It’s true that humans get creative when under duress.
Ahmad and I have 6 grandchildren in 3 countries in different continents – Australia, America and Malaysia. For a time, I worried that they’ll grow up as strangers to one another. They were born and now raised thousands of miles apart from each other.
Things took a turn for the better when the eldest grandchild in America turned 6 and asked my husband and me to read books to her. It was the beginning of good things to come, for until then, I always noticed that during family Zoom sessions, Ahmad and I would be catching up with our grown children and their spouses, whilst their kids would normally be busy with something else. Little children find it hard to make sense of adult conversation. What we adults talk about might not interest them anyway.
Back to the book-reading session. Ahmad and I began with printed books. The kids loved it. I don’t know if it’s getting attention from their grandparents or the books itself that they get excited about. I’d like to think it’s both. We searched for, and found free online books, and the kids loved it, too! By the second session, the cousins – our grandchildren – were reading to one another. The kids who have yet to start reading would hold a picture book and tell stories based on these pictures, with a little help from their parents, if needed.
The book-reading session has now expanded to simple Japanese sessions with their uncle in Japan. Of course, you could learn basic Japanese from online resources, but when the teacher is your uncle, it becomes an extra special, endearing experience.
Believe it or not, my granddaughter in America (6-years-old) and her cousin sister in Malaysia (5-years-old), now play hide-and-seek virtually. If the girl in America is doing the seeking, Ahmad would hold his mobile phone as her confederate, she would communicate with him where to locate her cousin. “Can you turn to your left, Tok Ayah?”, “Might she be in the kitchen?”, “How about behind the curtains?”
I see good things taking place between the cousins. The girls are especially fond of one another, despite the fact that they are almost 18,000km apart and 13 hours in time difference. The boys couldn’t wait to read their latest favourite books to their cousin sisters and brothers. And this is a critical period of time when memories are built; once your childhood is gone, the opportunity is lost forever. First cousins are especially special, their parents are siblings to one another. When I am no longer around and when my children are no longer around, I’d want my grandchildren to be there for one another.
We live at a time when children are so mobile. They reside in other countries for different reasons – developing work experience, in search of brighter opportunities perhaps or better schooling system for their children – but it’s important that precious family ties are built no matter what. It’s all about human connections and engagements. It doesn’t happen overnight, but in drips. Every single effort made matters in the long run. It might take a bit more effort, thinking and preparation, but at the end of the day, it’s worth it. If you want something bad enough, and if it’s important enough to you, you’ll do what it takes to make it happen.