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I Am The Grandma In The Summers

06/06/2016 8:40 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST
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Amit Dave / Reuters
Children play on a sand dune as they are silhouetted against the setting sun in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad November 28, 2014. REUTERS/Amit Dave (INDIA - Tags: SOCIETY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

I just couldn't wait to be a grandma!

And I didn't want to wait for my own kids to reproduce before having the honour.

But let me backtrack a bit first.

As a child, summers meant a lot of running around, cousins (lots of them), friends, hide and seek, exchanging secrets, giggles, laughter, nights-out with ghost stories and other imaginary adventures. It seemed as if there was no time for TV. Oh, wait! There was no TV around those days -- not much at any rate. And, therefore, we had a lot of time to be the best we could be -- children!

The devices are becoming smarter, but I fear the same may not hold true for our kids. They are also finding it harder to just be children.

Fast forward to the present day. It's a nuclear world and as family units grow smaller, the distances grow wider. There are innumerable sources of entertainment at our fingertips, and the kids are always busy -- tapping and gazing -- even if they're doing nothing. The devices are becoming smarter, but I fear the same may not hold true for our kids. They are also finding it harder to just be children.

It's not entirely their fault though. I have, in my own wisdom, used smart devices frequently -- sometimes as a babysitter, then to "engage" them while I work, then to "keep them busy" while I finish off some chores, then again as an "activity" and at other times for pure "entertainment". You get what I mean?

Finally, when I realized they were getting addicted, the fiercely protective mother in me took over. I decided to take matters into my own hands and thought hard, almost to the brink of insanity. I ended up taking a number of actions, but the outcome wasn't always what I was hoping for.

1. I hid the remotes, but they had even better hiding places and my imagination couldn't go that far.

2. I watched some awfully boring shows with them, but they were fine as long as the TV was on.

3. I didn't renew the TV connection so that they'd be forced to go out and play - but I later realized they went to friends' houses to watch TV instead.

4. I tried limiting their TV time, which meant they ended up asking if it was time to watch TV a hundred times in an hour.

5. I played hide and seek, attended their tea parties, and played with them. I tried to demonstrate keen interest, only to be betrayed pathetically by my yawns (thus earning accusing looks).

Without necessarily having to become a kid myself, I could give them the space to do just that. I decided to become their grandma...

I thought hard about it and got really philosophical. I wondered why kids were not born ready to be packed off to kindergarten. I thought how it was so cruel that the little ones in our species take so bloody long to grow up. I even went to the extent of thinking why couldn't we simply lay eggs and hatch them while getting a pedicure done! At this point, I realized I was getting unreasonably imaginative and embarked on a bumpy soul-searching journey.

I realized I could no longer giggle for nothing or hide at the same place for the twentieth time and still be surprised to be found. I could no longer play doctor-doctor or teacher-teacher with them. I had greater problems to ponder than procuring Pokémon stickers.

Although seeing the children play inspired me to get more involved, I, frankly, couldn't be a kid anymore. I was just too grown up, logical, rational. Suddenly, the proverbial lightbulb went on over my head. I could almost feel the aura of enlightenment around myself. It was crystal clear what I had to do. Without necessarily having to become a kid myself, I could give them the space to do just that.

I decided to become their grandma, given that it wasn't possible at the time for the real matriarchs to host a gaggle of kids!

It was time to celebrate the summer. It was time to relive my childhood memories and gift my kids the chance to make some of their own.

Living in a nuclear set-up gave my kids only a handful of opportunities to bond with their extended family and feel like one big team. We could give them the best of toys but couldn't give them the best of experiences. We figured that they were shy and awkward around their cousins because they hardly ever saw them. Before they could get over the shyness and open up, it would be time to go back and the relationship couldn't nurture. What they were missing was the fun and frolic that can come with cousins. They couldn't get away from the TV because they couldn't find a better source of entertainment, something to spark some excitement and interest.

Four years ago, for the first time, I really decided to shake things up.

I decided to play grandma and invited their aunts and kids home. It was time for a grand get-together. It was time to celebrate the summer. It was time to relive my childhood memories and gift my kids the chance to make some of their own.

I wanted them to explore relationships, to fight and patch-up with cousins, to give them an opportunity to understand the value of the extended family. It all just fit perfectly and appealed to my logical mind.

I saw my kids opening up and connecting with their cousins like never before. They giggled over the silliest jokes, fought over the slightest issues and patched up realizing that each moment spent not-being-together was a glorious moment of togetherness lost. They had nights out and shared ghost stories. They went out on little adventures and came back with exciting victories to be told and retold several times.

After the resounding success of the first time, I started inviting the cousins over every summer. My nieces and nephews look forward to the annual "event" all year...

With older cousins, they learnt to draw rangolis and fill colours. When I came back from work, they came running to tell me what they just did, colours smeared all over them. All I could see was that their eyes shone brighter than all the colours. They learnt to cook simple dishes and relished each bite, regardless of how picky they usually were at the dinner table. They exchanged ideas, shared secrets, swapped goodies and, most of all, gifted each other the memories of summers to be told to their own grandchildren.

They realized that there are an awful lot of things that can be done during the day even in the hot summer. They didn't have time left for the TV anymore.

After the resounding success of the first time, I started inviting the cousins over every summer. My nieces and nephews look forward to the annual "event" all year and I pat myself on the back for somehow becoming the string that holds the extended family together. As for me? I love playing grandma in the summers!

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