Bless­ing of grand­chil­dren

Grand­par­ent­ing isn’t easy but it fills this writer with joy to be able to hold lit­tle hands and cud­dle her grand­kids.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - HEART & SOUL - By MARY EU

THE feel­ing of achieve­ment lasts a long while. It is some­thing I had fan­ta­sised about in the later part of my life. I have waited for this, and it has been worth the wait. We all feel proud of this achieve­ment. Aah ... it’s grand­moth­er­hood.

Call me a schmaltzy granny, in­dul­gent and giddy-headed, be­cause I have been blessed with a grand­son and a grand­daugh­ter, and my days are filled with en­thu­si­asm and love. My grand­son, Jiek, is two-plus while Kait­lyn is still a baby. Love makes me vul­ner­a­ble and be­cause they are so pre­cious, it makes me emo­tion­ally bruis­able. There will be un­ex­pected joys and anx­i­ety, so­cial over­load, and al­ways a deep­en­ing grat­i­tude.

Let’s be hon­est. Grand­par­ent­ing isn’t easy. It’s a work­out, run­ning after a naked tod­dler at bath time. It is back-break­ing when Jiek wants me to piggy-back him around the house, and do a re­peat be­cause he en­joys it so much. It is also a test of en­durance when he swipes my things off the shelf and throws the folded clothes onto the floor. Then he grins his heart-melt­ing smile which fills this old heart to over­flow­ing.

In an un­guarded mo­ment, he wraps his arms around my neck and calls me in a sing-song man­ner, “Grand­ma­maaa!”

I close my eyes briefly and com­mit this mo­ment to mem­ory.

Jiek asks ques­tions which stump me some­times: What is grav­ity? What do sea­horses eat? I google for the an­swer to his sec­ond ques­tion and then ex­plain to him what plank­ton is. He lis­tens and nods his head like an old man di­gestre­leas­ing ing a fact. There is never a dull mo­ment when Jiek comes to Yong Peng from his home in Sin­ga­pore. I fall un­der his spell and turn into a 62-year-old “kid”. I free my­self and en­ter his world. Yay, we play hide-and-seek and run around my car parked in the porch. Never mind if the neigh­bours think we are too loud. These are mo­ments of child­hood thrills, spon­ta­neous laugh­ter, love and savour­ing a glimpse of heaven.

My house won’t be per­fect when Jiek and Kait­lyn are around. Jiek’s red tri­cy­cle and car seat upset the pris­tine or­der­li­ness of the liv­ing room. I watch where I am go­ing so as not to “skate” on his toys on the mar­ble floor. Kait­lyn’s sarong frame and bouncer net make our sec­ond liv­ing room look a bit un­tidy. I ac­ci­den­tally kick the baby chair which is usu­ally not there. There is a hotch-potch of baby para­pher­na­lia in the house. But there is joy, and ev­ery­one is gen­er­ally in a good mood. Grandpa looks more en­er­getic, and smiles more of­ten. There is the tod­dler’s in­ces­sant chat­ter and a lot of coo­ing to coax the baby to smile or gur­gle aloud.

Kait­lyn is three months old. She is a liv­ing doll and the fam­ily’s lat­est “toy” which we pass from one pair of lov­ing hands to an­other. Her gummy grin sends a beam of sun­shine to all around her. Her cries from her small lungs whip us into a near­frenzy to at­tend to her needs. She con­trols the house­hold like a queen.

We love to dress her up in jam­mies, frocks, dun­ga­rees, and the cutest T-shirts and berib­boned shorts. Need­less to say, snap­shots of Kait­lyn flood our smart­phone gallery. I am smit­ten by her nat­u­ral baby scent, and love to sniff her head. I in­hale deeply and let her scent per­me­ate my soul. It is heaven-sent.

Jiek and I bond over choco­late. And I am guilty of us­ing chocs to black­mail him into eat­ing his fruits and veg­eta­bles. “Fin­ish off your din­ner or there’ll be no more choco­lates for you” – this threat usu­ally works on him. Grand­moth­er­ing of­ten in­volves us­ing white lies to get the de­sired re­sults, es­pe­cially when trav­el­ling with kids.

“Sit prop­erly. Po­lice­men com­ing!”

“No more bat­tery. Need to charge the iPad.”

“Ice cream fin­ished al­ready. Buy some more later.”

Grand­par­ent­hood calls for a will­ing­ness to sac­ri­fice. My or­derly rou­tine goes into dis­ar­ray when my grand­chil­dren come to stay for a week. The cosy am­bi­ence of my house is re­placed by merry chaos and im­posed prac­ti­cal­ity. I read the news­pa­pers in in­stal­ments, steal time to re­ply to What­sApp mes­sages, and wake up to the soft knock­ing on my bed­room door.

Just as I am en­joy­ing a hol­i­day movie at home, Jiek ex­claims he needs to go to the loo. And his face shows he means it. I would have to face the con­se­quences should I ig­nore his be­hest. He de­mands that I sit and wait by the toi­let bowl while he does his “‘busi­ness” at leisure.

“Grand­mama, please bring my book here.” I am hyno­tised to do that too, and read him a story to the sound of in­ter­mit­tent drop­pings as I turn the page.

Hav­ing grand­chil­dren gives me a chance to hold lit­tle hands and cud­dle chil­dren again. It gives a sense of deja vu – only this time, we do not feel the weight of re­spon­si­bil­ity on our old shoul­ders. It is a time which al­lows grand­par­ents to laugh and clap amidst the spon­tane­ity and sim­plic­ity of chil­dren. And time with them is fleet­ing.

When it is time for Jiek and his fam­ily to re­turn to their home in Sin­ga­pore, I re­lease him with­out much of a fight, telling my­self that he will be back soon enough. Grand­moth­er­hood has been an in­cred­i­bly af­firm­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. But right now, I need to re­cline, recharge and rein­vig­o­rate.

—MARYEU

The writer’s cute lit­tle grand­son, Jiek.

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