“This time we will take you home with us,” say the grandparents every time they come visiting V and his parents. Oh yes… they come to visit him and not us. For both sets of grandparents, the lure of the grandchild is far stronger than it is for their own first born. A and I are both the first born for our respective sets of parents.
But over the years the offspring has found an extra special significance in our homes. “Where is your passport?” demands my father if I happen to visit him without my son. My parents & in-laws live in the same town. And over the years it has become very stressful to visit them with both sets of grandparents weighing the hours spent in each others’ home.
It is in times like these that I realize that a child is not just yours. He belongs to your parents and he has a rightful place in their lives, homes and universe.
So strong is the emotion that they often want to take him away. Now that he is a toddler, no longer dependent on his mother for nutrition, has a set routine about his life and is definitely more fun to be with, I am often propositioned with the offer. Of course, the condition is always to take the nanny along too. How else will they handle the not-so-pleasant moments of raising a toddler?
A’s childhood was very unusual. His grandmother had decided on her grandson’s name even before her son got married. He was born just a year after his parents married. Six months later when he gave up mother’s milk, he moved out of his mother’s lap into his grandmother’s. And from there on, A’s Thamma raised him as her most favourite grandchild. She doted on him. I have never seen her, but whenever I hear her stories from A, I can almost picture her – the grand matriarch of the house raising a brood of chickens. Because it was not just A that was raised by her. All his cousins that included his aunt’s daughters also lived in the same house. And each of them speaks about their childhood with fondness. One of his aunts lived in another city. My in-laws too moved to another leaving behind their son with their parents. It was time for him to join school and A in his interview named his grandfather when asked about his father’s name. The name stayed on the school records for a very long time. Until my father-in-law went and got it changed!
Thamma was a force to reckon with. A was her favourite and she always selected him over the other grandchildren. But when it came to hard core discipline she yielded her iron hand liberally. From hearing mythological stories, to imbibing life’s skills and mannerisms, good behavior, to following sports like tennis and cricket, eating every vegetable and fruit in the market to even being pinned down for those unpleasant vaccinations, Thamma was the force behind A’s childhood. Each of his stories has Thamma play an integral role. When his cousin talks about her she says how she towered over them all. Paa-in-law says that on trips home he would be scared to ask his own mother to let his son sleep with him for the night. He would ask A to ask Thamma. She would agree, but with a grouchy expression. Mummy describes her as a feisty woman who left her with little choice when it came to raising her own child.
My in-laws went on to have a second child and this time they were not asked to give up their daughter. They soon moved back to the same city and once again the family lived from his parents.
Today both his grandparents are not with us. But every time A speaks about them, his eyes brighten up. He is once again the small child that he was. Impish, bratty and pampered. But deep down inside, he also feels a tinge of sadness that he didn’t spend time with his parents. At the face of it, he spent just about 6-7 years away from them. They would visit him during holidays, but then they would always go away. He says he would be sad to see them leave. But there was Thamma to smother him with all attention and love afterwards. And the little child that he was, he would soon forget.
As a mother today, I am selfish. Very selfish, in fact. Having a child and raising him is my job. And while I don’t mind sharing it with my parents, I cannot imagine relinquishing it all together. I cannot live and work in another city, making peace with the fact that my child is away from me. Watching him grow, the good, bad and ugly is all part of a journey that we have set out to cover together. Does that affect me? Yes, it has affected my career. I cannot suddenly pack my bags and take off on a week-long outdoor schedule. I can no longer sleep late. I can no longer read in peace. I can no longer eat a warm meal, or a hot cup of tea. I can no longer sleep through the night. I can no longer watch late night movies or endless seasons of sitcoms. I can no longer shop in a busy marketplace. But despite everything that I cannot do, I do not want to give up on my child. Mummy-in-law was a strong woman. She could stay away from her child. But I know I cannot.
My sister-in-law and I often talk about this, their childhood actually. She and I are both mothers to toddlers and for us our worlds swirl around baby fingers. Working mothers both of us, we know how tough it is to handle a home, baby and career. Her daughter is left at a daycare. My son is left at home with a nanny. Both would have been unimaginable to Thamma. V’s grandparents have reconciled to the choices that his mother has made. But I know, deep down inside if given a chance they would want to change things around. And perhaps that’s why every time they come they try once; both sides.
“We will take you away with us,” they talk to him directly now. “Will you come with us? Koo-chook-chook we will go to Jamshedpur!” They add a sense of adventure in their proposition.
V nods at them and then looks at us, flashing his dimple.
“Let the week go by and then we will talk on the day you are leaving,” I say!
I trust my toddler to create such a riot that they are left huffing and puffing, craving for their inactive home again! 😀
And yes… this works… always… every time!
The TV junkie is back into the idiot box. Besides pretending to be a superwoman between work and family, Rituparna also dreams of flying free as an entrepreneur! Her son’s student, she is learning the ropes of parenting every day. Rituparna blogs at http://onboardthemommyship.