In the recent past, the phrase ‘winter is coming’ has taken on ominous tones. However, for most children (and many parents and grandparents), winter is coming is the beginning of the buildup to a great time with the extended family. For many families, this is the precious season that everybody gets off from schools, colleges and offices at the same time.
While many families head to exotic locations for the holidays, there are still quite a few that head back to the grandparents’. It’s a time that grandparents look forward to eagerly as their opportunity to spoil the little ones rotten, while the little (and not so little) ones live in anticipation of favourite meals and some pampering. Not to mention the excitement of hot chocolate and masala chai with hot pakoras or peanuts in the cold evenings.
Grandparents are only one factor in the enjoyment of the holiday. It’s the time when the cousins get to meet one other after ages. Time for stories about their schools, friends and the ‘cool’ things they’ve been up to. It’s probably a universal truth that the ‘coolness’ competition has stood the test of time, with most parents remembering the ways they would have tried to impress their cousins.
The days spent together during the holidays helps the kids bond with people of different ages and understand that there may be people who have very differing views and opinions. Quite often, these views are about the way to bring up kids. (Who has not had an indulgent grandparent, uncle or aunt override a parent’s rules with that extra helping of ice cream, dessert or an extension of bedtime? Or vice versa, with that extra-strict relative who felt the kids were too loud or unruly?)
Even among the kids themselves, these are the occasions where they have to learn to get along with a larger group of kids and find their place in the group. This means negotiating which games to play, what role to in it (nobody wants to be ‘it’), and to learn a sense of fair play. Add to this the trades and barters of chores, toys and other precious goodies, that form an integral part of childhood. The memories of arguing and playing as their breaths mist in the chilly air of early mornings, or waiting to bask in the warmth of the winter sun, are something that kids will look back on with fondness for years to come.
The plethora of experiences at these family vacations help the kids as they are exposed to different situations and they will learn social skills and to navigate their way through game negotiations, trades and barters, parenting styles, and more.
Internationally, there is a trend towards multi-generational holidays. For a large majority of Indians, this is just a family tradition that has been the creator of memories and cementer of bonds.