Ode to Dada and Dadi

Tuesday, October 21, 2008
This weekend, we left our daughter with her grandparents for the night. It’s a treat all around: she loves being with them, they love being with her, and we love an occasional guilt-free night of freedom. While she was with them, she went to the park, read books, did puzzles, watched Micky Mouse, sang along to an Indian game show called “Sa Re Ga Ma Pa,” ate home-cooked food, and received copious amounts of hugs and kisses, marked on her cheek by her Dadi’s bright red lipstick.

Since my daughter was born, I’ve been eternally grateful that we live close to my husband’s parents. They don’t just provide us with those guilt-free nights of freedom. They provide a level of attention and love that she doesn’t get anywhere else. They’re retired, so when she is around, all other activity basically stops. Of course they spoil her. They never let her cry more than a minute if they can help it. They give her too many snacks. They indulge her every whim, from staying up late to listening to whatever she wants on the stereo.

They are also very silly with her. My father-in-law becomes a child himself, talking in funny voices, making clown faces, causing her to her laugh so hard that my husband and I come from the other room just to watch.

I didn’t have that sort of grandparental love growing up. My grandparents lived far away, and when they visited, they were more of an austere presence in my life. Loving, yes, but people to be respected rather than to laugh with.

My own parents live far away as well, but they visit for long periods of time every year. My dad, who does yoga daily, teaches her how to stand on her head. He sings Indian children’s songs to her. My mom tells her long stories about animals and makes her all sorts of delicious food; she always gains a couple of pounds during one of their visits.

There is so much my daughter will gain from having her grandparents be an active part of her life. She will have role models who have always lived their lives in a decent, honorable way. She will understand how to respect and value the elderly. She will have a larger perspective on life than that of just young people. She already knows Indian fables and myths that I don’t even know, thanks to them.

I sometimes worry about what will happen to her when it’s time for them to go. Morbid, I know, but I can’t help it. They are elderly, and she is so close to them. What will I tell her? How will I explain that these people, who would drop everything and give her more undivided attention than her own parents could, are gone forever? How will we attempt to fill the hole in her life? She expects nothing of them except to love her. They expect nothing of her except that she allow them to love her. Not once will they ask her for a thing, yet they will love her without end. That kind of love is irreplaceable.

Sometimes I think she has a sense of their mortality. Once, while we were waiting for her grandparents to come over for dinner, my daughter started getting impatient. “Where is Dada Dadi?” she demanded.

“They’re driving over in their car,” I told her. “You’ll see them soon.”

She was quiet for a minute. Then she said, “Mommy, tell them not to leave me, okay?”

I looked at her, and all I could do was nod.
Anonymous said...

beautiful! Makes me want to call my grandparents

Anonymous said...

Seeing cousins in India growing up intereacting with all ages groups - from babies to great-grandparents - rather than being segregated to only age appropriate groups really seems to be a much richer experience. I worry that our kids here in the US are really missing something if they are relegated to only age appropriate activities.

ma said...

I read this and I'm jealous (and happy). Jealous (and happy for) of the kids today that have the opportunity and privilege to have their grandparents with them in the States (or whichever other NRI-country) on a regular basis, if not daily. I LOVE my grandmother and miss her dearly. When she passed away last year all I could think about was, "dang, I should have taken more time off school/work/social life and spent it with her." I smile thinking about the memories and rich experiences these kids grow up with by having their grandparents in their lives. So lucky, and I'm sure they know that too.

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