Staying Connected to the Grandchildren in the “Real World”

let's eat grandma

What do you do when you run out of food for the seventh time in seven days? Why – you send the grandchildren home while you still have grocery money left of course!!!

Yes, dear readers, the The Annual March of the Grandchildren has taken place again. As suspected last year, the eldest has moved on from this ritual. She is about to start her last year of high school, has a part-time job and a full-time boyfriend, a driver’s licence and a big social circle, so a week with Nonna and Pa is no longer top of her agenda.

However, TR – (15 next week), EG (13) and CA (11) are still up for it. I got smart this time and put them all into our bedroom, a large room with an adjoining ensuite. Pa and I retreated to the guest bedroom some distance away. That limited the chaos.

We had a ball. The weather was perfect, and it costs little to take them to the beach. I get to catch up on my reading (In Cold Blood – Truman Capote), and Pa gets to relive his lifesaving days, except that he wears a sun hat and lathers up with sunscreen nowadays. Not like years ago when they stood out there in “budgie-smugglers” and a silly little red and yellow identity cap (actually, they do still use those, as well as a wide-brimmed hat).

I looked for a photo of my man from that time – but the best I can come up with is this scan of him of surfing as a young teen. He tried to join the surf club then, but was kicked out due to his age. They took him on the next year. Imagine being rescued by a 14 year-old. That demonstrates a sense of responsibility!

Surfing at Garie Beach NSW circa 1962

Surfing at Garie Beach NSW circa 1962

Even though the weather was great, the seas were rough in some places. The first beach we went to was closed. Thank goodness lifesaving is still high on the priority list for volunteer young men and women. “Swim Between the Flags” is a mantra that all beach-going Aussies have drummed into them from childhood. As their motto goes  . . . “If we can’t see you, we can’t save you” . . .  and we saw several rescues on these recent visits. Well, hubbie did. I have to confess I was too busy reading, stretching towels out to dry, and keeping the drinks cold.

Back at the ranch, there is always the indoor swimming pool – a big hit before showers and dinner.

After dinner used to be “family time”, playing board games and chatting – but these days, those electronic devices rule. On the first night, tucking the kidlets into bed, I automatically put a mobile phone on to charge. Moments later, returning to the room, I spy a lead and no phone . . . “Where’s the phone gone?” I’m puzzled.
“Under my pillow Nonna,” is the butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth reply.
Nonna is no dill. The alarm bells went on. We’ve been down this road before with the eldest grandchild. Phone on all night, and no sign of a teenager until midday the next day, while all the rest are hanging around waiting to go out and have fun.

“Oh, no we don’t. Not having that,” says Nasty Nonna.

“But I don’t have any data,” says EG.

“So what?” I say, “You’ll still get texts all night.”

“Oh no I won’t, Nonna. It’s a new phone. I don’t have any contacts in there yet.”

Aha! She thinks I came down in the last shower. Smooth as silk I come back,
“Well . . . there’s no problem about me taking it then – is there?”

If looks could kill 🙂

Next morning, we set the newest house rule – no electronic devices in a bedroom after 10pm. It was a bit of struggle for a couple of nights, but well worth it. At first, all kinds of messages were coming through until two and three am. The worst is Snapchat, as the image/message only lasts about ten-twenty seconds, so the recipient is constantly on the alert to dive on it. After a few days though, their friends got the message that Nonna and Pa are old-fashioned boring people who don’t understand teenagers and are only interested in taking them out to have fun in daylight hours. As if any self-respecting teenager could actually have any fun when they have been cut off from society all night long. Teehee. I expected EG to be sulky all visit, but actually, she quite brightened up when I explained she was suffering from a serious illness . . .

“You have FOMO,” I told her gravely.

“What’s that Nonna?”

Fear of Missing Out. It’s very severe. You should be afraid . . . be very, very afraid. It could prevent you from forming relationships in the real world . . . you might be destined to float forever in a virtual vacuum, never knowing the touch of a living person . . .”

Okay, I hammed up that last bit. But she got the message.

That challenge out of the way, then the onus was on us to keep them amused. Not a problem! One of the girls had received a lot of store vouchers for Christmas, so she wanted a shopping day. Now, I am probably the only grandmother in the world who hates shopping – but I put on a brave face. And guess what? Turns out that when you don’t go shopping often, you actually see things you need, so I was able to tick several items off my list, and we shopped till we dropped, or the stores closed. One or the other came first, but whichever, was I sure glad to get home and put the kettle on at the end of it 🙂

We’d had such a good time last year at Jamberoo Water Action Park that we promised them a return visit. I could get addicted to this place. The entrance fee for five of us is an investment, but for that outlay we get seven hours of entertainment and can bring our own food. It works out much cheaper than the movies after you count in cinema snacks and lunch in the food court. We tried all the rides, including the Funnel Web, which is a long, twisting drop in the dark while clinging on to a life raft and getting totally saturated with water you don’t even know is coming your way. It’s fun – trust me 🙂 . . . Would I lie?

