Some parents are convinced that Sesame Street, Peppa Pig, and Barbie and Friends are great electronic baby sitters. The kids are hooked. They can talk like American kids talk. Their language is definitely of the English Queen’s accent. Parents take pride in that.
Children are like empty vessels. You can fill them with animosity or loving kindness. Chances are, there will be a shortage of positive learning—family love and duty, personal honor and we-group commitment, loyalty, and creative thought—the after-effect of insufficient attention.
Parenting is not a lot of fun, actually. Whatever those glossy family magazines proclaim, frayed nerves go off every day. Deal with overripe infants. Children mope for hours over parental issues. Future artists in the family flaunting snakelike swirls of crayons on the white walls, screaming over and over, “Look, mommy, look!” as if an artwork without an assenting critic is not a masterpiece.
Parenting requires an extraordinarily high level of patience, which can diminish with each tick of the clock every time the rules are bent.
On the other hand, grandparents are so well-adored. They have, from past experiences, learned the true meaning of unselfish love, and will stand by their grandchildren and keep standing by their grandchildren.
And it’s all for free. Gratis et amore. What they get is absolute grandchildren acceptance—the happy, sincere smiles as the kids cluster around them, purring on their lap, giving them full bear hugs, or showering their face with kisses tasting of ketchup. Big returns that add an extra sprinkling of sweetness to their bowls of oatmeal.
Today’s grandparents are moving with the times. They are now in sync with the new world. Freed of their middle-age insecurities, they have overcome some of their own prejudices and can tolerate grandchildren’s infractions to the starched codes of behavior they have previously imposed on their own children when they were small.
Happily, for the grandparents, that era of tiny commotions and ear-splitting shrieks are things of the past. A more relaxed horse-and-buggy house rules had become the favored compromise. Grandparents acknowledge that kids are relatively entitled not to be right occasionally. They do not expect the kids to be harnessed like obedient Labradors at all times. That adolescent must be given “moments to be lazy” with their electronic buddies in their own virtual space. That kids enjoy night-owling in a billiards hall, do sleepovers after a bruising school exam, go on a truanting spree in a shopping mall after school, snicker and hee-hee, smile those twisted little smiles as soon as they get old enough to feel some hormonal stirrings.
But it’s not likely going to be a candy-and-flowers kind of grandparental love at all. Old conventions don’t cheerfully go away. When elderly people go up the second floor of the house then ask themselves what the heck they were there for, it is just one of the things that are generally admitted as signs of the waning years.
Kids quite easily get the drift when they haggle for some inordinate requests and get a firm, feisty “No” for an answer. That puckishness at mealtimes could get them grounded. And the second taste of Mommy’s slipper is a morbidly dreadful thought.
How wonderful it is to have grandparents around the house. A reciprocal love would be nice. After all, we can’t have them forever. Here today and then whoosh! they’re gone.
Photos by Diana B. Noche