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Our Amazing Annual Kid Exchange Programme

06/06/2016 8:42 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST
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Summer holidays typically last two months, but in our household, they span over four months. This trend has been around even before my kids got to school age. So what's the deal? When my elder girl (now almost nine years old) was born, my nephew (then five years old) started his annual summer trips to visit us Dubai, where we lived at the time. That trip was impromptu, along with the grandparents, to see his baby cousin. It was also a short trip of a week (as none of us knew what direction it would take).

What started as a trial soon became a ritual. A ritual we now so look forward to every year. The package doesn't include just him, but also the grandparents who come with him every summer.

When my elder girl (now almost nine years old) was born, my nephew (then five years old) started his annual summer trips to visit us Dubai...

For a few years, this trend stayed one-way -- until my daughter got to an "exchangeable age". When she turned three, the summer exchange became a two-way process. That was her first drop-off holiday at her grandparents' and aunt's place in Bangalore. There has been no looking back since then, even after we moved countries. The nephew (now 13 years old) still comes without fail along with the grandparents (though I jokingly tell him, he is escorting the grandparents now and not vice versa). Even my girls (now I also have a second one who is 4 years old), can't wait for their summer break to head for their annual retreat.

Have I done such holidays in my childhood? The answer is no. Do I live close to my parents? No. Do I have a hectic corporate life? No. I have friends who often wonder how and why do we do it year on year. They even wonder what the kids do during these holidays. How are they kept busy? The answer is simple -- they just fit in! When in Singapore, they have a set pattern to do stuff and when at the grandparents', they have their own agenda (and mostly there is no agenda).

The nephew (now 13 years old) still comes without fail along with the grandparents (though I jokingly tell him, he is escorting the grandparents now).

The grandparents treasure these moments spent with the kids -- all three together under one roof. Of course, we have a lot of noise, fights, confusion, disagreements, but even these have somehow brought us closer together. It has paved the way for a beautiful relationship between the kids and the grandparents. No big holidays lure them anymore. They yearn to see each other.

As the kids grew, we realized these holidays actually did them all good. Each of them are strikingly different personalities and for the girls to have a boy amongst them has been a good equalizer. If one worries about the clothes, the other couldn't care less. If one worries about the menu for the day, the other shrugs it off as just "food". We get to see the boy's "overprotective" side towards the girls. They may fight a lot but to the external world they are "one". The emotional attachment has reached a different level. Even with the age gap between them, they find joy in little things -- baking together, swimming together, little weekend trips we do, games of badminton, treks, pillow fights, late-night TV watching, even graduating the nine-year old to some pop music and not to forget the Dark Room we play every night!

For the girls, going to their grandparents' and aunts' place is like a trip to paradise.... [with] not a moment remembering their parents.

For the girls, going to their grandparents' and aunts' place is like a trip to paradise. They know that one month will be filled with love, laughter, some silly fights, some late night bingeing, tonnes of hugs and not a moment remembering their parents. Visiting their cousin's school (for some vague class exhibition), attending the birthday parties of his friends, escorting him while he gets dropped off at his squash lesson, the daily walk to his bus stop at 6:55am, their shopping trips with their aunt, some late-night ice cream with their uncle, sharing their bed with their grandma are things they wouldn't trade for anything else.

Similarly for my nephew, picking the girls from their bus-stop, taking the nine-year old for a lunch/ movie date (all by himself), playing soccer with his gang of friends (that he made independently during each of his trips to us), escorting the elder one for her tennis lesson, watching TV till late at night with his uncle, fighting over their games on the Wii will stay dear to his heart.

I hope when they grow up, they will sit and laugh over these holidays and every silly thing they have done as a team.

When we started this exchange programme, we thought it would last just a few years (maybe until the oldest one became a teenager) and we had been waiting for him to tell us that this is not exciting any more. Even the grandparents were mentally prepared. But nothing of that sort has happened yet. In fact, he's keener than ever and demands that the girls get there earlier every summer. The girls (even the four-year-old) are more than enthusiastic. We now manage to take short weekend getaways with him every time he visits us or vice versa.

For the kids, they have been able to build their own attachments with each of their family members. Each of these holidays has led to memories that can bind them for years together. I hope when they grow up, they will sit and laugh over these holidays and every silly thing they have done as a team. Of course, for us, the kids have glued us together. We (my husband and I) know that the girls get only more pampered when visiting family.

We often hear friends complaining that the summer break is too long, but we wish they could be longer and that the party could last forever.

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