The activity I like best though is the toboggan/bobsled. You get to the top of the mountain by chairlift, and once there, choose from one of two metal tracks which wind back down to ground level. The minimum speed on the experienced track is meant to be 30klm (about 19mph). Eleven year old CA told me on the way up that he ignores the warning signs to brake and just goes full out all the way. I told him it’s like driving a car. You can ignore the warning signs and get away with it plenty of times, but someday, you’ll get caught out and injure yourself at best, and others at worst. Sure enough, he lost control on his second run, the two girls ploughed into him, and he slightly burnt his leg on the metal rail which was baking in the hot sun. Their three toboggans lay abandoned at the side of the track until the cleanup at the end of the day. He was up for a third try though, and had it all worked out that I was to go last, the inference being that I would be too slow and cautious. Little did he know that his Nonna loved riding motorcycles in her mis-spent youth.

I spent most of that run riding his tail. “I was going slow ‘cos I didn’t want to stack it again,” he told me. “Wise boy,” I said. “You wanna go again? Try a little bit faster this time?”

“No thanks Nonna. I’ve had enough of that for today.”

Well, Nonna hadn’t – that’s for sure! I let them go on their way while I went up and down that mountain five more times, fanging down the hill on full throttle, easing off a touch as I approached the curves, then full on again as I leant into them hard, just like when I rode those bikes. Ahhh, that blew away any hoary old cobwebs!

The next day was a total change of scenery. Our local university – University of Wollongong – was hosting the Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience, and one of our lovely neighbours had obtained tickets for a group entrance. I offered all the grandchildren (and Pa) to come, but didn’t pressure – except to say – whatever you all decide, I am going! They came, they saw, they were enthralled! The exhibition was presented from the Australian & New Zealand view of WWI in a chronological sequence via a multi-media environment to which they could all respond, and each child found a different point of focus. I can only hope that CA (11) came away with the ability to appreciate that while shooting people on Playstation may be “fun”, the reality is that shooting and being shot at is quite a different experience, and that the poor soul lying in a mud-soaked hole in a trench, shaking and ranting with shell-shock, may have been an animated wax dummy, but was a true reflection of what many men experienced.

So on our last night together, we regained their attention by pulling out boxes of photos. I gave each a smaller box and asked them to put their names on it, then asked them to go through stacks of loose photographs and put what they wanted into their personal box. The idea being that I would keep each box safe until they were a little older and ready for them to be handed over. They squealed, laughed and reminisced as they passed photos around to each other, and compared them side by side. At the end though, the eleven year old was a little put out. “There’s only a few photos in my box“, he grumbled.

“Welcome to the digital age, my boy. Look, at some stage, I’ll go through all the photos on the computer, and save what you might like onto a USB.”

“Will you do that Nonna?”

“Sure . . . But we have no way of knowing whether USBs will still function in ten year’s time.” I answered glumly.

And by then it was  time for bed. They may not have gone to sleep for another couple of hours, but at least they lay there in the dark, reminiscing and telling each other stories, that mostly began with, “you remember when?”  So! . . . they were telling each other their own stories, and were finally disconnected from some shadowy, virtual reality that is product of the imagination of an un-named person who they will never meet.

As I said before though, Nonna is no dill. I am sure that the next night it was “business as usual” in the electronic world. Not my night-shift. Not my problem 🙂 I am glad this is a battle I only have one week in fifty-two. Hats off to all the parents coping with the other fifty-one 🙂

One downside of our busy week was that we did not need to resort to the cinema to fill in time. Pity. Because I desperately wanted to see “Snoopy and Charlie Brown – The Peanuts Movie”. I have a horrible feeling it has finished screening, now that the school holidays have come to an end 😦

I leave you all with another photo collage, this of three generation of “our” men, all aged two when the photo was taken. Grandpa in the middle, son on the left, and grandson (CA) on the right. Do you think I can be sneaky and put photos of Grandpa into CA’s box – or is it only me who thinks they are “two peas in a pod”?

Peas in a Pod

Peas in a Pod

More soon. January has been a very busy month! Garrulous Gwendoline, Wollongong, 27Jan16













35 thoughts on “Staying Connected to the Grandchildren in the “Real World”

  1. I did not realize I missed this until I went back and read your post this morning referring to the digital age and grandchildren! This was a hilarious post and well worth looking back at. Sounds like you had a great time and kept your sense of humor. I am sure these are treasured memories that your grandchildren will have for the rest of their lives. I want to come visit next January!😄


  2. Pingback: KARMA | The Reluctant Retiree

  3. Enjoyed greatly reading this 🙂 Yes, the phone thing is a thing. We got our fancy new NBN connection over the holidays which of course didn’t work as smoothly as Dad wanted to make us believe and so we had no internet for over a week and a few days a few weeks earlier ….. It was a bit depressing, to be honest, I couldn’t work, the young one missed out on his lives on whatever game and the first born couldn’t snap chat …. But what has winging ever helped so we just had to make the best of it. There’s never phones during meals mind you, but in agreement we do tend to share the latest favourite music of the first born or a funny video or look something up. It has it’s good uses, and I’m generally a glass half-full so we’re going with the flow I guess 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had NBN cutover this morning and it has also fallen in a heap. Turns out that even though the modem is NBN compatible, it won’t switch over now it has been used for ADSL. Replacement modem still a week away, so meantime we are without internet and home phone. Luckily, we still have a communal computer in the library, but it has so many access restrictions that you need to be inventive. I couldn’t even get into my own wordpress site through the front door 🙂


  4. Lovely post, your phone watcher at the table isn’t a generation thing it’s a question of manners, my Mum only ever allowed conversation at any dinner table, she actually tells people to put their phones away if they eat with us, so I’ve now carried on her good habits.


