‘Vicarious’ grand-parenting


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We have all heard of parents living their lives ‘vicariously’ through their children, ie, parents trying to get their children to do everything that they couldn’t do when they were children. We can see numerous examples of this in India today, like parents forcing their kids to take up IIT JEE exams simply because they were not good enough to clear them and make it to the IITs when they were younger, parents forcing their kids to learn singing and dancing so that they can participate in and hopefully excel at the various reality shows on television, parents forcing their kids to join Cricket Coaching Camps in the anticipation that there just might be a budding Sachin Tendulkar or a Virat Kohli in their kid, the list goes on.

But then, how many of us have heard of grandparents living vicariously through their grandchildren’s lives!!! Case in point, the first thing that my dad said when he saw my lil one’s fingers on Day 1 – “She’s got such long lovely fingers. She can become a surgeon.” And this was before my daughter had even begun suckling at her mother’s breast and was all of 14 hrs old!!! Now I might be reading too much into my dad’s statements, but it goes on to show that my lil one’s grandparents have some unfulfilled wishes which even me (courtesy of being the only child) have not been able to satisfactorily fulfill so far. Given my dad’s first reaction at my daughter’s fingers, I am guessing becoming a doctor was somewhere in his list of unfulfilled wishes from me.

Now I have always had ‘working parents’ and as a result, most of my toddler years were handled by my maternal grandparents. While my mother did spend time with me in the mornings and the evenings, I am assuming most of this time was spent in ‘transactional activities’ such as feeding, bathing, sleeping, etc, rather than any real time spent by my mother in understanding my ‘real personality’. Not that I am saying that my parents don’t understand me, am just trying to make the point that they probably didn’t have the time to get to know the ‘real me’. I am not blaming them at all given that they had to put in the time at the office to ensure that they were able to support all my needs financially. I understand this a little more today given that no amount of money is enough to make me feel that I can provide for my wife and daughter financially, what with the increasing costs of education, and even normal things such as fruits which will enable my daughter to have good health.

With this background, it is quite clear that while my parents brought me up well, they probably have a few things which they wanted me to do and didn’t quite get the time or the inclination to teach me when I was younger to get me to do those things. So they go ahead and do the next best thing they can – start gradually influencing my toddler to show an interest in things which they feel she might be good at, for eg, buy her books so that she starts reading at a very young age, buy her educational toys so that she starts her stacking games earlier than other kids, etc. As if this wasn’t enough, they are also ensuring that they spoil her like mad (something they didn’t have the time to do with me when I was young) and cater to all her whims and fancies like giving her snacks (which me and my wife are somewhat against as we want her to avoid ‘junk food’ for as long as possible), show her TV (which once again me and my wife want to avoid for as long as possible).

While both my wife and me understand that some of these things come with the ‘grandparenting territory’, we are just about to formalize various rules and regulations which are ‘non-negotiable’ especially around what the toddler can be fed and how much TV time she gets in a day, etc. I guess some parts of us are also living ‘vicariously’ through our daughter by enforcing these rules for her.

What is the point of this long post which borders on a rant? The fact that I am moving back to Bangalore to live with my parents in around 3 months from now, the fact that this is the first time that my wife would have to live with her in-laws in 6 yrs of married life, the fact that at this point in time there are just too many differences in the way that my parents and my wife view life in general. This is something that is looming large in my head and something that I spend a lot of my time thinking about. I just had to get it out of the system and what better medium than this blog to do so.

9 thoughts on “‘Vicarious’ grand-parenting

  1. Oh! So… Finally going back to Bangalore eh?? So Little R is gonna follow ur footsteps and study in Bangalore eh?? And as a vicarious athei… Seeing her expressions… I belive that she would be a great dancer… Or am I saying this cz I always wanted to learn dance!!!??

    Anyways… Nice post!!!

    • I don’t have a problem with her becoming a dancer, but the way she moves right now, she’s got a long way to go before she becomes anything like a dancer 😀

  2. There will surely be a ‘period of adjustment’ for all of you. From personal experience I can only say that infringement on ‘grandparent territory’ is going to be the stickiest part of the deal. I have had to go so far as to threaten my kids if they ate junk food or watched too much TV even if their grandparents permitted them to eat/ watch. Then I had to follow through on my threat- which was more than unpleasant. But my kids got the point that they will have to say no to their grandparents themselves or face a penalty from me. Aren’t I a cunning devil? 😀

    • @Dagny, considering that this was an old post, yes, there was an initial period of adjustment where my wife and me clearly laid down ground rules with my parents which were promptly broken, new rules made, and middle ground agreed upon 😀 Thankfully, all of this happened when my lil girl was still little (which she still is by the way) 😀

      And yes, for sure, I will keep your technique in mind if ever this system fails and falls flat on its face.

  3. Grandparents pamper their g.children as it is said that the interest is dearer than the principal.
    and in old-age the elders are said to be behave like children so the bonding with their g.kids is natural. But why g.parents pamper and adore their children’s kids when they themselves must have been strict parents remains a mystery? This is my personal experience as my mom dotes on my son and my nephew.
    And your better half’s adjustment with her in-laws and vice-versa has to be handled very carefully by you .

    • @Kalpana, given that this was an old post, the ‘adjustment period’ for my wife and my daughter are all over quite some time ago, and now life has settled down into a reasonably comfortable groove 🙂

  4. Nice… umm. Rant.. I think we all lose our adaptability as we grow older 😦 I perfectly understand the points about laying a few ground rules 🙂 and breaking them and making new ones. There are only a few essential rules that stand the test of “grandparents”. And trying to live a dream through your kids is just so normal but the super part is the kids are smart. Real smart (read, not like I was!) and they know or understand their inclinations.

    • @Poornima, yes, today’s kids are so smart that they figure out the weaknesses of their elders and probably also learn to ‘exploit’ them, not in a bad way, but in naughty ways for sure 🙂

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