My Grandmother, My Child’s Grandmother & Me – A Grandmother

Manorama Ramanadhan

Retired teacher and grandmother Manorama Ramanadhan, gives us a peek into grand parenting through changing times, across 3 generations, her grandmother’s, mother’s and hers.


She smelt of vibhuti, her fingers were bent and she embraced me in love. Those are my first memories of my grandmother. Paati wore 9 yard saree, but that did not stop her from climbing mango trees and getting forbidden fruits. So when my 5-year-old granddaughter climbed a magnolia tree and sat comfortably, I felt the proudest. Somethings are still the same, but different too! Things change, situations change.

“Yanai vantha yeratheriyanum,chappani vantha thukka theriyanum.”

That was my mother’s advice to her grandkids.

If the king sends you his elephant, ride it in style. If you have to carry the chamber pot, do it well.’

She talked about adaptability and learning to see opportunity in every situation. I try to grandparent that way too.

Kids need to know HOW to learn, because the WHAT (one needs to know), keeps changing.

I have grown up seeing adaptability in action. My paternal grandmother, with her family, lived in the hinterlands of India till she was six. They were in hiding to avoid conversions due to conquest. She had to adapt to living in a normal village thereafter, and then after her marriage, to living in big town, Chennai. She had to learn to raise a large family, at one time amidst extenuating financial circumstances. She adapted.

My mother lost her mother at two years of age and then her doting father passed away when she was twelve. A child who grew up eating imported chocolates, had to depend on the largesse of her elder sisters’ family. She later married an army officer and moved to a life of suede heeled sandals and cocktails. She adapted.

In this world that is continuously changing, adaptability is a strength. It is knowing that things change, plans change; something that I talk to my grandkids about.


Grandmother – the storyteller

I love to tell stories, as did my mother and my grandmothers. Coming from a line of strong women I choose to tell stories where the woman is the protagonist. I read The Paperbag Princess and traditional stories.

My mother told my daughter Aesop tales and Jataka tales. When it came to Grimm’s fairy tales, there was always an editorial note;

‘do not wait for a prince charming for rescue. Your hands and head are your best tools. Self reliance is the key’.

She loved to tell tales of brave women from history and mythology like the Rani of Jhansi, Kannagi. She would tell stories behind popular songs on Krishna and festivals like Deepavali. Through her stories, she was passing on the culture to her grandchildren. My daughter has fond memories of the tales. Even I had a deja vu moment of my grandmother’s stories of trees coming to life while watching the Lord of the Rings, not so long ago.

Our Story as Parents

My husband and I  are migrants in another land. We came to live in the US in the early 70s.  We valued education. We saw education as the tool for mobility. Every immigrant wanted their kid to be a doctor, an engineer, a lawyer or a banker. There were some of us though, who said ‘be what you want to be’. Our kids understand that one has to

  1. work hard,
  2. failure leads to growth, and
  3. persistence is important.

 We tried to inculcate these values back then.

We taught and modelled sustained interest and effort to long term goals – also called Grit. We hugged them when they hurt, but we tried to not let them feel entitled or dependent. These values are as significant now as they were then.


Fun, games and…

Being an effective team player is another important skill now. Sports and games are ideal ways to acquire and practice this skill.

I believe board games and other games teach individual skills and team playing skills. Taking turns, using good manners, respect for all life forms. Some games teach that to have fun you need others – this is how social skills are built.

My grandmother played with us dayakattai, param padam and simple jacks with stones and tamarind seeds. She taught me hopscotch, and seven stones. My mother played Ludo or Parcheesi with her grandkids. She made puppets and they put up plays. I play computer games, board games, card games. In play and choosing to play, children can learn to be cognizant of the other’s perspective. They can become aware, ‘Grandpa is sleeping; lets play a quiet game.’ One learns to adapt to the situation.


Modern Grandparents

Grandparents have to, at times, bite the tongue and use appropriate words where a swear word could have easily come out. We have to model good behaviour. There are situations when what grandparents say has a lasting impact on children.

It is important that the adults in a child’s life are aligned on the message they are sending out to the child. Adults, parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, we all need to be on the same page. And we may have differences in opinions at times, but ultimately the decision of the parents has to be accepted.

As a grandparent, one has to take the cues from the parents, be it toilet training or food or school. As situations change, things we know or are used to, may not stay relevant. My grandmother started my toilet training by putting me on her legs after each feed, soon my body learned. My mother could  not do that for my daughters, we lived in a cold climate and shower stalls are not convenient, besides disposable diapers changed the game! My granddaughters took their own sweet time as the present environment does not need toilet training as a prerequisite for school attendance.

 As a grandparent we can assure the young parent, “Be less stressed”.

But then if we see a situation that may require attention do we intervene? In these days of Google and online forums it behoves us to be informed and then present our arguments. My son-in-law teases me, ”Ah Rama now what is the problem? Are we neglecting your precious grandkids”. I smile and tell him my concern. They both process it and then take appropriate action.

 The most important thing I can say to my dear children ”use me to take time for you, as a couple”. At the same time, for grandparents to have their space and time respected, is equally important.

Happy families care for each other. Don’t they?


Top three things to do with my grandkids:

  1. Play games, indoor outdoor just anywhere. Laughter, silliness, turn taking are all part of this.
  2. Read aloud, read along. With older one, read book club style – Grandma, mom and elder grandchild. We are going to read “Wrinkle in time”. We read Harry Potter first book and just talked about it.
  3. Dine out/ Food tasting – The kids have a world map and everytime we taste something they mark it on their map.

Top three places to go with my family:

Parks, lakes and neighborhood walks

Top three books/ movies (in any language) to read/ watch with my grandchildren:

  1. Bal Ganesh, Hanuman etc.
  2. Any book on India
  3. Sing, the Movie.



Manorama Ramanadhan is a grandmother and a retired teacher. She taught early childhood education. Her career included teaching students from 3 years to 60 years. Now she regularly volunteers in her grandkids’ schools.

Manorama has lived in India, USA, Hong Kong and Singapore. She now lives in Massachusetts with her husband and not far from her kids and grandkids.  Her husband and she travel; and her dream is to take her grandkids on a grand tour of India.