When parents separate, grandparents can find themselves cut off from grandchildren with no rights. The law should change
Stage lights sway beside the tall trees in Regents Park theatre on Saturday night, casting a golden glow on Beatrice and her reluctant wooer, Benedick. It was shivering cold, but our hearts were warm, first because of the play, but also because I was there in the company of my grandson. Much Ado had been a set text at school so he got the plot and understood the rude jokes as much as I did. The following morning we were off again, just the two of us, grandma and grandson, heading for the British Library and its exhibition of Henry VIII. Yes, my grandson is already in his teens and enjoys these one-to-one weekends almost as much as I do.
Jimmy and Margaret Deuchars in Glasgow had a fine time with their granddaughters at half-term, too. The two teenagers stayed over in their home and went on outings to Loch Lomond and such, just the sort of treats grandparents enjoy sharing. But in Jimmy and Margarets case it hasnt always been that easy.
The Deuchars lost their daughter to breast cancer only weeks after her second baby was born. Her husband soon married again and moved away to Liverpool. His new family took precedence in his life and the grandparents found contact hard. Their requests to keep in touch came to nothing. They realised that they had lost more than their daughter. But they werent willing to accept the situation, and went to court. The laws of this country do not acknowledge any legal relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. However, after a somewhat heated negotiation, the families came to an agreement. In the years that followed they would meet their granddaughters once a month at Carlisle Castle or the Tesco near by. It wasnt much of a family life, but it would have to do. However, they didnt stop there.
When I was first a grandparent, about 17 years ago, grandparents didnt have much of a profile. They were simply bundled in with the general family background and not expected to have much of a role. All that has changed, and people such as Miriam Stoppard are writing delicious books about the joys and rewards, but also about the skills and pitfalls of what I suppose must be called grand parenting. Being a grandparent, it seems to me, can be gloriously free of rule books and restrictions. There is only one qualification parentage and after that you make it up as you go along.