After I got married and now 6 years in I have always thought I am the luckiest girl in the world to have avoided the classic “Saas-Bahu” drama and have my side of the family and my inlaws side all get along. (Knock on wood!) I mean seriously I somehow dodged a bullet (or several) with that, because don’t we all know someone that is living the absurd “Monster-in-Law vs Delicate Daughter-in-Law” or “Dragon Daughter-in-Law vs Meek Mother-in-Law” tragedy; it is almost a quintessential part of our culture.
Then I was made aware of an entirely new situation, which if not handled with care could escalate into a whole other kind of war, creating divisive lines and chaos within the families, revising inheritance to scratch off names along with many feigned attempts of clutching at the heart, or a hand to the forehead crying out “Haii…”
Or in other words, what happens when you pit Nani against Dadi (or vice versa!)
On my recent trip to Karachi it was assumed by most of the community that I would naturally go stay at my mom’s place since my husband being away meant no obligation to stay with my parents in law. But to me after I got married and moved into my in laws house and lived there for four years meant that it had become my home as well. Moreover that was the house my daughter was born and raised in for the first year of her life. So it was her home too. That being said of course I wanted to spend time with my own parents so I thought two out of the five weeks would be fair enough to spend with the Nanial (maternal family). I had done the same last year without a problem; my daughter was then two years old.
This year my precocious yet highly demanding 3-year-old decided to take matters into her own tiny hands. A self-appointed drama queen owing to her recent obsession with princesses decided she did not want to stay at Nani and Nana’s house for more than a couple of nights and acted as if she was a prisoner in a locked tower and my mother her version of Gothel from Rapunzel. She would mope and whine and cling to me despite my parent’s efforts to engage with her.
While at her Dadi and Dada’s house she was carefree, playing, running amok without a care whether her mama was around or not. She wanted to be where her garden was, her tree house, her play room, her abundance of toys and books but most importantly where her phupo (father’s sister) was. Truth be told, I was on vacation and needed some breathing space from my toddler so eventually Nani-Nana time was disrupted with a couple of night spends back at the in-laws but without me! My stubborn daughter was that desperate to get back to her place of comfort that she was fine if I didn’t come with. It turned out to be a happy arrangement for me as I got some peaceful one on one time with my parents and my own Dada.
Of course my mom and dad were disappointed that their only grandchild was suddenly behaving as if they were strangers. If I were in their shoes I probably would have been very upset. Yet how they handled the situation is how I learned how to avoid the battle of the maternal vs. paternal grandparents.
We Will Not Negotiate with Terrorists. But We Will Negotiate with a Toddler.
Toddlers do not understand familial obligations at this age. They are selfish and self-motivated and will go where their bread is buttered. Instead of letting my daughter start to associate negatively with her Nani and Nana’s house by forcing her to be there, we negotiated alternating days and nights between both sets of grandparents.
Children are Innocent
Despite how bratty and blunt they can come across, children are after all children. In a typical scenario if one set of grandparents were to take to heart these reproaches and start assuming somebody on the other side must be teaching the child to be rude to them, then that is how an issue is created. My parents understood their grandchild, her age and state of emotion and did not think anything else of it.
As your children grow older however it is important to make them understand spending fair and quality time with both sets of grandparents. When I was younger, despite having more cousins around at my Dada and Dadi’s house, we had one dedicated day a week to spend at my Nana and Nani’s place. Sure there were many times when I felt I was missing out on the cousin fun, but this taught me obligation and with time helped establish a closer connection to my Nanial (maternal family), with whom I have equal love and attachment with today.
Do Not Involve Your Children in Your Battles
I realize not everyone has the healthiest of relationships with their in-laws or within their own families, but the worst thing you can do is have your children feel caught between a rock and a hard place. Never make them feel that they need to make a choice between the two sides and never speak ill of a family member in front of them. Do not ruin their relationships for the sake of yours. It is not fair to your children.
At the end of the day we want our children to have fond memories of their childhood and there is nothing like the love of a grandparent regardless of which side of the “law” they are on! Help them cultivate these relationships because truly there is nothing like the blessings of a Nani, Nana, Dadi or Dada. They are irreplaceable.
I dedicate this post to my own grandparents, with a special mention to my Dadi who passed away last year I wish her peace and miss her terribly. To my dearest Nani who is unwell, I wish her incredible strength. All my love
How do you balance time between your children’s grandparents? Does it feel like a power struggle sometimes? Do share your stories with us!
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