law are having a big part for 80 to celebrate their two-year-old’s big day. “I do wonder if it’s for them or the child!” she half-jokes. I suspect it’s the latter. How many two-year-olds have 80 friends?

Meanwhile, I’d love to know what kind of birthday parties your grandchildren have? It would also be lovely to hear your memories about birthday parties from your childhood.

Here’s one of mine. I have a very special water jug made of green glass. Somehow it’s managed to survive 60+ years. It would only come out on our birthdays so now I do the same. “Please don’t drop it,” I say when my children pick it up. (It’s very heavy.).

Isn’t it strange how little things like that are so important? Then again, links to the past make us who we are. Don’t they?

Now onto the nativity play. This year, Rose’s age group didn’t have one. How disappointing!

It’s another sign that she’s getting older and although that’s wonderful, I’ve always loved the nativity plays. Still, George is a sheep which is great news. Even better, I’m allowed to come. There are three tickets for each family which is a great improvement on the old virus rules. My daughter is very involved with the school PTA, so I find myself helping out with raffle tickets and working out the mathematics. Whoops! Better sit down. They’re about to start.

If the birthday party was traditional, the nativity play definitely had a modern spin! Each group – from the wise men to the shepherds – performed a dance, which was then judged, Strictly Come Dancing-style – by three of the children in various costumes, including Caesar Augustus, a donkey and a villager.

It made us laugh, and at the same time reminded us of the message of Christmas.

Peace and goodwill to all, despite the terrible things that are happening in the world right now.

Please email us with your stories about birthday parties and nativity plays, both past and present at moderngran@dcthomson.co.uk.

Ask Agony Gran

“I was going to have a pre-Christmas trip see my son and his children but the train strikes are causing big problems with my journey. I’ve changed my tickets but it seems that the days on either side are also being affected with disrupted trains as a knock-on effect. I’m nervous about being stranded. I live five hours away from them, and neither my son nor I drive. My grandchildren are all under five, and my son is reluctant to take them on a long journey to see me.” Name withheld

Jane says:

How hard. I do feel for you. In fact, I wouldn’t mind betting that many readers are in this position. I’m just wondering if you can plan your trip for another date? I know it will be disappointing but it might be better than getting stuck. Have you also considered the coach service? By the way, if you’ve already bought your train ticket and it’s cancelled, you are entitled to a refund. If you bought your ticket online, you will get a message telling you how to do this. If you find this too complicated, it’s worth going to the ticket office even though I appreciate this might be a journey in itself.

As a last resort, maybe you could plan a substitute family trip when there aren’t any strikes. I know it’s not the same. Please let us know how you get on. Good luck. If anyone else has been affected by strikes when visiting family over Christmas, do let us know. Email us on moderngran@dcthomson.co.uk.

What you said about last week’s diary…

“I was interested to read your Agony Gran page last week about the reader who loves looking after her grandchildren but is very tired. I was sad that she turned out a holiday invitation with her friend. At the beginning of every year, I organise trips and days out. I then give that list to my son and his partner. I make it clear that this is my time. In return, they give me list of dates when they’d like me to look after the children. We both agree to stick to it, unless there is a real emergency. So far it seems to work.” Julie

Thank you, Julie. We need to be flexible on both sides, don’t we?

Family News

Good news! From April 2024, working parents of two-year-olds will be able to apply for 15 hours of free childcare. From September 2024, 15 hours of free childcare will be extended to all children from the age of nine months. From September 2025, working parents of children under the age of five will be entitled to 30 hours free childcare per week.

The Funny Things They Say

“My five-year-old grandson got very excited on the phone to me last week. ‘We saw grotty Father Christmas,’ he told me. He actually meant that he’d seen Father Christmas. in a grotto!”

Grandparent Tip

“I’ve just re-organised two of my kitchen drawers, so they have age-appropriate activities for each of my grandchildren.

“When they come over to play, they love opening their drawer – which has a sticker with their name on it – and finding something different to do every time. It makes them feel special.” Shirley

What a great idea. Thanks, Shirley.

Day Out With The Grandchildren

A day out at the zoo is always special, but even more so at Christmas time.

Thanks to the reader who wrote in to recommend Chester Zoo. This December, it is lit up with lights to create a series of magical wonderlands with lanterns, characters in costume and Christmas scenes. There’s even an octopus and a cactus desert as well, of course Father Christmas and lots of animals. Must book in advance.

Chester Zoo, Upton-by-Chester, Chester, CH2 1EU.

Children’s Book of the Week

The Christmasaurus book cover

The Christmasaurus wants to help Santa pull his sledge. But it’s hard to fly. Then he falls down the chimney and discovers a little boy who is obsessed with dinosaurs and teaches him the magic of believing. A charming rhyming picture book.

The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher. Illustrated by Shane Devries. Published by Puffin. £7.99 but available for £3.99 currently online.

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. Published by Doubleday from December 19 in Canada and the USA.