Do you spend enough time with your grandparents?

By Purva Grover

A couple of weeks ago, at the arrival area of Dubai International Airport, I experienced a string of beautiful emotions — straight out of a Once Upon a Time book. As I walked past the placards with names of people from different nationalities and that of hotels spread across different areas of Dubai, I saw a little girl, probably four or younger, blindfolded. Next to her were her parents; her mum held a phone in her hand, ready to record a video, whilst her dad kept an eye on the people walking out of the doors.

Seconds later, an older woman (on a wheelchair) was wheeled in by an airport staff member. Her smile was infectious. I stood there and smiled as I watched the family. This was the first time that the granddaughter and the grandmother were meeting and they’d decided to make it special for both of them. As the father removed the blindfold for his daughter, the mum captured the scene —  the granny and grandchild looked at each other, followed by a warm smile, a warmer hug and many, many tears of joy. The moment was so adorable that almost everyone stood and just took in the purity and of it. There were excited shrieks on how the video should be instantly shared with the aunts and uncles.

As I reached home, I got thinking about grandparents and grandchildren of today. In our home, a much-loved topic of discussion at the dining table is how our parents have transformed into different people, now that they are grandparents. Of course, it means that my sister and I are one team, and my niece and parents are the other and much stronger team. There’s no winning this one, especially since I can’t stop talking about how the best days of my life happen to be the vacations I spent with my maternal grandparents.

Not that one needs to rely on studies on this topic, but time and again they do stress on the value of the bond. A latest study published in the journal Child Development found that a good relationship between the two generations is a simple and effective way to tackle ageism and teach the younger ones about kindness, respect, love, and family values and traditions. “The most important factor associated with ageist stereotypes was the poor quality of contact with grandparents,” says lead researcher Allison Flamion.

As we grow old, we chase dreams and start families of our own. In the process, we leave behind more than we’re aware of. Today, nuclear families are the norm, with grandparents filling in for part-time caretakers when the need arises. There are also parents who often complain about the elders spoiling their kids with candies. But, that’s a debate for another day.

Living in an expat community, I often notice how the visits by grandparents are timed accordingly to breaks at school, work trips, and more. As for me, I recall eating many mangoes in my grandparents’ home, every now and then. That’s not true for the grandkids of today. Perhaps, there’s still a way out. A colleague and her grandad are buddies on WhatsApp. Their conversations are heart-warming and funny. A friend flew down her granny and the entire family to Dubai to celebrate her granny’s 70th birthday. Interestingly, a new app G2G is being worked upon by the researchers at Simon Fraser University, which will allow the two generations to communicate via stickers and video messaging. “Families that were not frequently in touch and the kids didn’t have a close relationship, have started to share their lives together,” said Azadeh Forghani, one of the researchers.

We’re in the middle of a school break and I have been spotting elderly men and women in our neighbourhood parks, capturing their grandkids feats on their phones — on play slides and skate parks. The pictures may be shaky, but they do the job of flaunting when they return home. Look around and you’d see how the elders have got a grip on technology just to make sure they don’t miss out on what’s happening in your lives.  They’ve even embraced GIFs.

Parents and grandkids, it’s time to re-boot the intergenerational bond. Why? For one, grandparents are great storytellers and willing to share loads of tales from your parents’ childhood. Add bedtime stories to your night-time routine. And did I mention the cuddles? The latter, you just need to experience them once. Until then, why not be a little more patient on the family group chat and the video call.

Purva is a storyteller in search of her favourite word

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