I grew up without having grandparents around me. But it’s been wonderful watching our kids nurture the kind of close relationships with their grandparents that I never had.
In particular, they have grown close to my parents, who come to stay with us every other weekend. So for a couple of days every couple of weeks, their grandparents get involved in their weekend routines, reading bedtime stories, playing games and generally being a big part of their everyday lives.
It really struck me last weekend how at ease the kids are with their grandparents. Toby happily squirreled himself away with Grandpa helping him with his laptop – if you want to fix a computer, hand it over to a six-year-old – although I think he was actually surreptitiously checking to see if he could play Minecraft on it. Isaac cajoled both Grandpa and Grandma into playing a game with him while his siblings were out at their swimming lesson. And Kara just bosses them both around the same way she does with her parents.
Between them, they have a level of comfort and trust that can only be built up over time. And at the same time my parents are confident enough with them that, while they are usually happy to pander to their demands, they are also comfortable with disciplining them when they cross the line.
From a parent’s perspective, of course, having willing and able grandparents regularly on hand is a godsend. Whether it is playing games to occupy them on Christmas morning while I bustle around preparing the traditional dinner …
Or helping our girly girl with styling. It’s a measure of how comfortable Kara is with her grandparents that our fiercely independent daughter – catchphrase: “I can do it!” – is happy to accept help from Grandma.
Two or three times a year during school holidays, the boys will travel to London to spend a week staying with Grandma, Grandpa and their Uncle Peter who take them all over the city and generally spoil them rotten. Kara will be doing the same thing herself for a few days this summer. (We’re not cruel enough to send them all three at once!)
I only saw my grandparents on a handful of occasions. They lived in Malaysia at a time when air travel was much more expensive and complicated than it is now – there was no such thing as a direct flight from London to Kuala Lumpur back then, and what now takes 13 hours used to take twice as long – and so I have hardly any memories of all but my dad’s mother (and even then I only saw her once every 4-5 years and she spoke as little English as I did Chinese).
As a result, I never enjoyed the kind of relationship with my grandparents that our three kids do with at least some of theirs. I hope they hold on to the memories they have created with them, long after they have gone.
And I think it’s been good for my parents too. Playing with their grandchildren and experiencing their lives has helped keep them young. Although it’s fair to say it can be quite an exhausting experience too …