Friday, 16 October 2015

The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 16 October

Don’t keep mum when asked to parent the grandchildren, writes Thomas Blaikie –put your foot down and agree boundaries

Written by Thomas Blaikie
Dear Thomas,
My two grandchildren, aged eight and 10, are coming to stay at half-term for the first time while my daughter and son-inlaw have a minibreak in Rome. I’m feeling a bit daunted, to be honest. Will I spoil them? How do I keep them entertained? There’s also the question of cost. What do you advise?
Priscilla Jeffreys, Portsmouth

Dear Priscilla,
Remember: you were a parent once. But you’re not the parent now. That’s the problem. Discussion in advance with your daughter and son-in-law, particularly about what your grandchildren should eat and bedtimes, is useful up to a point. Any parental decrees must be obeyed, I’m afraid, however unreasonable you think they are. Ideally I would hope that parents are not too strict and are prepared to allow their offspring to have different experiences. You could also agree the money aspect in advance. One grandparent I heard of said it cost her £346.95 to have her three grandchildren to visit for four days, so it’s reasonable to negotiate a budget for the stay.

Don’t anxiously over-plan a plethora of activities. A couple of outings are enough for a five-day stay. The trouble is, however much you organise in advance, you still need to think on your feet where children are concerned – as you will recall from your own parenting days. Nor do you want the grandchildren’s experience to be a mirror image of what they get at home. Although surveys suggest that many parents think their children are unmanageably spoilt after being with their grandparents, it doesn’t have to be this way. A mother speaking on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour said she was happy for her daughter to have breakfast in bed at granny’s. The child enjoyed the treat and knew it wasn’t going to happen every day. Children aren’t fools and it’s good for them to understand that people are different. Of course if grandparents allow grandchildren to loll all day on the sofa, with TV on, computers whirring, unlimited junk food and no boundaries whatsoever as to rudeness, then they’ll become fractious and unmanageable, knowing perhaps that, despite appearances to the contrary, they’re being neglected.

Also, children are quick to spot weakness and will exploit anyone, even a grandparent, who they sense is desperate to be liked. No, staying with the grandparents should be special, a time of treats and the odd little indulgence. The right sort of children will blossom from the attention and return to their more mundane existence with their parents the better for it.

Please send your questions to  or write to him at The Lady, 39-40 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9ER

WHAT TO DO ABOUT...Pets on Board

Consternation as the airline Ryanair reveals it might allow small dogs in the cabin on short-haul flights to Europe. The company’s chief commercial officer, David O’Brien, says he’d be interested to hear what people think. So, now’s your chance.

At present no other airline offers any in-cabin service for pets on flights in or out of the UK and Ireland. By law, cats and ferrets may also travel within the EU provided they have the right jabs and paperwork. So perhaps we can look forward to, in the future, more extensive representation of the animal kingdom on board flights – carry-on cat litter, etc. The odd escaped ferret won’t be too much trouble at 30,000 feet, surely?

It has been uncharitably mentioned that small dogs might be preferable to some of the humans to be found on Ryanair. My feeling is that a dog would have to be very small indeed to travel without a seat of its own – I’m imagining one of those handbag creatures with some impossible heiress on the other end of it. Hardly Ryanair territory? I suspect we’ll hear no more of this. It’s just a PR gesture.

Ryanair wants to appear nicer.

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