“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 realise 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.
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