Grandparents are one in saying, without any reservations, that the best thing that can happen to anyone is a grandchild.
Grandchildren are referred to as the love affair of old age. They make our hearts beat faster indeed, with an urgency that makes us long to be with them always.
But is this anything like all relationships, subject to change in the natural course of things? Is there a honeymoon stage to it, too, beyond which, when the little darlings grow up and begin to inhabit the enigma of being teenagers, changes do happen?
It was indeed a rude awakening for me, their Mamita, when I overheard an older granddaughter describe to her younger sister the blouse I had bought for her as “so Mamita.”
I figured it was time to stop buying them clothes.
Here are the testimonies of other grandparents who can’t imagine life without their grandchildren, small or grown, young or older, but who admit that, as we ourselves get older, our relationship with our teenage grandchildren has to become more accommodating. We’re never too old to learn that.
Ferdi and Bebet (Villaluna) Trinidad
Ferdi: When it comes to our one and only grandchild, Aidan, I take the backseat. When he was younger, we used to go to the movies a lot. Now we don’t even go for the same music anymore. He’s 13 and six feet tall and into basketball. I can’t keep up with him.
Bebet: Ferdi and I have three children, but only one is married. It is our eldest, Alex, who gave us Aidan. His name is a derivative of Aida, my real name. He calls me Mama. I practically raised him. Because I was myself spoiled, I’ve become a conscious disciplinarian. I think if I had a child like me, I’d die!
Ferdi: I’m 13 years older than Bebet, and Ai calls me lolo. I guess I grew up in a more democratic environment, so I have to admit, I’m the “spoiler.” Ai now lives and studies in Pampanga with his parents. He spent this summer at our home, where he grew up, in Quezon City.
Bebet: Because of this new living arrangement I taught him how to commute by himself from our home to his parents’. At the start I would take him to the jeepney stop, while his dad or mom would be waiting at the other end.
Ferdi: I thought it was a bit too soon to let him go it alone, but Bebet reminded me that, at 11, our own daughter was already commuting between home and school.
Bebet: When I first started working in Manila, I got lost, and I suppose the trauma has made me this way. I remember I would take my children for rides around the city and point out landmarks to them. I wanted them to always be aware of where they were, so they would not lose their way.
Ferdi: We try not to interfere with Aidan’s parents, now that he lives with them.
Bebet: So far Aidan has not made them kontra, except maybe in his heart, like the time his dad commented his hair had grown too long and he threw me that look, as though asking to be rescued; he had it cut, anyway. I used to tease him about his weight and his couch-potato girth, which didn’t look good even on a six-footer (we Villalunas are tall—I’m 5’5” myself), but basketball training and his pediatrician aunt’s special diet has helped him lose weight—his salvabida has, in fact, disappeared.
Ferdi: But with Kapampangan blood, Ai just loves to eat.
Bebet: Ferdi is not a big eater. So I’m the one who usually takes Ai to restaurants and treats him to his favorite food. Once in a while Ferdi joins us.
Ferdi: I’m proud to say that, for a new teen, Ai seems more mature than I remember myself at his age. Being tall, he looks older; he feels protective of classmates and peers. His grades are all above average. All credit goes to Bebet. I’ve always encouraged the bond between them. Being the eldest of three children of parents Koko and Lina Flor, I, too, had my special bond with my grandmother Mama Bin (Lina Flor’s mom, Silvina Reyes Chanco Flores).
Francis and Josefina (Opat Labrador) Hermano:
Francis: We have two children, Maria Alessandra, or Mara, and José Francisco, or Jiggs. They have gifted us with five precious grandchildren. Mara is married to Paul Crenshaw, an American, and they live in the United States with their two children, Angela, 16, and Lucas, 14. Jiggs is married to Venisse Laurel and they live here with their three children: Danielle, 12, Alixandra, 10, and Gabrianna, 5.
Opat: Mara gave us our first grandchild, Angela. Francis and I flew to the United States to be with her when she gave birth, and I stayed for over a month. We did the same when Lucas, our first and only grandson, was born.
Francis: Our relationship with the teenagers abroad became limited after they started going to school. Before that, they’d come with their parents every Christmas and summer.
Opat: When our whole family is together, the children, of course, spend all the time bonding with one another. We also eat out a lot with them—whether here or in the United States. The grandchildren who live here we see regularly, always at our family Saturday lunches, hosted by my eldest sister since my mom died.
We noticed the older kids don’t come as regularly as the younger ones because of school and peer activities. Weekends, we stay in touch with those abroad by Skype or Facetime. Once in a great while, we visit them with the rest of the grandchildren.
Francis: I used to enjoy playing soccer dad to Lucas, our only grandson. I was the one who took him to summer camp for soccer training. While the generation gap is rather wide, Opat and I make it a point to be relevant by discussing with them their studies, friends, likes and dislikes. They patiently taught us how to use the iPhone, iPad, etc.
Opat: I enjoy talking fashion and clothes with the girls—our daughter-in-law is in the industry. On their birthdays and on other special occasions, we have a tradition which guarantees buying them the right gifts for their ages: We shop with them for their presents. Conversations used to come easier until they took to the iPhone and iPad. I’m not as high-tech as Francis, who can somehow keep up with them.
Francis: Our children have raised our grandchildren on proper values. I myself stress to them the virtues of honesty, truthfulness and genuineness in light of peer pressure.
Opat: I leave the upbringing to their parents, but I do believe in setting a good example, especially whenever we’re together. I give them tips on prayer. I love telling them stories about their great-grandparents and about how life was when we ourselves were as young; they seem to enjoy that.
Macario and Letty (Reyes) Laurel
Letty: All our nine grandchildren, from five children, are Laurels, as we don’t have a son-in-law. In grade school they would interview their Lolo Cario for assignments on President José P. Laurel, their great-great-grandfather, and Speaker José B. Laurel Jr., their great-grandfather, as well as Vice President Salvador H. Laurel, their great-granduncle.
Cario: When I was asked to speak in a grandchild’s class about the Laurel legacy in public service, it was another painful opportunity for me to give our side of history regarding the collaborationist issues that have clouded José P. Laurel’s presidency during the Japanese occupation.
Letty: Their Lolo Cario never misses the opportunity to instill in them the value of a good name, and their responsibility for keeping it untarnished. So far, they seem to be listening, so maybe they, too, will not only be proud but also serve their country as their forebears did.
Cario: Now that we are more or less retired—we’re still busy with our advocacies in education for the less fortunate—we have more time for our grandchildren. And like our children’s Lolo Pepito, my father, who was quite stern with us, his own children, but who became almost a different person with all his apo, Letty and I also find ourselves to have happily gone through the same transformation.
Letty: We’ve lightened up, to the point of being chummy. On school breaks, we travel with two or three at a time around the region. The next trip is to Taipei, in November, with the two younger girls. Our rule: No parents allowed.
Cario: Without their parents, they seem more relaxed, more themselves. We get to hear about some of their anxieties, and we are only thankful that they open themselves to us rather than to other people.
Letty: We let the boys—it’s usually the boys—make rambulan in their hotel room, for instance, but, if they forget or lose anything, they suffer the consequences. We can be lenient but there’s a limit, and they know it. We get along just fine.