Bernardo M. Villegas
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Grandparents` Role

           As in the case of numerous Filipinos, I have a good number of close relatives who have migrated to the U.S. and are now American citizens.  On both my father's and mother's sides, I have first cousins and nephews scattered all over the U.S.  In a investment road show in which I participated during the last week of January 2012, a first cousin of mine and her husband brought me around San Francisco, which included a sumptuous Filipino lunch at the Patio Filipino Restaurant in San Bruno.    I stayed with them overnight in their residence in Redwood City.  Both are in their sixties and are retired.  But they keep themselves occupied.  How?  By helping in the upbringing of their grandchildren who live with their respective parents not too far away from Redwood City.

          By sheer coincidence, on the day they brought me to the airport for my Delta flight back to Manila, the Financial Times I read inside the plane had a letter to the editor entitled "Graduate from work into childcare" (FT, February 1, 2012, p.8).  Written by Marko Papic of Montreal, Canada, the letter hit the nail on the head about what grandparents like my cousins should be doing upon retirement.  To the question "what would be the rest of us unemployed 50- and 60-somethings do?"  The answer is childcare.  "Grandparents can help raise kids and pass on wisdom and experience that overworked and clueless parents don't yet have!  That would be  invaluable and also a huge boost to the economy--not to mention that moms and dads in their 20s and 30s would no longer have to argue over who is going to sacrifice their career this week because the little munchkin got sick."

          There are about three million Filipinos and Fil-Americans in the U.S.  I don't know the exact demographic profile of these households but I am pretty sure there are many grandparents who are in the same situation as my cousins in San Francisco.  These grandparents can address two major challenges faced by young couples in the rat race that characterizes the working environment in the U.S.  The first one has to do with the concern about the generally poor quality of basic education in the U.S.  The poor performance of American students in international tests in mathematics and science is well known.  Young parents have very little time to mentor their young children in these subjects, not to mention in such other subjects as English and Literature.  Grandparents are especially positioned in giving a hand in this most important task of assuring quality basic education to their grandchildren.  The other problem has to do with counteracting the negative values that their grandchildren may be encountering in their school environment.  Filipino grandparents can help foster such virtues as respect for elders, proper table manners, courteousness, religious piety, modesty and chastity. As reflected in such popular T.V. shows as "Glee", these virtues are not exactly strong points among the youth of America.

          The senior citizens in the Philippines should not be far behind in acting as tutors and mentors to their grandchildren in order to assist their increasingly harassed married children in giving a good education to their offspring.  The institution of the extended family in Filipino culture facilitates this role of grandparents.  Unlike in countries where the nuclear family predominates, there is a great deal of intermingling among different generations in the typical Filipino household.  It is, therefore, easier for grandparents to help in the upbringing of their grandchildren, without usurping the primary task of the parents themselves to be the first educators of their children.  There are tasks other than academic mentoring that grandparents in the Philippines can assume in childcare.  For example, I have a married sister who offers to take care of her grandchildren to allow their parents to travel on business or leisure trips. These occasional trips abroad taken by young married couples, without their children, are so important in keeping the romantic love or love of attraction alive between spouses.

          Since the children of the present generation may require more scientific methods of childrearing, it would be useful for grandparents to also take courses on the upbringing of children in a more modern environment which are increasingly being offered to young parents.  There are foundations such as the Parents for Education Foundation (PAREF) and Education for the Upbringing of Children Foundation (EDUCHILD) that offer courses for parents on the education of children in tandem with schools.  It would be useful for grandparents to also take these courses in order to assure complementarity to the primary task of the parents themselves to bring up their children.  Such courses on childrearing in a modern and industrial culture can update grandparents on such topics as the use of the internet, education in sexuality, and other issues that might not have been necessary in past generations but are the challenges today to parents desiring to mold their children to become mature Christian adults. They can also help grandparents avoid the danger of being the "spoilers" of their grandchildren through outmoded practices of childrearing.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.