Parental Prerogatives

Amit’s father hasn’t visited us for three years. I had forgotten just how tiring it is to provide endless rounds of tea, open endless packets of biscuit, and listen to endless stories that bore me to sleep.

Amit’s dad is probably a relatively easy in-law to deal with and I mustn’t complain – and at any rate, I usually don’t complain too much. But this time, I must confess, I was worried. For one thing, FIL (father-in-law, that is) had already been advising me on which language I should be using to communicate with my daughters. This already had me considerably riled. I mean, I have been struggling for ten years with Bengali and still sound ruddy awful when I try to speak it – why would I want to teach that, of all things, to my daughters. And what is Amit for, if not to teach them Bengali the way it should be spoken?

I use largely English with a good smattering of Hindi with the twins. According to FIL, the Hindi can be eliminated. According to me, it’s none of his bloody business, if you’ll pardon my French. I mean, whatever makes him think that he gets to decide what language I use with my daughters???

So anyway, I was hoping desperately to avoid a confrontation, but with Amit being out of town for the bulk of the time FIL would be here, it looked rather dicey. Luckily, conjunctivitis put paid to Amit’s trip to Tokyo, and so it was him, not me, who had the dubious distinction of telling FIL what not to do with the twins.

Not that it made the slightest difference. Telling him not to feed them biscuits only resulted in him feeding them biscuits along with snide remarks about their parents watching and forbidding it. Telling them not to keep them in his lap all the time – he kept them in his lap even when he was eating and working on the computer – was equally pointless; he continued to do it, maintaining that it was his grandfatherly privilege to spoil his grandchildren.

On one occasion, I tried to reason with him that he was spoiling their eating habits and inculcating a clingy dependency instead of healthy independence in them by doing all this. He – much to my everlasting fury – dismissed this out of hand. Being grandfather, of course, he knows better how to raise children, and there’s no need for us to be so “rigid” about fundamental issues such as basic discipline or independence.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrh! Is it too much to ask that he grant at least some consideration to our – and Amit was with me on this, thankfully – desires as parents? Apparently, yes – respecting your son’s and daughter-in-law’s wishes is a foreign policy to FIL. Respect, in his vocabulary, is a one-way street – you don’t have to earn it, it is yours by right.

Another thing that bugged me is that he always – right from the moment that we went to see the kids in Pondicherry – had some fantastic ideas for names. Mini-Rini; Moina-Noina; and some other such cutesy trash. WHY can’t he just go with the names the parents have selected? I mean, there are a few things that parents, even adoptive parents, get to decide.

Thankfully, he’s gone, taking his names and his philosophy with him. All that’s left is intense irritation and a never-before hope that he doesn’t come back any time soon. Tara, who never bothered too much about being taken in the lap, is ok; but Mrini, who loves to be taken in the lap and spent 80% of her waking hours in FIL’s lap, has been whining and lifting her arms to me enough to drive anybody mad. Every time she does it – about 750 times a day – I feel irritated with FIL for this legacy of his week-long stint.
My next challenges are just around the corner. First, Amit is going to be traveling a lot this month, and I can’t always expect conjunctivitis to come to my rescue. Second, a mere two months away is a week-long trip to Calcutta, where, quite apart from all the logistical issues to be confronted, I will also have to be prepared to face another and much greater onslaught of philosophies and inane suggestions on all matters. Face it, and come away largely unharmed, hopefully sane, and without doing any irreparable damage to worldwide diplomatic relations. That’s a taaaaaaaaaall order.

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