Updated: Jul 25, 2018
Monday, May 21, 2018
May 9th was a momentous day.
Most Malaysians will think that I’m talking about our election day, which saw our country voting in a new government for the first time in 61 years.
You’re wrong. It was significant for me because it was the first time my father took care of my three-year-old son for more than five minutes. In fact, my son was in his grandfather’s charge for two-and-a-half hours while I stood in line waiting to vote.
There are two kinds of grandparents. There are those who are the primary caregivers of the grandchildren, taking care of them from morning till evening while the parents are at work.
These grandparents can handle any aspect of childcare, from cleaning dirty bums to soothing tantrums and tying ponytails.
Then there are those like my father, who grandparents from a safe distance. He pats my son on the head, admires his toys and disappears back into his office. He does not know how to change diapers, shower the kid or put him to bed.
But all these grandparents share one thing in common: they love their grandchildren and the little tykes can do no wrong in their eyes.
For many working families today, especially in Asian cultures, grandparents are god-sent. Many are willing to sacrifice their own activities and time to become full-time carers, even if it means they have to do night feeds, diaper changes and school runs.
Even my dad, the now-you-see-him-now-you-don’t grandfather, can be counted on when there’s an emergency.
Yes, grandparents are indispensable… and also infuriating. They are the biggest culprits when it comes to spoiling the children.
My son has enough toys for an entire village of children because my mother thinks he’s a deprived child.
My father, who never let a drop of soda or a bite of fast food pass our lips when we were children, thinks that ice-cream is an appropriate alternative to milk before bedtime.
Then there are my in-laws, who have turned indulgent grandparenting into an art form. I can’t blame them, as they see us infrequently and every short weekend they get with their grandson is precious.
Does that mean he gets away with being whiny and bratty? Yes. Does it take more than a few days to return to a state of equilibrium? Yes.
But there are no rules when it comes to grandparents. Every family has to navigate this dynamic in their own way. Some grandparents prefer to adopt a hands-off approach, where they prioritise their careers, activities and routines, and grandchildren come second.
For other grandparents, the little tots rank over and above everything else. These grandparents are a great help, but they sometimes forget that parents should be the primary decision-makers for the children.
Both types of grandparents can be a source of headaches for parents. But what would we do without them?
For me, I would rather deal with the occasional frustration of having my son spoiled silly, than for him to grow up not knowing the love and affection of his grandparents…
… even if they think it’s hilarious to let him play with dustbin covers when I’m busy voting.