I was in a cafe the other day when an elderly woman set down at a table next to be. She reminded me of my mum. A few minutes later a mother with two children arrived. They greeted the elderly lady, gave her big hugs and sat down. They were giggling and chatting for about thirty minutes and finally left with the kids holding grandma’s hands and I was left holding back my tears. There was so much love among them and that made me think of my own grandparent-less childhood. My parents moved from Rio to the Northeast coast of Brazil when they got married, and travel was not as affordable as it’s today, so me and my siblings grew up without any connections with our extended family. We had relatives that came to visit here and there and as lovely as it was to have them around for a few days, they were strangers to me. I’m talking about the pre-internet age here, there was no Skype or Facebook. We knew very little about each others lives.
Kids that grow up with grandparents, aunties and uncles around are very fortunate. In fact, these children are happier than kids without grandparents. I was reading about a study that shows that “the emotional relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren can significantly affect the children’s academic, psychological, and social development.” Another study found that kids that have a close relationship with their grandparents have less symptoms of depression and have better emotional health.
I remember from my own childhood feeling a bit jealous of kids that went to their grandparents home on the weekends or were picked up at school by their grandparents. I always thought it was exciting to have a ‘second’ home to go back to and if something happened to your parents, you knew that you would still have family to love and care for you. In addition to creating an extra layer of security, grandparents pass down unique life lessons and values that you don’t get from your parents.
Fast forward 30 years, history repeats itself. Like my parents, we also moved away, much further away. Thankfully my kids were born in the digital age, so even oceans apart, they know that their grandparents, cousins and relatives are just a click away. My mum and parents-in-law are now too frail to endure an ultra long-haul flight, so we keep going back to Brazil whenever we can. We probably won’t be able to leave a lot of possessions for our kids but they are surely collecting lots of stamps in their passports and memories that will last a life time.