Sunday, February 08, 2015


I'm not in the habit of re-posting sentimental open letters that seem to be all the rage these days, but this, addressed as it is to a mother-in-law who was also a grandmother, struck a chord. Here are some excerpts --
I thought you would turn them into "selfish brats" by giving them everything they wanted. I thought they might never learn to wait, to take turns, to share, because you granted their wishes as soon as they opened their mouths and pointed.
You held each one of my babies long after they fell asleep.
Didn't you understand that I needed them to learn to fall asleep on their own? You ran to them as soon as they made the tiniest sound. How would they ever learn to self soothe?
I spent a lot of time wondering why you did all these things and how I could get you to ease up. I know grandmothers are supposed to "spoil the kids," then send them home, but you were … ridiculous.
but also
My kids, now in their teens, miss you dearly. And they don't miss your gifts or your money. They miss you. They miss running to greet you at the door and hugging you before you could step in. They miss looking up at the bleachers and seeing you, one of their biggest fans, smiling and enthralled to catch their eye. They miss talking to you and hearing your words of wisdom, encouragement and love.
This reminds of my children's grandparents. V and I have been battling my parents' spoiling for many years, but every so often, we see how much it reassures Rahul, that unshakably firm bedrock of their love for him, and we know we're not really in a battle. It's more a dance or a play and we're playing out our parts, but with less and less conviction each year. Their spoiling has not spoiled him. Not for ever, not for life, not even for these years. They just make our job harder, but making our job easier was never my parents' ambition.

And in a sadder way, this reminded me of my mother-in-law. She wants to be the archetypal grandmother, adoring and adored, and she has it all within her reach and yet she doesn't know how to enjoy it. This letter should also have been about her.


The Bride said...

Yep, this is my parents. My mum pretty much told me her agenda was to spoil the grandkids and it's our job to be the strict ones. Actually, I think it works ok.

My MIL is indulgent too but wants to be entertained. A surefire clue of a grandparent who's not quite clicking with the kids is one who keeps asking: "do you love me?"

Sue said...

Bride -- I couldn't agree more!