Lockdown is hard on the kids – even the adult ones

My children haven’t seen their grandparents for months at this stage

I was doing grand until the postcard arrived. It wasn’t even addressed to me. It was clearly marked for the attention of “Chloe, Adam, Jamie, Luke, Zach, Tobey and Noah”, but it was from my parents and the simple message took my breath away.

“Just want you to let you know that we miss you all so much. We are very proud of all of you. When this virus goes we’ll be up to see you all”, it read.

She’d said it several times on the phone, so I was under no illusions as to how my mother felt about the unrecognised contribution of children everywhere, including her own grandchildren, in helping to suppress the pandemic.

Chatting via any kind of contraption at this age loses its appeal pretty quickly

“It’s the kids I feel sorry for. It’s so hard on them, they don’t understand”, she said sadly. “I think they’re brilliant” she added. In spite of the fact that she and my father are mostly cocooning, she has little time for any intolerance towards children in shops or out on walks with their families.


My children haven’t seen either set of their grandparents for months at this stage. They’ve spoken to one set via video-call while the other set have yet be convinced of its merits. But either way, they’re missing them all hugely. Speaking to people on the other end of the phone, videocall or otherwise, is not the same – and particularly not when you’re small. Chatting via any kind of contraption at this age loses its appeal pretty quickly.

Unless of course there’s a request to be made.

“Nana, when are you bringing up my chicken tikka masala?” the second youngest asked, his face suddenly appearing on the screen. “It’s taking a very long time”, he said referring to a promise made before the restrictions were in place. He’s a child who loves his grub, any grub really, but his nana’s chicken tikka masala is his favourite meal. And promises about food are taken very seriously.

“I haven’t forgotten” she reassured him, laughing. “I’ll get it up to you as soon as I can”, she called as he ran off to continue his lightsaber battle.

There has always been a ritual of sorts that takes place when the respective grandparents come to visit. My father prepares for armageddon at the best of times. He applies similar practices to visiting his grandchildren. The blood drains from my face when he walks in the door weighed down with every imaginable sweet and treat piled high in bags and boxes. There’s inevitably something practical and random included in there too, just so I can’t object and complain too much – it was ten rolls of sellotape the last time.

Like the rest of us they're worried about when this might end and when we might all see each other again

My parents in-law tend to come bearing, amongst other things, sausages, usually as a way to get the fussy eater out of having to eat whatever was planned for dinner. He smiles knowingly when he sees what’s on the menu, aware that I’m unlikely to argue the case with his gran and so for that day, at least, he won’t have to eat his vegetables.

Such is the privilege of grandparenthood.

Last weekend, I brought some shopping down to my parents. I hadn’t seen them for months either and we agreed I’d have a cuppa while there, safely at a distance from the end of the garden. I noticed, with delight, how well both of them looked. My dad wearing disposable gloves to bring the bags indoors was the only suggestion, I spotted, that he felt vulnerable. It didn’t sit easy with me. My dad wears jeans - he’ll never be old.

“We’re very lucky really. Sure we’ve a house and a garden and people have been so kind to check on us” my mam said as she drank her tea. “And we’ve each other for company” she continued, while I resisted the urge to make a Jack and Vera Duckworth joke.

But like the rest of us they’re worried about when this might end and when we might all see each other again. Covid-19 has touched our extended family with a relative currently ill in a Dublin nursing home, and my parents cannot visit.

As I waved my goodbyes from a distance my father appeared on the porch with some bags and boxes. Twenty-nine Easter eggs and countless packets of pasta were amongst the contents – and a freshly made chicken tikka masala.

I suggested they keep the pasta. “Sure we don’t eat pasta”, he replied as if the very notion was ridiculous.

I drove away thinking how hard all this is on the kids – even us adult ones.