The strenuous joys of grandparenting

By Satur C. Ocampo
At Ground Level | The Philippine Star

Yesterday the younger of our two grandsons turned three. Weeks before he had been talking about his approaching birthday, excitement gleaming in his big expressive eyes.

But more than that, he had been preparing himself to become, in March, the younger kuya to another brother when our daughter, Silahis, delivers her third son.

Bobbie and I have relished the pride and joy of seeing the schoolboy Dalan and Araw the preschooler, develop their strong brotherly bond. Moreover, we are delighted and amazed by their intellectual growth, their boundless inquisitiveness, and their creativity. Often Bobbie would look meaningfully at me, nourishing her hopes for the future.

Dalan, eight years older, has been so caring and accommodating to his little brother, whom he loved to cuddle as a baby. Now and then, he would still embrace Araw tightly, lift and sit him on his shoulders and prance about, with the little boy screaming gleefully.

In turn, Araw idolizes his kuya. He quickly picks up on what Dalan does: constructing wonders with the Lego bricks, inventing games that we are cajoled to play; drawing, reading, and most recently, playing games on my computer (his parents’ laptops are off-limits).

Friends never fail to notice, approvingly, the nicknames chosen by their parents for the boys: Dalan (road or way) and Araw (sun). The third brother will likely be named Danum (water), or maybe Alon (wave).

The practice pleases us too. Bobbie and I also did that for our children: naming them Silahis (for the rays of the sun, signifying light and hope) and Siklab (meaning flare, denoting heat and, yes, revolution). Siklab was later nicknamed Anto (after several Antonios; and also a nom de guerre I once used) by their grandparents, who raised the two children after I was arrested by the military in 1976 and detained for nine years while Bobbie remained in the underground revolutionary movement.

In the case of our two grandsons, they were named after their forebears just like in the old days. Dalan has two first names, Daniel (after his father and grandfather) and Antonio; Araw’s are Armando Jose (after his great-grandfathers on both sides). Danum/Alon’s formal name has yet to be decided upon.

It’s quite different in the case of Isobel Kitiara (nicknamed Kiara), our granddaughter who just turned two years old. Anto and Zandra named their little girl after a woman warrior in the fantasy literature that their generation grew up on.

Unlike the two boys who have been living next door to us, freely moving in and out, Kiara has been only an occasional weekend visitor because they live in the south where her parents work. But recently, we have been enjoying Kiara’s presence in our home for several days and nights each week. And she and Araw have become playmates.

Kiara is endearingly friendly, her eyes gazing eagerly or inquiringly at you, teasing you with her sideway glances, enchanting you with her tight embraces and affectionate kisses. Her frequent call to me, “Lolo!” and raising her hands so I would carry her in my arms, or taking my hand to lead me where she wishes to go, is enough to renew my energy.

When they play together, Araw and Kiara often test the limits of my strength and stamina. My duties include looking after them as they move about in our ground-level home, play outdoors in the garden, or move over to the other house which has two flights of stairs to a roof garden.

Whenever Kiara asks me to carry her, Araw demands equal treatment. With both of them in my arms, they would ask me to take them up to the roof. There we would view the surrounding scenery, including the gradual setting of the golden sun. Kiara loves to watch planes and helicopters pass by in the sky. Still in my arms, they would urge me to run or skip about from one point to another, shrieking in both my ears.

But when it’s Bobbie’s turn to look after them, she makes them understand that Lola is not Lolo. Instead she allows them to cut up, paste and color recycled sheets of paper. They go out to watch butterflies and bees flitting about in the garden, examine bits of grass and leaves and pebbles. She pretends to play Plants vs. Zombies without really understanding what’s going on. Every so often they clamor for food and drink.

But soon enough the kids would crave physical play. Storming into our bedroom, Kiara would switch on the reading lamps. Then the duo would convert our bed into a trampoline and convince their lola to join in the horseplay (if only, she says, to prevent them from falling off and getting hurt).

Thus goes a day of vigorous fun with our grandchildren, with us old folks setting everything aside in order to be at their beck and call. It’s a happy experience common to many of us, and that we wish for others to have too, while they are still strong enough.

“But what the heck,” we all agree, “it’s time to reap the reward of grandparenting!”

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January 28, 2012

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