Most of us have regrets in life and often wish we could have done things differently; well maybe not all, at least some. Yet, few of us get a chance to do things the second time round and have to live with things the way they are with regret or with resigned acceptance or perhaps just with fortuitous gratitude for the way things eventually turned out.
I am one of those lucky ones who have got a second chance at mothering – this time as a full time grandmother. My daughter who is working has entrusted the care of her young child with me thus giving me the chance to do things differently this time round. While many of my mothering principles remain unchanged, my ways have changed partly because I am strictly following my daughter’s orders because at the end of the day, I am bringing up her child and not mine.
Take a simple thing like eating. My children’s sleep and feed times were written in stone, Not only were my children given food at the same time but almost always their menu was fixed. Of course I did make it fun for them by giving them their own table to eat at with the freedom to do what they wanted with the food like food art and the occasional food fight. Taking into consideration her erratic lifestyle as a doctor who often has to work the night, I make some concessions and do allow little P some leeway in this regard.
My friends are shocked at the way I tolerate little P running around the house between bites (something I’d never have done with my own children) and can’t hide their sniggers when I protest that he’s only getting away with it because he is unwell. (Lest you get the wrong impression, I’m not an indulgent grandmother and he does sit on a chair at the same time every day, and this truly was an exception which admittedly I wouldn’t have granted my own children).
Sleep time is another rule of mine that has changed. I strongly believe that rest is essential for proper growth and development and my girls were sent to their rooms strictly at 7.30 every night. After a good night story and a good night kiss, I’d shut the door and leave the two of them to fall asleep on their own. This time round, I find myself indulging little P with the run of the house till 8.30 the nights he spends with us and his bed time routine is changed to dandling him on my lap, crooning softly in his ear and gently massaging his tired limbs till he closes his eyes tight and the pacifier falls off. Of course, my excuse is that the poor little fellow is alone while my girls were “twins” born 18 months apart.
I think it is very important for the little ones to have some time out in the middle of the day – some quiet time where they lie still for a bit to relax and recharge their batteries. A pleasant way of dealing with this much resisted activity was “Dead Lions” a game where they had to lie down on the bed eyes shut tight. From time to time I would open my eyes to see if the girls were peeking, but I find that this game has taken on a new dimension with little P : very often I find him staring unwaveringly, peacefully sucking his pacifier and giving me an all knowing look as I find myself suddenly waking up from a deep sleep!
Well, the pacifier is another thing I’m doing differently. Perhaps because in those days pacifiers were not fashionable or perhaps it was because my elder child just didn’t feel the need to be pacified or comforted. As for the younger one who is little P’s mother, she had discovered the joys of her own thumb in the womb itself as I found out in one ultrasound photograph (I digress here but this was in those pioneering ultrasound days) which in her baby days was anchored with a cuddly pillow.
But what has changed drastically is ME. Realizing how sponge like infants are, absorbing what they see and mimicking behavior, I’ve literally cleaned up my act. I’ve stopped my indiscriminate nibbling throughout the day simply because curious little P wants to taste what I’m eating and since fries and chocolates are on his list of forbidden fruit, I’d rather not eat than deny him. Similarly, I’ve cleaned up my speech too. Perhaps I was immature and self-absorbed while bringing up my own children because it was only when I heard my three year old ask her grandfather if he was waiting for the bloody lift that I realized my liberal use of the word bloody had got my daughter to think that it was an integral part of many everyday words, particularly our lift which took ages to come. Now, much older and definitely wiser, knowing how quick little P is to absorb things, I assiduously avoid using bad words and don’t even modify/substitute them with euphemisms like “You know what” or “so and so”.
Perhaps these changes are evolutionary and would have happened anyways but what I am consciously doing is bringing up little P with a sense of detachment. I am of course watchful of his every move and conscious of his every need – what has changed is my deep seated need to be a part of his life forever and ever more. Bringing up my children has brought home the fact that we are indeed mere guardians of our children who are given to us to care and nurture and rear into adulthood. So this time round when little P grows up and waves goodbye, I won’t feel that aching pain and loss I felt the first time round.
As a mother of two thirty-year old daughters and a grandmother of a nineteen week old grandson, Sunita Rajwade has been there and done that. A hands on mom, she has seen two girls grow successfully through babyhood, toddler hood, adolescence and adulthood; solving their maths problems and contributing to their angst of growing up with a mom “who doesn’t understand”. But now as a grandmother, she’s being appreciated for her “wisdom” and “understanding” and would like to share my experiences of this wonderful journey from motherhood to grandmotherhood.