It's one of my favorite stories about my mother-in-law, who was a charming and intelligent woman, short in height but highly competitive. Even in the small things and sometimes in ways that, well, bordered on the embarrassingly exaggerated. When I told her the new height my son had reached--he graduated from high school as a six-footer and came home from his freshman year at college at 6' 3"--she denied it. "Oh no," she said. "I told Aunt Nettie he's 6' 7."
Most of us made it through the parenting years with at least some boasting--however subtle--about our wonderful children and their accomplishments. My mother-in-law was not alone in keeping those bragging rights and applying them to the next generation.
Grandparents do it, as I was reminded recently by a delightful piece in The Hindu which detailed the creative one-upsmanship of Indian grandparents or, what the author calls "the proud, and sometimes patronising, tones of the competitive grandaprent." It's worth clicking the link and reading the whole piece but here are two anecdotes that make my mother-in-law seem a master of understatement.
One discussion between friends who are both grandparents went like this: “Siddharth has already started piano lessons.” The reply: “That’s so good! So he’s seven now? My grandson started at five, and he’s such an accomplished player at 12!”
And another: “Keerti is getting quite good at her Carnatic music lessons back in the U.S. She’s found a really good teacher.” Reply: “Really? Well, we’ve arranged for a Chennai teacher to coach my granddaughter through Skype, in addition to her local classes in the U.S., of course — the teachers there are not as professional as the ones here, are they?”
The author suggests that we who live far from our grandchildren may be the worst offenders--because we don't have the day-to-day ups and downs to give us perspective. "To and fro visits are too short and ...are spent in observing and relishing accomplishments. The hours that might have earlier been put in child-minding are now spent in re-living memories of annual or bi-annual visits."
Since my grandkids arrived a year or three later than those of several of my friends, I remember all too well the fear that I would have to listen to "charming" anecdotes about the adorable offspring of their grown children. As the author in India notes, "nobody wants to hear odes to somebody else’s grandchild."
So dear reader, if you press me, I can assure you that my grown children and grandchildren are brilliant, joyful and superbly talented. (Some of them are even tall.) Anecdotal proof, however, is available only upon request. I hope I live up to that promise.