I love being a grandmother. In fact, I used to insist on my great nieces and nephews calling me paati (grandmother), when I had been much younger. So you can imagine my joy when I became one in the true sense – when my granddaughter Diya had been born. While I had been overjoyed when my first son had been born, this joy was somehow sweeter. Perhaps it had something to do with my acquisition of the title that I had been hankering after.
Why me alone? The bond between the grandparent and grandchild is a unique one. The reasons could be many. For one thing, there is no sense of urgency in the relationship; no responsibility; no bus to catch, no office deadline to meet; no whistling cooker needing one’s attention – all of which can rob a moment of undivided attention that the child craves for.
As a mother I remember surreptitiously glancing at the clock even as the little one nuzzled me with sleep filled eyes, making me reluctant to get out of the bed. And still I would be impatiently coaxing him to get up, fretting about the possibility of missing my 9.03 fast local, which would consequently delay my arrival at work by 25 minutes at least due to the chain reaction of missing one mode of transport after the other.
No, sir. I have no worries now of such things as a grandmother. Time has lost its iron grip over my life. So what if I take bath half an hour late? Where is the rush? Even if the cooker is whistling, I shut off the gas and rush to cuddle the little one if she calls, ‘Paati…..!!!!’ Sometimes we end up giggling under the quilt like two crazy kids. That’s pure joy.
One day, we both were playing some silly game when her mother called her. She ran to her mother but she so wanted to continue the game and so told her, ‘I love paati Amma!’ That sounded like warm honey sliding over my heart! Little Diya is all of two-and-half, the age when kids are at their adorable best. And know what her mother said happily in reply? ‘And paati loves you too!’ And we so love each other!
And then, as a grandparent, one can enjoy a child with complete abandon without being burdened by the responsibility of actually raising her or him. Somehow the dreaded generation gap seems to vanish when one is with one’s grandchild. It is amazing how one jumps one generation and bonds with the next so well!
And thoughTime has not completely lost its control from the times one was a parent it has changed hues now.
In days gone by joint families were the norm and the child got to live with the grandparents and even with the extended families. This is not to say that joint families don’t exist today – they do, but by and large they have undergone a metamorphosis. So the candies of togetherness are sweeter and have to be savored to the full, slowly sucking out the sweetness that then lingers for a time – till it is time again to visit or be visited.
An uncle and aunt, all of whose children live in the same city called themselves ‘weekend grandparents.’ They stayed with the one cousin whose wife also worked – to take care of their then young children — and spent the weekends by turns with other sons and daughter! Others are not so lucky and have to either make a trip sometimes across the seas to be with the grandchildren or wait for them to come to visit.
I also suspect that as grandparents we try to make up for the things we didn’t or couldn’t do or even did wrong as parents for various reasons. Though at that time our actions might have seemed the right thing to do, we sometimes reflect on hindsight that they could have been done differently or better and that we had somehow failed then. I guess we get a chance to make up for such lapses by proxy.
This of course elicits remarks from our sons or daughters about us being partial to the grandchild! Why, I used to feel that way with my mother when she pulled me up for not allowing her grandson to sleep a while longer. The mother I remembered from my childhood never allowed over sleeping.
I recall an incident with my father as a grandparent. He was still working at the time my eldest sister was visiting with her two young sons. The younger one was a year-and-half and would only sleep in the traditional cloth jhula . He had to be gently rocked and loved it when my father did it as he chanted shlokas melodiously in his soothing voice.
On that particular day the child was unwell and wouldn’t fall asleep easily. Every time my father stopped the rocking or handed it over to one of us to slip away to work, he would start bawling. Finally father gave up and called his office to say that he was taking off that day! The child would have cried some and then gone to sleep with one or the other of us rocking him, but the grandfather could not bear to see the child cry, especially when he was not well! My older siblings vouch for the fact that he never took off from work, sometimes working two shifts in a row when they were small.
Naturally, priorities change. For instance, when I was with my son’s family, writing and blogging became something that I indulged in only when the little one was busy with other things or sleeping. I had no worries about putting a meal together on time, worrying about the clothes that needed to be washed and sundry other domestic chores, thanks to my thoughtful daughter-in-law who made sure I had all the time with the child without having to worry about any of the mundane details of housekeeping.
Being part-time grandparents comes with some responsibilities too. For one, it makes it necessary to follow the routine that the child is used to, instead of starting something new and confusing the child (not to speak of making things difficult for the parents once you leave). This sometimes requires one to look the other way when one doesn’t agree with the particular set of rules, because interfering causes the child to take advantage of the situation, and grandparents being more indulgent, would surely give in sooner than later. And the child knows this very well.
I can’t tell you what bliss it is to enjoy a child without the compulsions of being the disciplinarian. All you have to do is generally be firm when the child is behaving in an undesirable manner and let her know that you are unhappy. It would turn my heart into molten wax when she said, ‘Please don’t be sad, paati,’ if I curled my lips as if I were crying and instantly stop doing what she was doing.
When they visit us, it is one hurried round of doing everything in the short time available, to enjoy at the time and then ruminate once they leave. Living and reliving moments, those nuggets of gold that will only get burnished with time, never fade.
I am taking the days, one at a time, enjoying my role as the grandmother. One day soon, my little moppet will grow up and maybe, we will do things other than playing and reading together. And I do hope that she will be as loving as the granddaughter,whose blog I visited this morning.
Blessed are the parents who get to raise their kids, but twice blessed are the grandparents, because they have experienced the joys of raising their children and then enjoying their children.