The last time I was in the US I chanced upon a book on ‘Grand parenting’. I forget the name of the author but my daughter had then told me that she conducted very interesting talk shows on television and was a practicing psychiatrist. I was on the verge of becoming a grandma for the first time and the book offered useful inputs from an experienced grand mother. Among other things one line seemed to sum up the contents of the entire book.
‘Unless their actions are illegal or immoral do not offer your children unsolicited advice or suggestion on the upbringing of your grandkids. They are parents and they should know.’
‘No problem there’ I thought. ‘ Why would I interfere?’
My daughter was no teenager and my son in law was keen to bond with his daughter unlike my husband who started picking up our children only after they began clamoring for attention. How ever, theory and practice hardly went hand in hand. At least not initially.
There was nothing immoral or illegal about giving the baby a bath at 8 in the evening and my daughter waited for her husband to return from office to give the child a bath. I had been advised against giving unsolicited advice. I tried my best to concentrate on my computer game. I just could not.
“Priya,” I called out. “ Why don’t we bathe the baby in the afternoon?”
“My husband wants to be present to help me with her bath.” She replied. “ Moreover according to our pediatrician a child sleeps well if given a bath at night. Don’t worry mummy. Nothing will happen. Get on with your game.”
I thought of the time when this very daughter of mine was born. Bathing her was like a sacred ritual. My mother wouldn’t trust her with anyone else. She would heat the water to an optimum temperature massage her body with sesame oil and scrub it clean with a mixture of gram flour and natural herbs that gave a pleasant aroma all day long. She would insist on bathing her at the same time each day preferably around 8 in the morning. She would never allow a change of hands claiming that children tend to catch a cold if a different person bathed them. When I returned to my husband my mother gave me umpteen instructions.
“ Don’t you start bathing the child yourself,” she advised, “ Your mother in law has the age and experience to do it. In all other matters, listen to what she says. Child rearing is no joke.”
This is the age of Internet parenting and the computer is perhaps mother and mother in law rolled in one. There must be a site for Internet grand parenting as well. I am sure gonna to check it out! An acquaintance of mine preponed her return to India since her daughter in London would not let her massage the grandchild with mustard oil the way her mother did. Another insisted that the baby’s hair be dried with incense fumes and when she did the fire alarm buzzed off and quite a few neighbors came rushing to help. I am however doing no such thing. I am going to enjoy being a ‘digital’ grandmother in keeping with present times. Plants and animals adapt to their environment. Why not me?