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The Joys of Grandparenthood







Life is an ongoing shower of gifts and blessings. The trick, they say, is standing still from time to time to catch a few of them.

There are so many. Parenthood. Spring. A lover’s embrace … No matter what we have on our list - and each one of us has his or her own - they have two things in common. They’re sweet beyond description. But they also invariably come with strings attached.

Parenthood, for example, involves sacrifice. The more you give of yourself to it, the better it gets. Spring, to be enjoyed in its full glory, first requires a portage through Winter. Without the latter, the former lacks lustre. A lover’s embrace is always followed by a parting. Long or short, it - the embrace and the parting - is enhanced by the bitter-sweet mixture.

So goes my list ...

There’s one on it, though, which I’ve discovered lately, and it is the sweetest. Because it is a rose that comes with no thorns, only splendour.

And that is … grandparenthood.

As with all blessings in my life, this too comes with a double dollop. I’m not complaining - who looks a gift horse in the mouth? I’ve scratched my head though, from time to time, wondering over my good fortune and have a theory: it may have something to do with my having played both Mom and Pop for my daughter.

I don’t complain over the kisses I receive on both Mother’s and Father’s Day. And I’m not complaining about the miracle of being a triple Nana - to an eight-year old grand-daughter, three-year-old grandson, and a two-year-old grand-daughter. My cup runneth over. I feel humbled because, like all true gifts, this too comes undeservedly.

To those who have yet to enjoy the good fortune of being older, it’s difficult to explain. It’s like trying to explain the joy of being a mother or father. To a teenager, for example, it simply doesn’t register. It’s something you experience, not find out second-hand, and until you do, you can never understand.

The same comes with grandparenthood. Through the years, I’d heard so many go ga-ga over their own experience, and discounted them all as hyperbole. Until now.

I’m not going to bore you by trying to tell you about the pleasures of being a Nana because I know you won’t understand ... Unless you too are a grandparent. You won’t understand because I can’t explain. It’s like - in the words of the spiritual tradition I come from - being a deaf-mute (“gunga”) and then trying to explain in sign-language the multi-splendour qualities of a ras-malaai (“mitthyayee“).

Try it by attempting to convey the multiple delights of your favourite dessert ... through sign language. You can’t. Neither can I.  

But I can tell you this much: that indeed there’s been nothing like it before. And being the creature of habit that I am, I’ve wondered why. What makes this experience different from all others?

To begin with, I think it has something to do with the fact that it comes with no baggage. No price. No small print. It requires no service contract. No warranty.

It comes with no calories. You don’t gain weight. And your doctor doesn’t raise her eyebrows.

It requires no responsibility. You don’t have to study the options and decide which brand or type of diaper to go for. Or which baby formula. What he and she can and should wear. And eat and drink. Every decision is the bailiwick of the parents - that’s the intervening generation between the little angels and moi. I simply receive instructions and accept.

Being shut-out like this from making decisions ever again is, mercifully, going to be a permanent predicament. Schooling, sex-education, dating, fashion, career, marriage … I will have no say. Whew! 

Then, there’s no guilt involved. If I hand out a candy, I don’t have to fret over how many the little one has already had; the tab has to be kept by the parent. I’m merely told, ‘yes, you can’, or ’no, no more.’ If there is flak as a result - a temper tantrum, for example, from the little one - I get no blame. I go play with the dog.

The little one is hungry. Needs a diaper change. A parent comes to the rescue. If things get rough - the little one is colicky, or tired, or sleepy, or just not in a good mood - I go home. The parents know what to do. I’m just in the way. I go home and watch TV. They stay up all night.

Then, there’s this aura that you acquire as a grandparent which lowers the threshold you have to meet. Try impressing any adult, even your own children, with any of your strengths. You learn quickly that nothing impresses them. Is familiarity to blame? Or is that you’re just not that good?

Well, it suddenly becomes easy with your grandchildren.

The three-year-old thinks I can do Magic. He stands there - at least for a minute or two, if not longer - with pure hero-worship in his eyes. The trick, of course, is in not feeling bad when he loses interest the moment you’re done with ’magic’.

There’s also a subtle difference in the barbs that come your way.

I remember the first time my daughter asked me not to sing in the shower - or outside it, for that matter. Just don’t, Dad, please, she said. I wrote it off as a lack of music sense, no more. On her part, I mean.

However, when the eight-year old said the same thing to me the other day, we all clapped - yes, me too. We all declared that she had such a great sense of humour! 

I also find that the three-year-old truly appreciates having a conversation with me. We can small-talk for an hour, and neither gets bored of the other. We steer clear of religion and politics, in fact anything that requires judgement or opinion. We do cover the full gamut of issues, though. The only thing that terminates our social inter-action is, a) pangs of hunger (his), or b) a pungent smell (his, not mine).

I could go on and on like this, but I fear you won’t understand.

So, all I’ll say is: grandparenthood is God’s way of saying Thank You for being a parent.


Republished on July 18, 2018

Conversation about this article

1: Dr K.N.Singh (Malaysia), August 11, 2018, 7:23 PM.

Beautifully put. Grandparenthood is really a reward for being a great parent. Here the greatest challenge is watching your children make mistakes with their children and have the wisdom to let them learn by making their mistakes. Good to suggest but don't tell until they learn as you will be of help only if asked. It is a blessing truly.

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