Parenting Our Parents: An Art!
Circa 1985, a cheque of 2000 US$ from S, one of my patients settled in United States, was hand delivered along with a note ‘Dear Doc, please use this money towards hospitalisation expenses of my father. I want him to be fit as soon as possible as I want him to come to States’.
I was puzzled! S’s father had not come to the clinic for any ailment past month. I mentioned the same to S’s friend. He called S and S told me ‘Doc! He is getting severe giddiness; Refusing treatment and fighting with my mother. He is even refusing to come to US.’ He was almost pleading “Doctor, please admit him to some good hospital and make him alright”.
I felt good to see a son being so concerned for his father’s health but was still puzzled as to why was he not keen to go this time when 4 years back, prior to his then visit to US, he had been very excited.
I called him, on coming the first thing he said was, ‘Doctor, please tell my son I am too sick to travel’! He was clearly agitated ‘I will be indebted to you. I don’t want to go. Even my wife does not want to go. Please help us. Only you can save us.’
I knew the family for eight years and did not understand what was happening? They were a closely knit family; their only son had settled in US and they had been there 4 years ago to help during birth of their first grandchild and had spent almost six months there.
I made him calm down and coaxed him to share what was happening? In the meantime his wife had also joined. Both started with tears in their eyes; both were eager to talk and kept interrupting each other.
What I pieced together was this:
Mr. KST (S’s dad) had retired as Company Secretary of a MNC and was very well off. He had funded S’s initial struggle in the US. Their last trip to US was self financed and S had insisted they don’t bring any money as he would look after them. Trouble began after 4 months in US when they talked of visiting some famous tourist spots, now that kid was 4 months old. The remaining 2 months, excuse after excuse, neither were KSTs taken for any sightseeing nor were they taken for any shopping. On the day of their flight, their son gave them few chocolates for their friends.
Mrs. KST concluded, “Doctor, I did not mind working like a servant for initial four months but last two months I realised their only purpose of calling us there and I was dying each day looking at my husband who was looking forward to visiting those tourists places.”
Mr. KST added, “Here we have two servants for both of us. I wanted to bring gifts for my friends but my son didn’t even ask me whether I wanted to buy something. Doctor you know, I have enough money to buy gift for my friends. And now when they are expecting second child suddenly they have developed love for us“.
27 years down the line, I have come across several such couples, not only those who go abroad to help in maternity but within India as well. Some make excuse of poor health to escape; most cannot or do not wish to because of their inherent goodness.
Have we spared a thought to what modern-day nuclear families are costing us?
With nuclear family becoming the culture; with both parents working; with elders living longer and healthier lives, is it surprising that parents expect their parents (grandparents) to manage the grandchildren when they are away?
Some reactions of grandparents:
- I love my grand children and would love to spend time with them playing, story telling, etc. but when they expect me to look after them, frankly I am not equipped. And when something goes wrong, the way I am reprimanded is just sad!
- I am fortunate that I have a chance to look after and play with my grandson.
- My wife and me somehow manage the weekdays when they go for work, but even on weekends they want to party and tell the kid, ‘Beta, Dadu story sunainge!’
- I know we are called to US more as economic necessity and not due to any affection felt.
- I want to say NO but my wife tells me it will be labelled as we don’t love our grand children.
- I don’t mind helping them out but when I don’t even get most basic courtesy from them, it really hurts. But I still continue as I don’t want my grandson to be looked after the maid.
Children who expect their parents to look after the grandchildren in their absence, should try to understand their parents’ mind set, their problems and their expectations.
They(grandparents) have spent a lifetime in carrying out their duties – working and bringing us up. They are not keen to take up responsibility again, especially at this stage of their lives; and the responsibility of looking after our children as per our diktats!!
They love to be of help. They do find solace watching the grand children grow. Grandparent-grandchild bond is an amazing relationship. Do not take them for granted. Appreciate their contribution. They can contribute much more than just the menial task of ‘looking’ after the child.
Dr Chander Asrani, father to three daughters and grand father to one, is a post graduate in Family Medicine. He has over 35 years in clinical practice, launched www.growingwell.com in 2000 and since then has been writing on various subjects. Know more about him at about.me/drasrani.