Grandparents are unique to humans. Humans have a unique gene that curbs mental decline in elderly individuals, a factor that allows grandparents help nurture their children’s children.
This makes us quite special doesn’t it?
That said, I never knew both my grandfathers. They died before I was born.
In fact my maternal grandmother was the only grandparent I knew (other than a great grandmother) and she was a gem.
She would snatch the cane from my mother whenever we boys got into trouble. So much of what I see of grandparenting was from my parents themselves with my children.
I am now a grandfather of four myself, having reached this milestone the year I turned 60. In my youth, I used to think that 60 was old. Now I am told 60 is the new 40s.
The fact is people are living longer (on average) and we seniors are making our presence felt.
I can only share from my perspective as no two families are alike.
When I was growing up, some mothers worked, many did not, including mine. Mother stopped working when we boys came along.
Grandma would stay with our family from time to time and she spent most of the time with us, caring for us while mother would busy herself with the house chores.
I remember grandma telling us stories, and bringing us to the local provision-shop or mamak shop (our 7-Eleven)!
When I got married, I moved out, and when I started my own family we would bring our first born to Mum’s place when we were at work.
It was a natural arrangement as Mum’s home was nearer the CBD, where both my wife and I worked, than my in-law’s home.
Also, we felt Mum wanted to play a part in caring for the newborn. This arrangement lasted till the kids started playschool.
My wife and I were working in the financial markets those early years and we did not have much time on weekdays with our children. We tried very hard to make it up on weekends but it was never enough.
Now, my children and their spouses work. My grandchildren are either at playschool during weekdays or at home with the domestic helper for the younger ones.
However help is usually needed when the children fall ill, or when the school has their permitted closed-days, and where the parents still need to work.
What has changed is the aspirations of the parents as well as that of the grandparents. Seniors are working longer. Many are working even though they are in their mid-sixties, like my wife and I. This is being promoted at the societal level.
It makes grandparenting more challenging. There are others too, my peers, who have retired but they are living their lives as well. They believe in fulfilment. Their approach is more hands-off.
Travelling, indulging in or starting new hobbies and basically doing things they have put off for years.
We are fortunate to be running our own business as it allows us a more flexible schedule.
What does not change is our key outcomes, which we are managing well.
We have been blessed that our 2 grandsons (and their parents) live with us, well at least for this season.
My granddaughters live with their parents just across the road and we pop in regularly to help out as well. It helps that we work both onsite in the office as well as from home.
As a father I took my children to the playgrounds, the parks, the beach and on holidays. As well as the more mundane stuff like enrichment classes, music lessons and swimming lessons.
As a grandparent, I find myself doing more of the mundane stuff with all my grandchildren. Their parents focus more on the fun things. I do that with the grandchildren as well, just not as often and I believe that these fun things are the right things as these are the memories that will bind the children closer to their parents in the long term, a very long term.
I do other fun things with them — make believe play, pretend play and silly things. But I intentionally keep the before-sleep chit-chats and bedtime stories to the parents. I believe it is good for them.
Values and ethos must come primarily from their parents. And being Christians, prayer is an important thing in our family. The parents lead, we reinforce them.
I love them…a lot, but I am not their father.
No, and one of them is working around ‘how best to parent’.
I have my preferred way of parenting, formed from my own personal experiences and the times that I lived through. My children have their own way of thinking, shaped by their evolving world.
I would give my input and leave it as that. Just for them to know where I am coming from. I am fortunate in that in most areas we share pretty much the same values i.e. the why; the differences are in the how.
I think young parents should not forget that grandpa and grandma have their lives to live, too.
They have dreams to fulfil in the years left where they are healthy and mobile. They have a social life, too.
Health and social life can and will change as they grow even older. Give them the space to juggle between spending time with the grandkids (which I am sure the majority will crave for) as well as the time for self-fulfilment.
And I recognise that the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren does and will change.
It is common to see grandchildren being much attached to their grandparents when they are toddlers till through early primary school years. Thereafter, the pressures of life will engulf their time and there will always be a slight pull away from grandparents.
There will be another major drifting when they hit teenage years but hey, at teenage years many will drift even from their parents!
Grandparents can be there to provide a listening ear. Not to replace the parents but to provide an alternative to turn to.
There is also a segment of grandparents whose own parents are still around and likely need to be cared for, too.
So, parents need to understand that the modern grandparent wears many hats, but for some like me, grandparenting is still one of the most cherished moments in life!
The joy of our grandchildren screaming ‘Grandpa!’ on the occasions when I stand in to pick them home from playschool always tugs at my heartstrings.