Grandparents, saving children since 19gbogboro!
I was chatting with a friend the other day telling her the story of a lady, who got pregnant at 18 and was sent out of the house by her parents; she slept outside for three days, desolate and without any inkling as to what to do and where to go to. Finally, she summoned courage and went to her grandma’s house. As soon as the grandma saw her, she started thanking God for she had heard she was missing and had been worried stiff. The lady stayed with her grandmother all through the pregnancy and returned to her parents after giving birth with her grandmother in tow insisting that her parents took care of both her and the baby.
My friend recounted her earliest memories of seeing her maternal grandmother kneeling by her bedside for hours, praying for each of her children, their spouses, their children, their jobs, anything that concerned them and we both came to the inevitable conclusion that grandparents especially grandmas are a treasure.
I have very fond memories of my grandmother. I was the first grandchild of my maternal and second of my paternal parents. I spent my early years with my maternal grandparents’ because my mother had me whilst at the university. I remember going to Ibadan, where they lived for holidays and how once my grandma saw us she would break into a dance and sing special formulated songs for us ( I can’t tell you the wordings of my song but it had something to do with a black delicacy favored by the Yoruba. I heard I started eating it from 3 months with just leaves (ewedu) and crayfish.
Once she saw me, Grandma would immediately kill a chicken and even before we had unpacked, a delicious meal would emerge from nowhere. I remember my grandparents had a very large compound with several trees and we ate different fruits from dawn till dusk and were generally overly pampered all through our stay.
My love for reading newspapers (I heard I started reading newspapers from age 3) and books was developed in their house as they bought daily copies of the Tribune newspapers which I read and loved particularly the cartoons. My grandfather Akintunde Sowunmi was an author and he had a rich library which I indulged in fully. My paternal grandmother was also a lovely cook and to date, I still try to recreate the taste of her egusi soup with fufu and remember her buying me sweets (horlicks rolls) and chocolate at a pharmacy near her house. The buying of sweets was a very big deal because my mother was very strict about not having sweets in the house, consequently, I don’t have any cavities and I haven’t removed any tooth in my life, same for my sibling, so you can imagine my surprise and consternation when my mother buys them in large quantities for my children and nephews.
There is a place for grandparents in the lives of our children and it saddens me that a lot of children today are not experiencing the richness of that relationship due to many factors- emigration to distant lands or even states within the country, economic hardship, dysfunctional families, the belief (is itsome rightly but most wrongly, that our parents are responsible for the problems in our lives).
We and our children stand to benefit greatly from having grandparents close to them and it has been proven by several studies and research that grandparents have a great impact on their grandchildren’s lives.
It is widely acknowledged that grandparents have a steady influence on a child’s development even if both parents are present and more so when they are not. During the AIDS epidemic in South Africa, grandparents rose to the occasion to take care of children who were orphaned. In Black America, grandparents have been known to step in when their children succumb to drugs or violence and incarceration.
Our children need roots and an understanding of themselves, culture and history and grandparents are a rich source of information about our genealogy and history. Because of their rich and varied experience, they are a better judge of events and people and are a buffer between the children and their parents. They are also calmer, more patient and generally more tolerant of children especially in their early years when they serve as caregivers and playmates and in their teen years when they need someone to talk to or just love them for who they are.
A lot of people in the diaspora have seen firsthand what a difference having grandparents in their children’s life has wrought. For one, childcare fees are greatly reduced and the peace that comes from knowing your caregiver has the children’s interest at hand is immeasurable.
This is not to say that the relationship between some grandparents and their grandchildren is as close as it should be firstly, there is a wide generational gap and most grandparents do know how to bridge that gap without being judgmental or condescending.
Secondly, some grandparents do not want the additional burden of bringing up their grandchildren and seem to resent it when put in that position. Thirdly and most importantly the dynamics of each family might not ensure the bond between the generations.
Whatever our relationships with our grandparents or vice versa , it is noteworthy that if the relationship is to work , the grandparent must be interested and involved in the life of the child from their early childhood, take an interest in their world in spite of their opinions and/or misgivings, treat them as according to their ages and be their friend.