I was expecting my second child, a wee bit late in life, and couldn’t wait to break the news to a close friend. I wasn’t prepared for her response at all! She smiled impishly and said ‘You will be more like a grandmom to the child’. I was devastated.
I brooded for days. Walked around sad and sullen and then out of the blues, the ‘Eureka’ moment happened! I decided there was nothing better than being a ‘grand’mother to my child. I was aware of the magical bond between kids and grandparents!
I had not fared well being a parent to my first-born. I was a young first-time parent who wanted her child to excel at everything. In my eagerness to be the ‘perfect’ parent and for my child to be the most ‘ideal’ one, I messed up quite a bit. I am still trying to compensate, though he is in his twenties now! That, the poor child, despite my experimentation, turned out to be a good, caring human, is more the work of nature than my nurture and more importantly the presence of his grandmom through his formative years.
When the second one came along, I decided to ‘grandparent’ him. A grandparent realises that he/she may not have much time with the child so tries to make the most of it but parents take time for granted and often postpone moments which could have been tender and happy, the stuff of memories.
When I think like a grandparent I want to make every moment count and pack in all the love and affection that I may not be there to shower on him later. So the present is the most important part of our lives and there’s a lot of hugging and ‘I love you’s.
Losing a few marks in a test is no big deal anymore like it was with the first one, and how he resents it! He is astounded that I am ‘lenient’ with his brother. I look at him with guilt and say that ‘I was wrong the first time. Apologies! Help me to get it right the second time.’
I can even desist myself from asking how much his classmates scored and who is the ‘highest’ in class! Somehow, that doesn’t seem important any longer and I advise him to compete with himself.
Even when I watch the second one in a game or race, I don’t urge him on to win it but tell him to enjoy the experience. With the first one, I had screamed myself hoarse. I now tell both of them that it’s okay to fail. Learn from failures and move on. I wish I had that wisdom before!
When the little one calls me to play with him, I leave whatever ‘important’ tasks I have in hand and join in, most of the time. All else can wait but not these precious moments, just as a grandparent would think.
When he asks ‘Can I bunk classes on the first of next month? My favourite team is in town and I have to watch. Please take me’, I do cringe but we end up at the stadium. Life is short and will pass by before we know it. Missing a day of school won’t hurt, but missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will. If I had thought like a parent, there would have been arguments galore and he would have gone crying to school. I am sure, years later, we will remember the enormous fun we had at the stadium and will not regret it.
When he does something wrong and is feeling miserable, as a parent my instinct is to admonish him but the grandparent in me gives him a hug and listens to him patiently as he unburdens himself. I happened to read somewhere that children need our love most when they least deserve it
There are many such instances where my ‘grandparenting’ skills kick in and make our days colourful and happy. I believe that it is never the excess of love and affection that spoils a child, but rather the lack of it.
Annie Mathew is an educator and freelance writer based in Dubai.