I am one of the kids who had ‘normal‘ childhood spent with Grandparents. My Lolo & Lola (grandparents in Tagalog) live just a few kilometers from us and we often visit them especially on weekends.On special occasions, they were always present.Being in a big family,we grew up messing up their house together with my cousins, having sleepover and dipping in the nearby fish pond. Being clannish is a norm in Philippines and extended families are living close-by.Grandparents normally fill-in during the times where both parents are unable to attend to the kids.In Philippines, there’s a high percentage that kids grow up close to their grandparents.
As an Expat living miles & miles away from my home country, I reflect on the life of my daughter not having this kind of “normal “childhood that I had. Announcing the birth of my daughter to my mother is coupled with ‘sadness‘ knowing that my mother lives so far away from us. My daughter was born in Kuwait while her grandparents are in the Philippines and in the Netherlands.Now that we’re living in Germany, closer to one, and yet, still separated by distance . Both worlds are far, but totally embraceable. Seeing the fantasy-reality of an Expat Life, I realized that Grand-Parenting is a luxury that Expat kids doesn’t have naturally due to the distance factor. It needs to be worked on.
Grand-parenting is the second important family role you could teach your child, most especially to an Expat Child.It is your responsibility as a parent to bridge this gap, or else, their Grandparents will become a stranger in their eyes.
Does your child knows her Grandparents?
What is special about the relationship of Expat child and their Grandparents?
Their best gift is : LOVE
When I become a parent, I realized just how vital the Grandparent-child interaction is in the early years of a child development. It is truly a special bond. You can’t really appreciate how big the hearts of Grandparents for their Grandchildren unless you have a child of your own.If you don’t grow up having this relationship or your Grandparents are gone before you were born then this feeling might be totally unknown to you. Grandparents could be the best caregivers, and often times, provides genuine parenting support for busy parents, and usually without a cost. If you are a parent & you have your parents living close by and giving you constant support on parenting, then you must be lucky.Very lucky. Not everyone have this privilege.
There is something about the love that only an Oma & Opa ( Gransparents in Dutch) can give to their Grandchildren.Their presence transmits to their grandchildren that security and protection is all theirs, right in their loving arms.
My daughter’s Oma & Opa flew to Kuwait when she was born and was too excited to see their first interracial grand-daughter.They are not the youngest anymore but they are very keen in having a healthy relationship with all their grandchildren.But with my daughter,I find it is quite special since we live far away from them.
I remember the first time my parents in law saw their grandchild.It was a special time. Along with their big hearts, they brought 2 suitcases filled with gifts. I really don’t know how did they managed to do that. They were really clever in Packing. But I am not talking here about the amount of gifts they’ve brought with their flight. I’m talking about their effort to bring the best gift that they could give to their grandchild.
Their presence is the best present.
They have brought the walking bike that belongs to my husband since He was 1.Now my daughter rides it.Such an important “Toy”for her. I find this truly heart warming because they transmit such positive values on Family attachment.I am sure that when my daughter learned about this story when she grew up, it would certainly have an impact for her. That her Oma & Opa cared about her.
They’re passing on Family heritage
The moment you introduce your child to her Grandparents, you create the connection and letting them into the path of Family Heritage. Who else can be their role models? Who else can tell better stories about you to your sons & daughters more than your own parents ?
There is something about interaction both with young & old that is very important.Both young & old have an impact to each other. I almost cried when my mother carried and hugged my daughter for the first time when we visited Philippines last May.. Looking back at this moment, all I wanted to say to my mother was : Thank You.
I knew that those moments for a Grandmother is precious, a priceless one. With the whole time that we’ve stayed with her, my daughter felt her love, her same caring nature that nurture her other 5 grandchildren. A Grandmother’s love is endless and has no boundaries.Many times when my daughter is sick, the first thing I ask for advice is my Mother. Grandparents have wisdom that has been gained through time and reliable.
With today’s modern technology and ease of travelling, living far away from Grandparents is no longer an excuse for this connection to be not established. Distance is the only factor that makes this relationship difficult, but then, there are ways to bridge the gap.There are so much fun ways for Expat kids to learn to connect & build this relationship with their far away Grandparents. With internet,it’s as simple as Whatsapp or Kakaotalk away, or more often, a Skype call could do wonders since sending letters is so-old fashioned nowadays. For Expat Kids, the physical gap can be bridged with constant visits, but then, constant contact will solidify the bond.
I just knew that hopefully, someday, I would also have this special role…of being a parent again, to my future Grandchild. It doesn’t matter if it’s for a visit or through internet, as long as it is a real connection.
When was the last time you call your Grandma? or your Opa?