    • I imagine we can only expect another four or five Christmas visits, but I do hope we are sowing the seeds for many happy memories of their grandparents. Neither my husband nor I ever had the opportunity with our own as they had all died before we were born. The resemblance extends to behaviours as well!


  5. Hi Gwen. Loved reading your post on the week with your grandchildren. You bring your everyday life alive by your words. Also enjoyed reading your book. You are a remarkable woman and I am lucky to know you as a friend. All the best and continue with your great writing. Love Hazel


  6. Such a busy time, but activity I think is the key to keeping everyone across generations in a good mood. Independently staring at mobiles in mixed company (age wise I mean) seems to me to make everyone plain irritable. And, don’t get me started on Snapchat – I actually can’t think of anything positive to say about Snapchat at all. I keep telling my daughter and nieces not to bother Snapchatting me, but they all love it. I’m definitely feeling the age gap on that one!


    • No one sends me Snapchat thank goodness. I have a girlfriend who Skypes regularly, but that is a different kettle of fish, even though it is an irritating interruption at times. I fell foul in the last corporate job I had, because I had to take a new customer service team to another state for cross-training. Every night, one of the “team” spent all the meal staring at her phone. I was incensed. Others took her part, saying she was now on her own time. I countered with, “but she is on the company’s dollar – at least converse with the senior executives at the table, you never know where your future lies”. Their answer was, “we are only here, because you have the company credit card.” I’m seeing red by now. “Well, for goodness sake – go and eat somewhere else, and put your expense claim in!” Their response? “Our credit cards are already maxed out. You brought us here. What do you expect?”. oooohhh I could go on and on. But that was it for me. When the contract failed to be extended, I swore off corporate Australia. Been there. Done that. For me too, the age gap was too great.


      • Goodness what an unpleasant situation. Hadn’t they heard of the expression ‘networking’? I am wondering beneath the surface of so-called change just how much the underlying accepted social behaviour has really changed. I know they might be irritated by the suggestion, but I think some younger folk could do with reading a few extracts from Marcel Mauss’ ‘The Gift’. Being social and living in society is a complicated business that requires making an effort – and especially if it’s time with work colleagues even it isn’t strictly on the clock.


        • I was embarrassed also because I had just had to hire a new team of four, and I could feel the senior people at the table questioning my judgement about choosing her. On the job though, she was actually a power house. But still very young and lacking in emotional intelligence. Working with her did turn out to be awkward, particularly since I had come from a previous job where my key team members were very switched on women who always had my back (and me theirs). Glad that time is behind me. Might turn up in a writing piece though 🙂


          • Oh yes – writing about your experiences of the work place, recounting incidents like that dinner with all the factions and power plays would certainly give you plenty to get your teeth into. And I guess you were working when all the seismic changes came about in companies with so many tasks moving to computers.

            In my experience along with my mother’s, my sister’s and recently my daughter’s we have not found women supportive in the world of work – unfortunately and, sadly, more often than not they have been actively negative. We live in hope for the sisterhood.

            Liked by 1 person

          • In one of the interviews I did, I think it was an online magazine for career women, I cautioned against being the type of female leader who pulls the ladder up after you. I think some women, particularly of my generation, fought to make it in the workplace and expect that others must do that too to prove their worth. Then at the other end, we have Gen Y who think we have just been panting for their arrival and they are a team of one. Glad I’m out of it really.


          • I heard a very interesting discussion sometime last year about this issue of women in the workplace and networking. It appears humans act in ways very similar to our primate cousins! We make allegiances and pacts, but are quick to shift these to gain an advantage. Not much hope there then.

            Liked by 1 person

          • The politics of shifting allegiances is common to both men and women in the workplace, although men are generally better networkers, and some women can be better in the loyalty stakes. I can cope with strategic alliances, I understand the need for that provided it is done without malice, but the back-stabbing and undermining that some women revel in just leaves me cold. As well as spreading rumour disguised as fact. Teams do reflect their leaders though, so the best we can do is attempt to lead by example. Do unto others, and all that.


          • I so agree with you about teams reflecting their leaders. I was once called in to help with some last minute proposal for a large, City insurance company, thought it would be awful. Turned out I had to work through several lunch hours chained to the computer, but the main boss organised very tasty sandwiches and fresh orange juice just for me and brought them to my desk. It was only a small gesture, but much appreciated. I remember thinking how pleasant all his team were despite the stress they were under. He definitely led from the front!

            Liked by 1 person

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