As a child, I was very blessed. I had four living grandparents, and I was able to get to know and spend time with three of them on an extended basis. I wish I knew my paternal grandparents a little bit better, but I moved to the United States when I was in elementary school, and therefore I only kept in contact with them through letters and over the phone (and a couple of short visits).
My maternal grandmother, or “Mommy,” was the one I was closest to. I lived with her for four years while my mom established her career, and when deciding on colleges, I specifically chose one that was geographically close to her. It was a good thing, too, because she passed away right before my final semester. I was glad that I was around during her final days.
G is in a similar situation as I was: He is the first and currently only grandchild on both sides of the family. My mom and in-laws were both present for his birth and are a constant presence in his life. However, my father, who lives in the Philippines, did not have a chance to meet G until just last month.
I hadn’t seen my father in almost 6 years, when he walked me down the aisle at my wedding. He was here on business, bringing the Philippine national boxers to compete and train here. (I wondered though if it was a coincidence that they came to train in Southern California, where I live, and Northern California, where my sister lives, or if my father planned it that way. Heh.) At the same time, I was starting a new job and planning G’s 4th birthday party. I was excited for my father, who has 4 girls, to finally meet his one and only male direct descendant.
Many people probably take grandparents for granted, but because of our situation, I can’t. I know that I am blessed that my parents, who split up almost 30 years ago, still get along and are good friends despite the distance and for the sake of their kids and now their grandkid. I am blessed to have in-laws who are willing to take an active part in their grandson’s life and do so on almost a daily basis. And my mom, who without question (maybe with a little question) will follow my rules in parenting even if they differ from how she used to do it 30 years ago. And my father and stepmother, who were doubtlessly tired because of their schedule, but still came down to San Diego for 2 days with their grandson. So because of these very wonderful people positioned as my child’s grandparents, I cannot take them for granted.
There is a very prevalent mindset in the United States when it comes to parenting, which is, “This is my child, not yours.” I don’t think I necessarily subscribe to that. My parents raised me; my husband’s parents raised him, and I think we turned out well; so whatever we learned from those experiences, good and bad, we bring to the table in raising our own child. If we expect our child to learn diversity, he will know various child-rearing techniques from all of us (as well as his caregivers at daycare/preschool). We are fortunate that our families for the most part adhere to our rules and are (relatively) sane, rational people. Many parents can’t boast that. As his parents, of course we will make the primary decisions for him, but it’s important for him to learn from his elders.
I still remember sitting at the kitchen table and helping Mommy and my great-aunt Tita Charito roll lumpia (Filipino egg rolls) while she told stories of her youth, and of my mother’s youth. I remember my papa’s mother getting a tape measure out of her purse the last day that we spent in the Philippines, so she could have a record of how tall my sister and I were — and 5 years later, when we returned for a visit, she still had the same piece of paper where she wrote down our heights.
Although I was very little when I left the Philippines , I have special memories of him, and no one can replace him as my father. I’m hoping that my son can also develop some nice moments with my papa, as I had with my grandparents.