My daughter will be experiencing her first summer vacation (already!!! I mean c’mon she is just about to be 2!! What we were doing when we were 2) as she has started going to the settlers program before joining playgroup from the coming June. Although she was recently visited by her paternal grandparents, now the time has come for her maternal grandparents as well as great grandma (yeah! Lucky her!!!), who are eager to spend time with her. So I decided to spend a month with my parents(probably in May or June), just like I used to spend summers in my grandparents home and also I thought I would also get a much well-earned break. I didn’t even take a leave from work (somehow managed everything around work) because I counted on my parents that they will take care of my daughter as I can work on my laptop.
Well does this sound familiar to you? If you are a millennial as me then it should!
Our parents have been a necessary support system for us for bringing up our kids. A sheltered bond to parents is vital for child’s emotional growth but a very less thought is given to attachment with other important family members. Although, there are benefits for a child in having attachments to their Masi, Mama, Bua etc and particularly to grandparents. They could become the first BFFs and such experience is very important because the child channelizes this to his/her future experience in teens and adulthood.
We all agree that grandparent care is the closest thing to parent care. Grandparents look forward to the birth of a grandchild, mainly the first and the happiness of getting to know them without the accountability which being a parent.
When the first child is born, the husband and wife roles take a backseat and they have to adjust to their new roles as parents, to a changed relationship with each other and to meeting the needs of the new baby. Grandparents, in contrast, appears to have less adjustment to make. But where grandparents have too much accountability for grandchildren the part loses its magical aspects.
Let’s take an example; this is what my parent’s usual day looks like. Wake up, read the papers, shower, breakfast, since my mom is still employed as a teacher goes to school, comes back, send messages to her various WhatsApp groups while resting, meanwhile my dad either finishes reading every single word on the newspaper, watches movies , checks his mails, consult on various projects, goes fishing etc . In the evening they head out for evening walk and meet friends. Then it is time for television to catch up on the news, calls to their children, family members, etc and then retires to bed. Now imagine bringing a toddler to this mix? Where exactly does my top-to-toe energized daughter fit in?
Don’t get me wrong!! When they aren’t engaged, they are doting grandparents attending to the fancy and craze toddler, the way only grandparents can do.
But quite a lot is happening with our parents and we were too busy to notice as increasingly they are choosing to use their time doing everything they wanted to do when they were younger.
Yes, things have changed over the decades. With nuclear families being the custom nowadays across India, our kids can talk to their grandparent’s every day through video chats, phone calls, etc. so it never feels like they have been away. We on the other hand, also need to understand and respect their time and avert taking them for granted as babysitters available at any time. They must be given freedom and opportunities to rest and enjoy their activities and hobbies, as they have already taken care of their responsibility (us).
Us Indian’s have a varied and rich culture and grandparents are the best to make them appreciate and learn the values of tradition and religious values and morals. Evidently, some of the customs might seem superfluous today, but there are some which have eternal value. Let them enjoy telling stories to their grandkids, especially the stories from their youth and they could transfer their experience and knowledge from that period along with family history. That is the reason why children like to listen to their stories, look at the photos from their youth, search through their almirahs.
This will also help in setting boundaries as it is important to bear in mind that parents should clearly state that only they are responsible for the upbringing of their children and everyday decisions instead of transferring them to the grandparents, except in special situations when parents are not capable of taking care of their children.
On the other hand, grandparents must also respect parents’ decisions and uphold them when parents are not present. In families without clear boundaries between grandparents’ and parents’ roles, conflicts are not rare, which negatively impacts on children who do not have clear guidelines, become insecure, demanding and confused.
So while I write this post balancing my toddler on my lap and answering her different versions of Mumma Maa Mummy for a countless number of times, I can’t help but wonder about when the “Achche din” of support systems passed us by and exactly how much more things will change in the years to follow.