Do you have a favourite memory of your grandparents, particularly as a child?
One of the best times of my childhood was our family trips to Johor, Malaysia to visit my grandparents. Because I knew that once I got there, I would be spoiled rotten.
My grandfather or ‘Ah Gong’ would make trips to the wet market in the early morning, so that we would wake up to a huge breakfast spread every day.
My grandmother or ‘Ah Ma’ – a great cook, as all grandmothers seem to be – would whip up her best dishes, including her famous kampong chicken in rice wine sauce.
Grandparents know that many things don’t matter in the course of a lifetime, and can offer a more-relaxed, easy-going love.
As my siblings and I gorged ourselves, Ah Gong would regale us with fascinating stories from his 80-year lifetime – he and Ah Ma’s initial years of extreme poverty until he became a self-made businessman, playing table tennis with the Japanese soldiers during the Japanese Occupation, and chasing thieves off his palm oil plantation.
It was always during these trips that I truly appreciated the warmth of being surrounded by family. My grandparents represented a constant and stabilising force of love and protection, as I navigated the uncertain, competitive world outside.
Singapore’s Grandparents Day is coming up on November 23 this year. While it is not as well known as Father’s or Mother’s Day, grandparents are a vital part of families, and they deserve a special day to honour them.
Grandparents have been around for centuries, but interestingly Grandparents Day is a relatively new concept. So how did it all begin?
How Grandparents Day Came to Be
The idea of Grandparents Day started about 40 years ago in the USA. Marian Mcquade, a self-described “housewife” who devoted much of her life advocating for older adults, wanted a day to affirm the importance of grandparents.
After campaigning for five years, in 1979, President Jimmy Carter finally made National Grandparents’ Day official. The world’s first Grandparents Day thus came into existence.
Singapore has also celebrated Grandparents’ Day since 1999, which is designated as the fourth Sunday of November.
Mr Jay Lim, the founder of Grandparents Day in Singapore, was inspired by his own grandmother, Mdm Lee Su Lan, to bring the idea of Grandparents Day to the Parliament back in 1998.
In an interview with STOMP, Mr Lim fondly recalled how Mdm Lee had braved many hardships, including surviving on sweet potatoes during World War II, and bringing up five children single-handedly after being widowed early. Mdm Lee passed away just this year in May, at the ripe age of 103.
In addition to Grandparents Day, our silver generation has been honoured since 1979 with Senior Citizen’s Week. Held on the third week of November, it commemorates our senior citizens’ contributions to society.
Six Lessons Only Grandparents Can Teach
Another purpose of Grandparents’ Day is to help children become aware of the strength, information and guidance older people can offer.
And it is true that there are things only grandparents can teach very well. Here are six life lessons we can learn from them:
Don’t sweat it: Having the experience of their full adult lives behind them, grandparents know that many things don’t matter in the course of a lifetime. Grandparents can offer a more-relaxed, easy-going love than pressurised parents or Tiger Mums.
Face-to-face time: Coming from a time that wasn’t permeated by iPads, mobile phones, or social media, grandparents don’t suffer the technological addiction that many of us do. And sometimes, the only way to talk with them is over the phone or face-to-face. Grandparents teach us to put aside our devices and be present in the moment.
Importance of family and tradition: Grandparents keep traditions alive, be they cultural or family rituals such as visiting a temple, or making traditional foods together during festive seasons. These traditions serve as the glue that keeps families together, as they are passed down over the generations. Also, don’t underestimate the stories that grandparents share about their past—they help create a sense of identity and understanding of our family roots.
Appreciating the small things: “Be grateful for what you have” is a phrase we often hear as kids, but it is something that grandparents appreciate most, especially if they have gone through turbulent times in history. Expressing gratitude for the small things in life—a soft bed, a good meal, a smile—can boost one’s happiness and well-being.
Thriftiness: Whether it’s finding the best things at bargain prices, or conserving time and resources, grandparents always have plenty of tips.
Getting spoiled by grandparents is a good thing: Research by Oxford University has shown that children with involved grandparents grow up better adjusted than those who don’t. Grandparents help the family buffer difficulties, and provide stability and support for grandchildren, helping them build resilience.
Treasuring Our Grandparents
As we grow older and get caught up in work, studies, or raising our own families, it becomes easy to forget about our grandparents.
Old folks can get lonely without company, and sometimes, spending time talking to them is all they need.
This Grandparents Day, why not spend some quality time with them? A morning walk in the park, a karaoke session, or a meal with the whole family are all possible options.
Show your appreciation for your older folks this Nov 23, and make them feel treasured!