This ranges from insisting they call and visit regularly — they call in at least once a week, and we speak or email every day.
I’ve learned to ask them if there’s something I want. I’ve sometimes come a cropper and been sent to Coventry for a while after I’ve read them the ‘Riot Act’ when the phone calls have lapsed, but better to make feelings known than suffer in silence.
If they’re lucky they are ‘invited’ (often months ahead) to a meal or gathering, where they’re largely ignored, as children and grandchildren alike barely look up from their phones.
One 60-year-old described how she delivered birthday presents to her grandchildren — and was barely acknowledged. It wasn’t always thus: growing up in the Fifties, I may not have always looked forward to the obligatory weekly family get-together — either sitting round a coal fire in my grandmother’s modest kitchen, or sat on stiff- backed horsehair chairs in the ‘front room’ — but I always went and I always behaved myself.
Now our children are placing their parents squarely at the bottom of their priority list in their busy lives. They daren’t suggest or guide, never utter a direct or ‘tactless’ word. You mustn’t say a word.’I’ve witnessed polished women, the sort who might have gone to finishing school, smiling feebly as their grandchildren piggishly shovel food into their mouths, wipe their noses on their hands and vandalise furniture.
They just keep quiet.‘You’re always walking on egg-shells,’ one 75-year-old grandmother explained to me, during a pre-granddaughter ‘pep talk’. They’re so grateful to be invited they ‘daren’t say anything’.
How many grandparents (or parents) do you know who feel they can just ‘pop in’ to see their children or grandchildren?
Not skirt around each other, or slot in a quick chat on the way to hockey practice.
Many have family who are simply too caught up in their own lives to make time for them.
I was reminded of this by a poignant letter in this paper recently.
My widowed grandmother — my father’s mother — was taken in by both my family and another son, and her presence was very much felt. Then there’s that feeling of being surplus to requirements.
She was certainly not scared to speak up, and I know she went through a few rough patches with her daughters-in-law. In my day, when elderly relatives lived at home, they were expected to muck in as much as they were able and became an essential component of the family.