By Ada Leivada
“…the miracle of medicine in 2020 is to extend the quality of life of people, many of whom are our mothers and fathers, our grandmothers and grandfathers. We honor and respect everybody. But most importantly we honor and respect them. We cannot be without them. We do not have an identity without them.”
These emotionally-charged words coming from world-renowned scientist Sotiris Tsiodras, who is serving as the Greek government’s spokesman during the coronavirus crisis, show once again that the way countries are reacting against this pandemic is cultural.
Professor Tsiodras’ words prove once more, this time with the “scientific seal of approval” that grandparents are the pillar of Greek society. Greeks from every corner of the world feel that it is a great blessing to grow up with your yiayia and pappou next to you.
They are the superheroes of the Greek universe who live to support and please their grandchildren in any way they can.
While parents are usually the ones who worry about their children’s education, future and everyday activities, grandparents are the ones who worry about keeping them happy, showing them the world, telling them stories about their past, and teaching them the value of family and the importance of their roots.
For Greek grandparents, life revolves around their grandchildren. And when it comes to their contribution to Hellenism, grandparents are Greek teachers’ best and true allies in teaching the language to younger generations of the Greek diaspora.
Grandparents just love showing the Greek community how their little successors can count in Greek, sing Greek songs, and read and write in the Greek alphabet.
“Pappous and yiayia give a constant fight to keep the Greek language and culture alive,” says Stella Bompotsiari, the director of Greek Lessons OnLine.
But today, Greek families have been asked to do something most of them have never had to do before — they have been asked to stay apart. They have been asked to keep children away from their grandparents for a while, just to protect them.
Social media has been bombarded with pictures of Greek grandmothers hanging over their balconies to see their granddaughters and grandsons and shouting out loud “Σ’αγαπώ!”
No matter how difficult familial distancing is, we all need to follow the instructions and the scientists’ guidelines. We need to keep pappou and yiayia safe. We need to protect them because we love them, and we need them. But even more importantly, Hellenism needs them!
In the meantime, technology is here to make sure they keep connected, to make sure they don’t miss each other too much. Technology is here to encourage kids to learn Greek and speak it with their grandparents once everything gets back to normal. Alternative options such as the worldwide online Greek School, Greek Lessons OnLine, are here to teach Greek to children from the safety of their homes.
Greek LOL is also here to bring children and grandparents closer together and to continue important traditions like the celebration of the Greek Independence Day. While all celebrations for the 25th of March were cancelled this year, Greek LOL hosted its online celebration just as it always does.
More than 80 Greek children from around the world connected from their homes to celebrate Greece and bring tears of joy and pride to their grandparents’ eyes who had the chance to see their amazing grandchildren reciting poems and honoring Greece.
Let’s all stay healthy and calm and protect our loved ones until we get back to normal. In the meantime, we can always turn to technology, which can be an essential ally in times like these, keeping families connected and grandparents happy and proud.
Greek Grandparenting From a Distance: Coronavirus Challenges Precious Bonds
By Ada Leivada