Goodbye January, it is time 
to look forward to the spring

Lots of parents complain about how their children just want them to be babysitters or childminders
Lots of parents complain about how their children just want them to be babysitters or childminders

I’ll be glad to see the back of this month.

The garden lies in a state of abject misery, snow has returned, my beloved Greece is in turmoil and son number one is too busy to have me visit.

He spends so much of his working life in a plane it’s hard to keep up with his globe-trotting but he has pencilled me in for the end of March. I’m pathetically grateful for at least a provisional date.

That’s how it is with children. Retired parents have all the time in the world, yet our offspring have their own lives and unless they live round the corner or in Northern Ireland, visits to them have to be negotiated, usually well in advance.

It could be worse, I suppose. They could be living in God-forsaken Australia.

I verged on a nervous breakdown years ago when one of my children thought New Zealand would be a nice place to live. He chose Europe instead.

I’d like to think he knew I never liked long distance travel and wanted to make it easier for us. But children aren’t that thoughtful when it comes to their parents. Most of us are expected to fit in to their agenda.

My sons lived in a household with two full-time working parents who were often panic-stricken trying to keep up with school events and all the other social activities they had to be conveyed to.

We have time now to spend with them. But now they’re short of time and we’ve learned a new language of diplomacy, not wanting to encroach on their time but missing them terribly. Himself, though, draws the line at dropping everything at a moment’s notice to visit. He refers to me as the door mat.

Yet I hear lots of parents complaining about how their children just want them as babysitters or childminders. Some of them can’t even book a holiday because of their needy children. Sometimes I think I’d settle for that kind of relationship if my children were living nearby. But they’re not and we have to be the flexible ones.

The invention of Skype has made it easier to keep in touch. Yet it too can be a painful experience. I look at my lovely grandchildren, one just four months old and would give anything for a cuddle with them. I have to cuddle the dog instead.

My paternal grandmother lost her daughters to America when they were just teenagers. It was many years before they were able to return for a holiday. So I have to remember not to feel sorry for myself. At least technology allows me to watch my grandchildren growing up.

Usually, by this time of the month, I’ve started the gardening, dead heading plants and clearing the beds to reveal the first sign of spring – snowdrops. Sadly most of mine are still struggling through a thicket of weeds and dead matter.

The newspaper gardening columns which I read faithfully tell me what to be doing by this time of the year and what I can expect to see growing. So, on top of missing the family, there’s no cheer in the garden since I’m likely to get ‘frost-bit’ as that young Co Londonderry schoolboy Ruairi McSorley declared to a reporter who asked him about the snowy weather he was having to negotiate to get to school in the Sperrins.

Ruairi’s comment led to him becoming an internet sensation, a rare moment of cheer in a miserable month. His English teacher can’t be too happy but then isn’t there an august educational body which believes we should be spelling phonetically? Maybe the cold has gone to their head.