22 November 2019, by Joel Chng
A grandparent is a little bit parent, a little bit teacher, and a little bit best friend.
A few months ago, my family attended the wake of a friend’s grandparent. Ever since Ezra was a few months old, we have taken him along with us to wakes and funeral services. However, at age four, this was the first time that Ezra asked many questions. That day, we had a follow-up conversation at bedtime:
Ezra: Why did [the deceased] die?
Me: Everybody dies; when you grow old you also will die.
Ezra: How come gong gong ma ma* haven’t die?
Me: They’re not THAT old.
[All of a sudden, Ezra started to cry.]
Ezra: I don’t want gong gong ma ma* to die!
Ezra: I want them to be alive.
(*gong gong ma ma = grandparents in dialect)
Everyone knows that Ezra adores his grandparents. But for the purposes of this blog, I conducted an interview with my son to find out more:
Me: Are gong gong and ma ma important to you?
Ezra: Because I love them.
Ezra: Because they love me.
Me: How do you know that they love you?
Ezra: Ma ma takes care of me and cooks for me and buys things for me.
Me: What about gong gong?
Ezra: Gong gong drives me to school and brings me out and makes Milo for me.
1) “Ma ma takes care of me and cooks for me and buys things for me.”
There were times when I disciplined Ezra at home and he would be in tears, screaming, “I want to go to ma ma‘s house!” or “I want ma ma to protect me!” When Ezra was unwell or in discomfort, he would whine, “I want ma ma! I want ma ma!” I believe that this sense of safety and protection is developed from regular contact (Ezra spends weekday afternoons at his grandparents’ house – we live on the same street).
Ezra loves his ma ma‘s cooking – especially her stir fry noodles, soups, and ‘kiam png’ (a Hokkien dish which literally translates to “salty rice”: where rice, meat, vegetables and seasoning are cooked together in one pot). The downside? Because Ezra prefers Chinese food, he does not (yet?) appreciate my cooking – stews, pasta, paella, and roast meats, to name a few. My dear son, you are missing out on good stuff!
Ezra’s ma ma loves to surprise him with gifts from her travels, and also when she gets home from outings with friends. She makes effort to research on books and educational materials, and spends time teaching Ezra and doing crafts with him.
2) “Gong gong drives me to school and brings me out and makes Milo for me.”
Ezra’s school is 12km away from home but rush-hour traffic equals to double the traveling time. Despite having to sit in the car for so long, Ezra enjoys the morning commute because his gong gong is great company! The grandfather-grandson duo sing along to children’s CDs, exchange stories (quite literally, “tell me a story, gong gong,” followed by, “OK now it’s my turn to tell you a story!”), practice solfège singing, and play spelling games.
Some afternoons, both of them would disappear for up to two hours, visiting the many playgrounds in our estate. Other times, Ezra’s gong gong would ask, “who wants to go swimming?” or “shall we go to Jewel Changi Airport? (or Gardens by the Bay, etc)” and Ezra would be thrilled.
Milo. Ezra can tell time to the hour and half hour, and three o’clock is his favourite time on weekdays – because three o’clock is teatime! Teatime means sitting at the dining table with his gong gong, who would make a cup of Milo for the preschooler. This is usually accompanied with biscuits, bread, cakes, or pastries.
Grandparents. No amount of thank yous can express our gratitude.
To borrow the words of Rudy Giuliani: “What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humour, comfort, lessons in life. And, most importantly, cookies.”