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 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.
The writer’s cute little grandson, Jiek.