Deborah Ross: 'Grandparents may say ‘we’re too old to be running after little ones’. But they are just being silly'

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The Independent Online

If you ask me, the recent report saying that grandparents who help look after their grandchildren are "exploited and undervalued" does not chime with real life at all. Most grand-parents are extremely happy to muck in, and like to feel useful, which is why it is perfectly all right to leave the kids with them all day and possibly for the night. You may even dispatch them with a small suitcase should you be hard-pressed to pick them up anytime in the next few weeks, or a large suitcase should you be hard-pressed to pick them up anytime in the next couple of years.

Grandparents may protest and say "helping out is one thing" or "we're too old to be running after little ones", but they are just being silly. Or, as I always said to my own mother: "Mother, there are plenty of things you can do with children while sitting down. There is kayaking. There is dressage. There is solving murders in San Francisco. Did Ironside ever get up from his chair? I think you will find he did not." She may then add: "Well, perhaps when your father gets out of intensive care..." but that is just being silly, again.

Or, as I would further say to my own mother: "Mother, there are plenty of games you can play around someone who may or may not recover from a stroke, like Ludo and Go Fish and, if space allows, Hoop-La or Blind Man's Buff. Seriously, mother, at 88, isn't it time you got over yourself? And it's not like you're an invalid: you've still got half a hip left, and the use of your left hand."

When delivering your children to their grandparents, you may want to see them in or, alternatively, it may make sense to put them on the doorstep, ring the bell and run: "Surprise, Grandma! Surprise, Grandpa!" They will not feel "exploited and undervalued". They will feel pleased and flattered, and if Grandma calls out after you: "But I'm booked into the hairdresser's this afternoon!", that's OK, because there are plenty of things you can do with children at the hairdresser's. Sometimes, grandparents just need a little encouragement, is all. Also, if you run fast enough – it's best to sprint – you'll be several miles beyond earshot anyhow.

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