“Sorry, Mum. Don’t come over today to pick X up for the weekend. She is down with a fever.”
One hour later, the door bell rang. My mother was at the door, tonics in hand.
That is one scene I will not forget.
The Relationship Between Grandparents and Grandchildren
My mother dotes on her grandchildren. In her younger days, my mother would come every weekend to bring them out, followed by a stayover at her place, before ‘returning’ them to my wife and I on Sunday.
I used to have a term for this: Chinese Language Immersion Programme, or CLIP. After all, those weekends are the only times when my children would speak in Chinese for almost the entire weekend. They use English most of the time on weekdays, whether at home or in school.
My children love CLIP too, but for different reasons. The two girls love to go places with my mother (and with my father, if he comes along). To them, these are opportunities to visit places, take pictures and travel on buses. They saw scenes they may not see if they were with us. If they were with my wife and I on weekends, we will be at the same places, take the train most of the time, and do grocery shopping. I guess the incentives to go out with my mother are right to attract them.
I always hear people comment that grandparents should indulge their grandchildren. Spoil them by all means, for it is the parents who have to manage and discipline the children, not the grandparents. I thought that is an unfair perspective of grandparents. Why do we need to draw a line in this way?
Indulgent Or Enjoyment?
Part of the reason why my children love seeing their grandparents is the treats they bring each time. These can be small treats, like sweets, chocolates and other foodstuff. Or it can be bigger ones, like toys, clothes, sometimes even money. My in-laws also give gifts to the children occasionally.
It’s not only my children. I also appreciate these gifts. My parents or in-laws don’t have to do this. They have their expenses to watch too. Yet they chose to spend on the children. Sometimes their explanation is simple: “I won the lottery”, “These are from the workplace”, “I saw these items on the way here”.
Beneath the explanations is usually their love for the grandchildren. They know the children have favourite food or items, but may not get them because this father of theirs will not buy for them often. So you can bet the items will appear when they visit, with them insisting that they bought them out of convenience.
This is their way of connecting with them. Knowing what they like, springing surprises on them, enjoying the looks of surprise and happiness. Don’t all these sound similar to how people in healthy relationships feel?
It pays to deepen inter-generational ties
It is possible, still, for grandparents to indulge grandchildren. All of us know what that may lead to, especially parents.
But I believe my children will benefit from relating and spending time with my parents and in-laws. There is no need to be protective over the amount of time they spend with them. I don’t feel insecure that my children are close to my parents. I trust they will not play politicking pitting my parents against me, to secure benefits for themselves.
I could also see my second daughter become more compassionate for the weak over time, as she observed my father’s condition deteriorate over time. In recent weeks, she has been telling me how my father’s eating habit has become progressively different. He cannot recall whether he has eaten a meal, even if it was just 10 minutes after!
In spending time with their grandparents, my children also learnt more about their histories and their past. They are exposed to their habits and cultural practices, and know more about their cultures. The children also learn how to connect with people of an older generation.
Life is not merely about developing skills. You also pick up values and attributes from spending time with others. They can see, for example, how my parents do not need a lot to live. They can see how a simple life can be meaningful. I know time is well spent if the kids are with my parents. Everyone gains.
Society is better off when more inter-generational ties are formed and strengthened. You have a cohesive society when the young becomes more aware of and concern for the old, and when the old reaches out to connect with the young. I always feel a more gentler and kinder society needs the young and old to watch out for each other.
How do you handle your relationship with your grandchildren? What do you wish for in your children’s relationship with your parents?