This is one thing I have been thinking of writing for long. A random post here and there had got me thinking and I wanted to write the other side of the story ever since.
For many people who have a setup like ours just do the obvious things. We are not the first parents who have children, we are not the first set to be living with parents, we are not the only family where grandparents look after their grand children. Lot has been said about using grandparents to baby sit and how that isn’t right. Everyone who makes such a statement makes it from a context.
For the many grandparents I see where I live and around, they so want to look after their grand children. There are grandparents who are absolutely hurt because the son/daughter thought they weren’t fit enough to look after their kids. Grandparents look forward to indulging the little ones. That bond between the child and g’parents is very special. I know of a lady who is 70 years and lives alone. She sleeps scared and tells us somebody is following every step of hers in her house using a camera. Her daughter lives at a 30 mins distance and she visits the children everyday. I know 60 year old parents fly every six months to their only son to look after their grandchildren. They have a lot of ailments like the bones aren’t very strong etc etc but they are very happy. The 2 kids are a handful and it isn’t easy. The son takes such good care of his parents, it’s very evident. The uncle & aunty upstairs miss their grandson so much when their son went abroad on an assignment. Aunty used to get him ready for school, fetch him and it never once dawned on us she might being used. The son again takes very good care of his parents. Weekends they are generally seen going someplace or the other and sometimes even seen with a driver.
In India, for a working set of parents, the best option is to leave the kids with their grandparents with a maid. You do not stress your parents and you also have the luxury of your child being cared by people you trust, love & care. But different grand parents have different preferences and you keep that in mind while you make your decisions and don’t go by the book. When I offered a full time maid, my mom refused right away as she found handling the maid a more tedious job.
For grandparents who are alone in this age, kids are a way of keeping their minds off unnecessary thoughts. Yes, an idle mind is a devil’s workshop. Lonliness, insecurity, emotional backlogs are all things of the past after being with children. Its upto us as daughters/sons or daughter-in-laws/son-in-laws to respect that extended hand and treat them as part of your family. There is no better feeling, than the feeling of being wanted and cared at that age.
When I say ‘treat them as family’ I mean, talk to them.Have them in your discussions over things you wish to buy etc. My mother was one who cried over giving off our semi-auto washing machine for the fully automated one. When you go for an outing, ask them out as well. Don’t make assumptions that they might not enjoy. Get them gifts, surprise them just like you would do for your child or spouse. Make sure you spend that extra little or go that extra bit to make them comfortable on a trip. Sometimes, its just about calling a few of their friends over for dinner on their birthday or anniversary. Its not about over-doing it but about letting them know you care inspite of whatever differences you have. It’s not enough to just buy them medicines when they are sick.
I am not talking here about grandparents who are working or who have a life outside their home or who are not willing to look after the kids (perfectly understood) and of course the ones who cannot for lack of health. I am talking about mothers like mine, whoz entire life revolved around us and church and now with very little on hand she enjoys the toddler at home. Talking to her, doing the household chores, gardening, feeding her, putting her to sleep is something with which she is occupied. If we were to do things right, we wouldn’t hear a lot of “I am all alone now” or “Who will look after me” or “I am scared” and the kinds. I am not sure we are successful but I know we try.
Grand parents also do many little things to make the kids special in their own way. My mother for example, will always bathe Joyce with boiled water using tulsi. It has a flavour of its own and it feels nice to see that. She uses “rasmathipodi” after bath. She has got “wayab” and lets Joyce chew the stick. It is suppose to clear your tongue. With a slight fever, honey and ginger or sorts are served immediately. She has red wine brought in specially from kerala, because it’s good for digestion. All these are little things that in her own way, she does to make her grandchild special. If Joyce is found crying louder than is usual, when I am around, I get a mouthful. The oil that is used to apply for Joyce and Sharon is made by my mom after extracting oil out of coconuts. An aunt of mine sent me a whole big packet of dried banana slices, with bananas grown in their backyard. One might argue what is difference between stuff we buy from the ones a made at home. There might be none. But these small things add a streak of speciality to my baby. Its love and care shown in ways only they can. I personally will not have the patience for any of that.
This is not to point fingures at anybody, nor am I trying to take the moral high ground here by saying you should get along with all and stuff. I am just trying to say the other side of the story. Because your parents look after your kids doesn’t mean you are using them, its only when you take them for granted and don’t care for them, it warrants the “using your parents” phrase.
Finally, here is a picture of my mom and Joyce in the garden.