20 November 2019, by Flora Isabelle

Grandparenting changes a man in many ways

I’m a Daddy’s girl through and through. For as long as I can remember, I have always been closer to my Dad (than my mom) which is ironic, because he was the stricter parent between the two and the one who was a lot harsher when it came to expectations, rules and punishments.

My dad and me, circa 1990

My dad and me, circa 1990

Growing up, my Dad was a very tough love kinda typical Asian father. He never said “I love you” and never once praised me for my achievements. When I scored 99 marks for my exams, he would be quick to point out how I didn’t get full marks. His idea of birthday presents included insurance policies and endowment plans – so that my future is taken care of and needless to say, I didn’t receive many toys throughout my childhood. If I were to get the rare physical present for Christmas, it would be books and encyclopedias. Anyone remembers those thick volumes of books that contained info about every single possible thing before Google came into existence?

But after I became a Mom, and my Dad a grandfather, boy, did I witness a change.   

Even before Nate was born, my Dad gifted him with a brand new crib, car seat, stroller, high chair and just about anything else he thinks Nate might need.

Then on the day he saw his grandson for the first time in the hospital, it’s like the stern Tiger Dad I have, has been instantly replaced with this boisterous and affectionate man!

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In his last two years of being a grandfather, besides the countless purchase of toys and incessant praising, I could see my Dad’s unconditional love for my son manifest itself through how he sings Wheels on the Bus to my boy, running after him through the parks and playgrounds and the attempts to have a conversation with a toddler.

It has been absolutely magical watching them interact and I couldn’t have asked for a funnier, more loving grandfather.

On a bittersweet note, it has also gotten me thinking about my own grandfather. I was brought up by my grandparents as my Dad was often overseas for his business and my Mom had to work too. Hence, I lived with my paternal grandparents till I was 3 years old and up till then, I was immensely close to them – or so I’m told.

You see, they say children don’t form memories till 3 or later and few adults can remember anything that happened to them before the age of 3. As such, even though I supposedly couldn’t speak any other language except Hokkien while living with my grandparents I have also been told that being the first granddaughter of the family, my grandfather doted on me a great lot and would take the bus with me daily from Yishun to Collyer Quay just cause I enjoyed watching the Singapore River – which, I have no recollection at all.

In fact, I can’t speak the dialect now to save my life and after I moved back with my parents and went ahead with life, my grandfather was pretty much a stranger in my life. I mean, we would meet often enough but I didn’t feel that strong a bond and conversations were superficial and minimal. Probably due to the language barrier. Thinking back, I have some fuzzy memory of how my grandfather tried to speak some English to me in my preteens and I was also told that he has tried to learn the language to reach out to me 😭

My heart just broke as I typed the above cause I could imagine how much I would have possibly hurt my grandfather and the ways in which I could have been a better granddaughter. I wish so much that I had understood things at an earlier age and had tried to connect more with him before he passed on.

Hence, I’m determined for my children to have a connected wonderful relationship with their grandparents and that they have many more good years with their grandchildren cause really, a grandparent and child relationship is really one of the most beautiful things for my son to experience.

And for me to witness too.

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