Spending an entire—or major part of—vacations at the homes of grandparents is passé. Parents prefer crafting their own unique experiences during holidays.
By Ankita A Talwar
Thoughts of vacations no longer steamroll visions of Nani’s laddoos or long, lazy days spent at Dadi’s home. Gen Next believes in trying out the roller-coasters in amusement parks in the US, exploring wonders of the hills in Himachal Pradesh in guided tours, or sampling macroons in European cafes. Spending an entire—or major part of—vacations at the homes of grandparents or have cousins crashing in for long durations is passé. The au courant family believes that while spending time with extended family is important, so is gaining new experiences through travels and stays at resorts and exotic locales.
“When we were young, we used to pack our bags on the first day of the vacation itself and head to Dalhousie, where my grandparents lived. It was only in the last week of the vacation that my dad would come to pick us up and spend a few days there himself. The next vacation, we were back there again,” recounts Shikha Ahuja, a mother of two kids, based in Gurgaon. She adds that all her maternal and paternal cousins would gather there too, and for everyone involved, it was the perfect recipe for a vacation.
However, for her own daughter, Ahuja digresses. She plans at least one outing, during the vacations, with her husband to a destination—the beach, hills, a place of national or historical significance or abroad (when the time and budget allow it). “My 11-year-old daughter is learning so much at school that I believe it is a good idea to give her a practical experience during vacations. Last winter, we took her to Mumbai so she could visit the Gateway of India and Elephanta caves.” But does that not alienate the child from grandparents who live in another city? “She does go my parents’ house and her paternal grandparents’ house, but for 10-15 days at the most, and then we plan our own vacation.”
The concept of ‘own vacation’ is something the new-age family has fast adopted. While they appreciate the role of extended family in a child’s life, they also want to spend quality time with their own individual unit. With both partners working, as in Ahuja’s case, each holiday is hard-earned and they wish to maximise the fun from it.
A grandparents’ home, particularly during vacations, is more of a buttress and the idea of the child spending whole vacations there is more driven by need than the pursuit of pleasure. Priya Majumdar, a full-time working mom of two kids in Gurgaon, chose to drop her son at her parents’ house in Mumbai, since the daycare was closed for 15 days and the couple could not get leave from work. “I did not have a choice. Out of the one-and-a-half months of summer vacation, my mom was over for a larger part and then she, along with Aarav, went to Mumbai.” However, the Majumdars managed to squeeze a weekend getaway to Alibaug to “wind down and de-stress before getting back to the grind of office and school,” she says.
But not everybody is packing off their bags and jet-setting to an exotic destination. Some are opting to stay at home, celebrate with friends, catch up on hobbies or just be. “Given how fast life is these days, vacations are a good time for us to catch up on extra-curricular activities such as sports, skating, art, etc. I usevacations to expose my child to the various summer camps and hobby classes,” says Prachi Misra, mother to seven-year-old twins Jia and Sia. This, in effect, means a limit on how many days the children get to stay over at their grandparent’s house. “I prefer the grandparents come over and stay with us so that the schedule of the kids does not get disturbed,” adds Misra.
Even for shorter holidays, such as around festivals, young parents want to develop their own traditions. They feel that celebrating with parents keeps them from developing their own unique family culture. Neha Sharma, 36, a working executive in Mumbai and mother to four-year-old Vivaan belongs to Delhi. But during the Ganesh festival, Sharma prefers to let her child and family learn the customs and heritage related to the festival by staying in Mumbai. “It happens once a year. Since this is the city where we live, blending in and soaking in its rituals makes sense,” she adds.
The conscious parents of today are trying hard to maintain a balance of inclusivity and exclusivity—including the family as far as possible, without limiting their children’s exposure to the world outside.
But, then, if it takes a village to raise a child, it’s important to involve senior members of the family who set the tone for a happy, extended family. Here are a few suggestions to help you walk the fine line.
1) Stay in touch with grandparents through the year. Make technology your aid. Have weekend Skype or WhatsApp calls with them.
2) Keep aside long weekends for fun with the extended family if you can’t spare too many vacation days for grandparents.
3) Ask your children to maintain journals, scrapbooks, photo albums that you can share with grandparents later (online is an option but nothing beats the warm feeling of flipping through an album and rediscovering moments).
4) Plan vacations well in advance so that there are no hurt feelings at the last moment.