(Grand)Parents: Shoulders to fall back for Parents and Children

indian grandparents

Grandparenting! I can write a whole series on grandparenting, because on a day-to-day basis, I interact with more grandparents than parents, because it’s mostly the grandparents who bring the children to the play area.

Grandparents are an integral part in our Indian family system. They are the bridge connecting children to traditions and family roots. To children, grandparents are their go-to’s when they are hungry or angry. Everyday, I see how children share a rich bonding with their grandparents when they drive back from school together, when they run behind the toddlers to make them eat and when they walk hand in hand to the nearby grocery store.

From 1st to 30th April, I write one post a day on The Things that really matter to Children. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see the complete list of posts in the series.

P for (Grand)Parents: Shoulders to fall back for Parents and Children

In many homes, they are almost the primary caretakers of children. In fact, they are the reason why their sons and daughters could pursue a career and their passions. Yes, they are that thanks-deserving, loving and trustful angels of our lives.

How is it on the other side, but?

There are hardly any grandparents I’ve met who have described how beautiful the life of grandparenting is. Instead, I see that most have a tiring story – a story that’s taken for granted; a story that’s less heard!

In joint families, where both the parents are working, grandparents take the major role of attending to the needs of the children as well as managing the home. Grandmothers, especially, work round the clock like how they did in their 20’s. Do we even realise that their turn of parenting and running after kids is over? That it’s now their turn to rest and relax? Just because they are willing and just because they are physically still capable of taking the parenting roles, is it just to dump your childcare duties on them? If parenting is exhausting to a 30-year old today, imagine how it would be for a 60-year old.

Perhaps you understand but you don’t know how to help? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Hire domestic help wherever applicable, may be a cook to ease their kitchen roles.
  • Spare them from additional responsibilities like buying vegetables or groceries. Arrange for a school bus drop instead of making them walk or drive to school.
  • In the time you are at home, take charge of your kids – feeding, bathing, dressing-up – however tired and busy you may be. This applies to both the mom and the dad. In joint families, it is common for the dads to stay away from home chores because there is an additional woman in the house. Dear dads, join your family chores for your parents or in-laws if not for your children.
  • Allow them to go to bed early. Understand, they don’t belong to a generation who are on their laptops and mobiles until midnight.
  • When they are not well, take a leave from your work to look after them.

The grandparenting woes do not end with physical exhaustion. What actually bothers them deeply is the space and place they are given in the family. The daughters-in-law-and-mothers-in-law cold wars may always exist. It may never get a solution. But be matured not to pull your animosity into the matters of children. Remember, your children are your responsibility. If you are giving away your responsibility to your in-laws or parents, do it wholeheartedly. Avoid constant demands from them and thinking of ways to mend them. They may not be in their best phase and ego level to learn parenting from you. Give them the freedom of grandparenting if you want everyone including your children to be in peace., and most importantly, if you need them for balancing your career and children.

Understand the generation gap that exists between your parents’ generation and yours. A child used to come to our park with her granny. The grandmother had several restrictions about how she played – not to run, not to play boyish games, not to climb the 7-feet monkey bar, not to make loud noises – of course it was because of her love for the child. But when the grandmother was away from town and when the child’s father began to bring her to the park, the child had a new-found liberty to explore play in a way she never did before. It is natural for grandparents to not share your perceptions about parenting. If you want them to follow your ideals on your children, it is your take to explain it to them politely and apologetically.

And the television! This can be an unresolved conflict in many homes. The grandparents’ almost only getaway is the television. But that’s the thing of most concern for children. I heard a small child explaining to his friends about a video he watched with his grandfather (the Pollachi sexual assault video) and to my shock, he declared how the girl deserved it because his grandfather told him the girl had done this without her parents’ knowledge. I am talking of a five-year old! Well, it is nothing to do with grandparents in general; it is about the responsibility of adult family members to realize what effect their actions and words will have on the kids. And this is where difference of opinions can arise in families, specifically between people of two generations.

Grandparenting can be different from family to family and between joint and nuclear families. The intention of this post is not to judge grandparents or the priorities of parents. Rather, is a simple reminder about our everyday life and priorities.

How we deal with the internal conflicts across generations matters to children. Children may not be in a position to understand what makes the resentment between family members for they belong to yet another generation you see. But remember they are watching how you treat the grandparents for that’s how they are likely to behave with the grandparents and perhaps with you in later life. For as long as the grandparents are with us, let us put away the differences, acknowledge their presence and importance in our family, support their old-age with care and dignity, and project a healthy passing down of emotional legacy to our children and the generations to come.

To all the grandparents reading this post, here’s a mother of two who is in absolute gratitude for all the sacrifices and tolerance of the grandparents of today. In my own life, I almost had no bonding with my grandparents as a child. I have no regret about it in particular, but when today I see my children connecting with their grandparents, I realize how vital their roles are in a child’s life.

Happy Grandparenting!

Header Image Courtesy – India.com

List of posts in the Series

One Reply to “(Grand)Parents: Shoulders to fall back for Parents and Children”

  1. A very sensible post Nandini. My sister in law has recently had a baby and the grandparents are here. To see the amount of work that goes in, I can only imagine how exhausting it is. I can totally appreciate the amount of patience and energy they have for it. Most stories only tell us how magical the experience is while taking away the reality or the other side of this phase. Glad to see your post which highlights the practical aspects of grand-parenting.

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