Our experiment this summer - having the kids spend part of their summer vacation at Chennai and be looked after by both sets of grandparents for about 2 weeks - was unquestionably a win-win situation for all. Husband and wife got some much-needed couple time and were able to have a lovely holiday to celebrate their wedding anniversary. The children and grandparents bonded far more than they usually do (there's no mom and dad hovering around, after all). While there was definitely an increased workload on all four seniors, the mitigating factor was that all of them are pretty sprightly people with active lifestyles. They seem to have handled the challenge of parenting two small children with aplomb.
In addition, I can see that the two siblings have become closer than ever before. Thrown together, with no friends to distract them, shuttling between two homes in Chennai, they have adapted beautifully and each has become the other's support system. I would never have expected Y to get through the holiday without her Anna lovingly leading her by the hand every step of the way.
So, yes, I'm really happy we took the plunge this year. It made a huge difference for S and me. It opened up these simply vast pockets of time when we simply did not know what to do. Freed from feeding, bathing, potty-cleaning, book-reading, playing, cleaning-up, homework and assorted other duties that go with the parental territory, we were initially a little foxed by how to spend all the free time. In that, atleast in Gurgaon and within our set of friends, we are a little unusual because we have no full-time help. Other couples with kids can and do step out for dinners and movies and such ever so often, in the late evenings or after the kids are in bed. They can attend pub lunches and bond over bowling sessions with friends. S and I have sometimes been left out when only one of us can attend batch-mate socials or a gathering over drinks at someone's house (no kids, please).
Yesterday, we walked over to Haldiram's for a quick dinner and we saw a PVR multiplex there. We are hearing good things about Ferrari ki Sawaari so we discussed whether we should catch the film after dinner. Suddenly S smiled and said "So, you mean, we can REALLY do that? Watch a film, just like that?" I know it may sound silly to some, but it was a source of wonder to us that we could actually, without any planning whatsoever, just walk in and see a movie, or do something else we liked. The nicest part of the last fortnight has been in reliving our carefree pre-kid, no-responsibility years, being able to talk and talk (and not run out of conversation!), read as much as we liked, not have to worry whether lunch and dinner and snacks will be on the table on time, and....oh well, you get the picture.
The hardest part? The hardest part has been missing the kids, especially for the last week. It was a good thing that I have been up against some project deadlines that had me wedded to the laptop for the last few days, otherwise I would have felt really depressed. I didn't like talking to them on skype because I felt that they would miss me more when they saw and heard me (I was right). When I saw Ads bravely wiping away some stray tears, or when Y said "Amma, I miss you", I felt as though my heart would break. While on the whole I am assured by my parents and parents-in-law that they were perfectly happy and content, I think that probably, just for the first year, we should have stopped with a week and not stretched it to two.
It's such a cliche that distance makes the heart grow fonder. Like most cliches, it is also very true and I cannot wait to have the little monsters back in my arms very very soon. I'm glad that all of us had a good summer (although school re-opens only after another fortnight). It's high time our family got back together again.