Google says that the Actimel was created in 1995, but I remember seeing it for the first time a little later, when it became fashionable at recess. In the small pocket of the backpack, the one that smelled like a banana because there was always one that stayed there for several days and ended up staining everything, a lot of children began to carry those little white bottles of children’s ambrosia.
According to what they said on TV, it helped prevent colds, but neither the L. Casei Immunitas thing nor the fact that all my classmates took it were valid arguments for my father. When he asked him to buy them for me, he always told me that if he wanted an Actimel, he would shake me a yogurt. That those were modern.
Over the years, Actimel expanded its range of flavors and my father became a grandfather. And one afternoon he sent me a video of my son having a snack at his house, so I could see that in one hand he had a nibbled mandarin segment and in the other, the little white bottle that he always denied me. That day I discovered that, like many of the clichés that are repeated about the family and its roles, the one that grandparents will do with their grandchildren everything they did not do with their children is also true.
This is probably why, in the morning, the demographic of pushcarts in my neighborhood is predominantly Muslim and grandparents. There are also grandmothers, people with night shifts and couples who have the child and the newly released discharge. But, above all of them, the ones that attract the most attention because they are the most numerous are the Maghrebis and the retirees.
Some of them, like my father, have walked, taken their children swimming and put them to bed. Many have cooked for them, they have accompanied them to the doctor, they have bathed them and they have not complied one by one with the sanbenitos of the announcements of the Ministry of Equality. But there are others, especially the older ones, who are now being the men that circumstances, work or themselves did not allow them to be a few decades ago.
I know of a grandfather who takes his grandson to and from school every day when he never went to his daughter’s Christmas function because he had to work. The one who kept shouting and now no one can raise their voice to their children because they get scared. And of another who never stopped drinking at the request of his children, but when his grandchildren were born, he did so without anyone asking him. Since he didn’t tell them that he was going to do it, they didn’t tell him how proud they were of him either.
The one who looked for her father at each end-of-year performance hasn’t said anything to her either. It seems as if an omertá was sealed in this regard, a pact of silence by which the grandparents do not brag about their changes and the children act as if they had always been there. Perhaps that is why we repeat over and over again that children bring a lot of joy, but we almost never say that they make us better.
We became parents to realize what bad children we have been, I know that because it happened to me. And I suspect that when they make us grandparents, something similar happens and we become aware of what we made regular as parents. But in both cases, life gives us another chance.
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