Indian Grandparents: Invaluable teachers (and playmates) in our modern world
Dadi Dada - Nanny Dadu
I have fond memories of spending weekends and short breaks at my Ma and Dada’s house. They lived in the same town and so they were a regular feature of my childhood. Even though they passed many years ago, I can still picture the wallpaper on the walls, the smell of the attic room where all the ‘papad’ were laid out in the sunshine to dry. I can picture the table where I would build my house of cards and the chest of drawers upstairs where my granny would keep old sarees. I can close my eyes and picture my mums old bedroom where we would play, banging on the window until the neighbour’s dog would bark at us and we’d hide. I can still hear the cute chuckle of my granny when I would tickle her. Some things are so imprinted in your mind that you never forget.
My kids (and I) are incredibly lucky to have not one – but both - sets of grandparents living close by. Since they were but a few months old, they have been cared for by them, having regular sleepovers too. They have two very different experiences too with one set of grandparents instilling cultural teachings and feeding them delicious food and the other taking them on adventures, teaching them how to use a scooter, climb playground equipment and being fearless outdoors. Until recently, my youngest struggled to say “mummy” but would happily say “dadi” and “nani”! At my sister’s wedding, you could just hear her shout “dada” across a quiet room! When she wakes up in the morning, she will sit in the dark and reel off all the names of her family, starting with her sister, but the grandparents are always noted.
I hadn’t appreciated the importance of a close bond between kids and their grandparents until I had kids myself and then reflected on my own experience. I don’t mean childcare. I mean something far more visceral. They’re connected in a way that working parents can’t be perhaps. They’ve nothing but love and time and space to make up for lost time with their own kids. I find they’re far more patient and playful than we are! I am so glad that our eldest looks forward to weekend and school holiday sleep-overs with them even now that she doesn’t see them each week. They have their own inside jokes and games. When I observe them playing and interacting, I am the outsider! And I don’t mind it one single bit. It fills my heart with joy to know that my kids will grow up with not only fond memories, but are partly the product of their interactions with their grandparents.
I’m sure we’ve all heard the supposed African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child”. It takes at least 6 people in our case!