The social fabric of a joint family that once was so common in our culture is all but dwindling away. It is disturbing to admit and accept that the role of grandparents is diminishing in a typical family. This concept of a nuclear family probably came into being in the late 70s or early 80s. The need for independence and autonomy was the driving force then.
It wasn’t all that bad, as the new family rented (or purchased) a flat closer to the grandparents’ homes. The nuclear couple that worked then had the grandparents as official caretakers and babysitters. The arrangement was perfect for both families (well, let’s believe so).
As a child growing up in the 70s, I can attribute a large part of my character and personality to my maternal grandparents. From discipline to values of honesty, hardwork and the forever “all is well” attitude become a guiding force for us. I know most of us kids growing up at that time were packed off to our grandparents either early in the morning before school or we ended up there after school.
The tales of yore, folk stories, the “do you know how we managed in our time” anecdotes were an everyday affair. Our grandparents were a treasure trove of wisdom, the stories they shared always had a message to it, we didn’t realise it then, though as we grew up, it synced up and we could point back right to that moment when grandpa or grandma had narrated an incident and how they dealt with it.
They were silently programming our young brains with a (F1 help key) repository of “here is what you do when you have a problem like this”. They told us about our culture, history, the independence struggle, how electricity was a luxury and how to value little things of life such as respecting elders, not being rude, cleaning up before stepping into bed, saying your prayers when the evening light is lit before the home temple. These seem like a distant memory now, something very few children of today’s generation can identify with.
Unfortunately, the modern world takes young couples away from their home town and they have no choice but to leave their kids in babysitting creches, well, they aren’t the same as growing up in the laps and arms of a grandparent, getting pampered yet being petrified of their anger. Add to this the well-meaning egos of the young couples that set boundaries and rules for the grandparents about what to say, give and share with the grandchildren, it is like gagging a resource full of love and wisdom. What a shame!
Grandparents, of every generation, have so much wisdom to offer, they have lived through life and rode the rollercoaster, they have valuable nuggets to offer, unfortunately, there are no grandchildren around. Yes, they do get the occasional annual visits, but then again, the children are busy on their smartphones and iPads, completely missing out on the mini encyclopaedia of their lives sitting in front of them, waiting for some attention.
The super acclaimed and humble businessman Ricardo Semler started a schooling system in Brazil, which invites, yes, you are right, grandparents, senior retired people to join as guides to help the young minds in school. I haven’t come across a better example of institutionalising the wisdom of grandparents so far. Hope this idea spreads throughout the world.
Blessed are the children that have unbridled access to their grandparents.
It may not be as grim as it sounds like, though it definitely isn’t how it’s meant to be. A Google, Wikipedia, can never replace the lively (sometimes grumpy), lovely and wise grandparent.
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