A post by Nickie got me thinking of the Role of the Modern Grandparents and how different this can be depending on circumstances.
So what does it mean being a multilingual European family living far from grandparents? How do our children experience that special bond?
The joy with which Little Miss and Little Man sprung into their grandparents’ arms in morning when they woke up was just wonderful to watch!
The grandparents are in their mid 70s, come from a traditional farming background, live in another country, only speak the local dialect, Brabants, and Dutch. Despite years of learning English they cannot really communicate in the language. This and the cultural differences have caused big differences and misunderstandings between me and them. However, I would not dream of passing any of my slight apprehension towards them onto the children. My children need them, their values and their culture, which I may not fully understand or accept, but I still value it. Ultimately it is what helped shape my husband, the man I love and value so much (…well most of the time anyway! 😉 ).
Even with the channel tunnel between them, the children and my in-laws have a loving relationship. We do our best to help our children have this special relationship with my in-laws:
We teach our children Dutch. Dad on the brink only speaks Dutch to them and has done since they were born. He encourages them to speak Dutch back to him too, as do I, in an effort to support him. We knew that we needed to do this for both our mother tongues (Dutch and Hungarian) to help our children understand their roots and have solid links with their extended family.
Our holidays now-a-days are mostly spent visiting grandparents. The cost of travel means that we have to decide – a trip to visit family or a family holiday to a new location or resort. The decision is usually in the favour of visiting family, even if it can be torture at times. (For me that is…definitely not the kids.) The other cost-based decision is usually to drive- even with high fuel prices, it generally works out marginally cheaper to drive with the four of us than fly. We are getting dab hands at driving across Europe in the midst of the night.
The in-laws also put their fears of flying and leap out of their comfort zone, taking plane and coach in a foreign land to come visit us 2-3 times a year. They usually stay with us 7-10 days.
In order to make both sets of grandparents comfortable when they do come over we have a dedicated guest room. The sacrifice is that the children share a room. We thought they spend so little time in their room at this age this is not a big deal.
With the leaps in technology, especially applications such as Skype, children can have daily involvement from the grandparents living far away. My in-laws got a computer and persist at getting over their technophobia in order to talk regularly with the Littlins. I respect their efforts!
Thinking back to my childhood- what a difference! We were able to speak to my grandparents in Hungary from Australia for a mere 10 minutes a week over a crackly line for fear of going bankrupt from the huge cost of the calls.
We try to make sure the children have a longer Skype call with their Dutch grandparents at least once a week.
This relationship is very different to the ones children have with grandparents living close by. In a way it is not taken for granted, but all meeting are seen as special occasions, there is huge excitement. My in-laws, despite their advancing age, slowly diminishing health and loss of stamina, still get down on the floor, muck about with the Littlins. You can see the love in the eyes from both sides. I am so happy we have chosen the sometimes more rugged path of being a multilingual family so that this relationship can blossom.
Do you have grandparents close or far? What relationship do they have with your children?
Image credit: Skiesoverberlin