It takes a village to bring up a child!
Most Indian kids are lucky. They grow up close to their grandparents - their dada/ dadi, nana/nani or their paati/thatha etc. Thanks to our cultural values of strong family bonds, reverence for old people and emphasis on children. Whether you want grandparents to live with you in a joint family, in the same town, or need to live in a different city, it is your and your family’s personal choice. But we are talking in general about strong ties with grandparents.
Here are some perspective on the role grandparents play for our children.
Grandparents are basically parents
“What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humour, comfort, lessons in life. And, most importantly, cookies “ ~Rudolph Giuliani
Yes. They are grandparents. Just like us parents, they too love your kids unconditionally and will always do so. Your children are after all their children’s children. Trite but true.
How special for your child to bask in the love of their grandparents! Of course they have your love, but on top of that comes the unconditional love and pampering by grandparents. You can never get too much love. The more love they get for you and others, the better for your children and family. Okay okay, let us not wax too sentimental now. But seriously, the more unconditional love your children gets, the more secure and confident they become, a bedrock for their overall development as well. We all know that but forget it from time to time.
Grandparents can truly enjoy the kiddos
“If your baby is "beautiful and perfect, never cries or fusses, sleeps on schedule and burps on demand, an angel all the time," you're the grandma. ~Teresa Bloomingdale.
"A grandmother is a mother who has a second chance." ~Author Unknown
Come on, let us face it, most of us parents are always busy with our agendas, planning the next meal, the homework, tell them what to do and what not to do, trying to provide for them and so on. It is difficult to be spontaneous and in the moment and sit down and just enjoy them for long. There is a lot to do. Right? Well, this is where grandparents step in. They have been there done that and now can just sit with your child in their laps and have the patience to tell those “grandma” stories, do those puzzles, cook the their favourite goodies, tell them all sorts of tales, even regale them with tales of what a brat you were when you were little.
Grandparents are our link to the past
“Grandchildren are the dots that connect the lines from generation to generation.”~Lois Wyse
Many of our childhoods are full of anecdotes about nani telling stories about cultural myths (Krishna or Jesus or Chisti), teaching mantras, tales of old days; paati’s unparalleled pickles, halwa, or dosas; handmade sweaters courtesy dadi, Dadaji’s jokes, tricks, tales etc. Grandparents keep these traditions alive by passing them to the future generations. Think of it, otherwise they might just get lost.
Grandparents have the experience and the perspective
"What is it about grandparents that is so lovely? I'd like to say that grandparents are God's gifts to children. And if they can but see, hear and feel what these people have to give, they can mature at a fast rate." ~Bill Cosby
They have been there and done that. And while we are so immersed in all the details, they can share their wisdom and calm. From your child’s constipation to their shirking studies, when you get all worked up, overwhelmed and confused, the grandparents can be there for you, being the balm and the rock.
“A grandmother is a babysitter who watches the kids instead of the television.”~Author Unknown
And of course, not to forget how great grandparents are for babysitting when you need to go out for the lucky folks who have grandparents living in the same town. They could even supervise the maid. What better care and guidance than doting grandparents. What a win-win situation it can be as long as all parties are willing and happy. Your child gets their love, lonely grandparents get to spend time with the young ones and you get to go on a date!
So what role can you play in making this relationship blossom? Here are some thoughts:
- Live, let go and let live. Make sure that you do not let your personal agendas get the better of this precious relationship. So try and not let the mother or mother-in-law bickering drive you. No relationships are perfect. After all, the foundation is love and caring. Try and sit back and overlook the small stuff. Try and think from the grandparents perspective as well. You will be in their shoes soon.
- Also, do not let your bickering influence your children. Let them bask in that special warmth and love. Keep them free to form their bonds and equations as well.
- Is it okay to let grandparents indulge and pamper them? Yes, in general, it is okay.They are the doting pampering grandparents after all. That ice cream, the treat, the “pooch pooch” when they scrape their knee - after all you are the parent and disciplinarian. But if it gets excessive, your child is getting spoilt and is in the way of the values and practices that you are trying to teach your child, have a friendly chat with the grandparents when you are alone with them and let them know the reasons and the details of what you are trying to achieve. Perhaps even use humour and diffuse the situation and remind them that they were once parents as well and had to rear the children. For example, situations like if grandparents give your child a gift every time they meet and your child is now expecting and demanding gifts from everyone etc.
- In the larger issues, make sure that your child does not get mixed messages. You say something and the grandparent says the contrary. It can be confusing for the child. In cases, like these, have a friendly chat with your parents or in laws and explain where you are coming from. You will be surprised how understanding they can be.
- Make it happen. Ensure that your child gets to spend time with his grandparents. It is easy, when you are in the same house or the same town. But, if you are not, then make efforts to have grandparents over and take the kids to meet and stay with them in the holidays. Involve your child in thinking about their grandparents. Simple things like making all sorts of cards for all sorts of occasions to holding their hands when they walk, handing over items to them when they have trouble walking and so on.