Our children are very lucky. They have 4 fantastic grandparents. I only had three (that I remember) & my husband didn't have any grandfathers in his life. I remember my grandfather particularly fondly, simply because he made me feel special, & seemed interested in me, & in my opinions & ideas. He also seemed to like my humour & to share a joke or pull my leg. That's how I remember him anyway. But all three were an indelible part of my childhood & memories.
The only trouble is we live a long way away from our children's grandparents; one of the hazards of ex-pat life, & becoming increasingly normal for many in our global village world. I know they don't like it & to be honest nor do I, when I consider it very important that our children have close ties with their grandparents. And even though we are doing this now, I find part of myself secretly hoping (hypocritically), that my children don't make the same choices as us, as I would quite like to be 'down the road from my grandchildren'.
However, last week was one of the pluses when one set visited; & going home every summer is another, when we are based with their other grandparents & our children regard it as their home in England & do a thorough check of the house to ensure everything is in its rightful place & unchanged.
A friend, who lived overseas in Asia for 10 years, said she felt the children's relationships with grandparents were stronger as a result of being overseas. I didn't believe it at the time, but more & more I think I agree.
For example, if you didn't live far apart, the children wouldn't have:
- The anticipation of grandparent visits here & trips back to England.
- The fun of creating annual summer memories in Britain with grandparents
- The chance to go through all the familiar routines every summer back in “grandparents' world”.
- The chance to stay with grandparents for an extended period of time, rather than just seeing them for the odd w/e, several times a year.
- The heightened appreciation of them because they are not around & being seen all the time.
- Getting postcards & comics in the post.
- Having them visit us here & being able to show them round 'our world'.
- The fun of receiving all the goodies brought out.
- The chance to do an Easter egg hunt in July at Granny & Grandpa's house & barbecues in the garage at Granny & Grandad's house & other such 'traditions' accidently developed.
- The chance to have their undivided attention for a whole week or more at a time.
I'm sure there are lots more...
On this visit re. No 8, we received such thoughtful gifts:
For our son
A saxophone strap, to stop the earth's gravitational pull taking hold every time he lifted the instrument to his lips, causing him to pitch forward with the weight.
A book of easy tunes complete with play-along CD
For our daughter
A pint size apron & a “Kids in The Kitchen” cookbook because I had said she doesn't really 'play much' with toys (true), so she is very difficult to buy for. This was perfect as she loves cooking with me.
REAL Vanilla extract for all my baking – very expensive & very yummy. & totally unavailable here in any guise.
A DVD of some of the 6 Nations rugby which he so loves & we can't see here.
Then of course there was all the Earl Grey tea, Yorkshire tea, yeast, extra mature cheddar, ebay purchases to stave off the rapid disintegration of my husband's wardrobe, lego from my son's saved up pocket money, Easter eggs, birthday presents & so on.
Apart from our Grand Balkan Tour over Easter, the children wanted to show Granny & Grandad round, to get them up to speed on developments in Albania in the last 2 yrs. So apart from pointing out all the new tarmac, newly opened shops, street lights, newly paved park, finished apartment blocks, we showed them the large lime green toads which croak noisily in the zoo lake next door every spring, hanging in suspended animation, froggy legs trailing motionless in the pond water.
We also showed them the abandoned military vehicles & tunnels up on the hill behind our villa; the shabby little zoo which we live next door to, with its unkempt & bedraggled eagles (proud symbol of Albania. Am sure there's a metaphor in there somewhere), a 'lone' wolf, 2 shy, not sly, foxes, a scaredy cat locked in a cage inside an animal enclosure (domestic cat) & the entertaining brawling bears, as well as the new additions (last week 2 ostriches, this week somewhat bizarrely, a donkey in with the llamas & turkeys next to the lions.) It keeps you on your toes, you never know what will be there next time. We also went into school to meet the teachers & look around (again) All important rituals for the children.
They also enjoyed having stories in bed with Granny & Grandad every morning, & a particular highlight, doing the rocket 'science' experiment Grandad had brought out from a newspaper article complete with all the necessary equipment such as alkaseltzer to make the rocket 'blast off' etc. Great fun.
On the eve of their departure our daughter said “I hope I manage not to miss them too much”.
And so the next day, after they had left, we set to, with distraction tactics, making the gingerbread ladies in the "Kids in the Kitchen" book, complete with 2 piece swimsuits, which so appealed to my 5 y-o. Unfortunately we couldn't find the large cookie cutter, so instead of making 20 large ladies, we made 80 tiny gingerbread girls, & I laboured away icing them with itsy bitsy pink bikinis, whilst 5 y-o lost interest after doing about 3 & ambled off to watch a film. It's at times like this that you need someone with time, experience & patience, who is not in a hurry who could have iced them & engaged 5 y-o with stories & the novelty of 'not being mum', whilst I got on with supper. Someone like a grandmother would do nicely.........