It has been weighing on my mind for a long time now. This quality of ‘being open‘ and what it means in the context of The Granny Cloud. Among the meanings ascribed to the word ‘open’ are those that indicate acceptance (seeking out of new experiences – even adventure), of not being limited, of being willing to consider different perspectives and opinions. Such openness leads to curiosity, to actively looking beyond the environment one was born and brought up in. It means that one does not function based on preconceived notions, or having restricted or inflexible expectations when one steps into a new situation. Being open means being non-judgemental. It means seeking the reasons behind the existence of given circumstances.

And yes, in The Granny Cloud it means all this and a bit more. It means a Granny is willing to ‘give and take’. Take? Yes. Take. Because this is not an exchange of material resources that we are talking about. It is an exchange of ideas, thoughts, and experiences. And Granny sessions have always been conceived of as interactions – NOT LESSONS. They are meant to be TWO WAY streets!

Any, and I mean ANY, Granny comes from a position of privilege when compared to the children they interact with. The very fact that they are able to choose this experience for themselves is a significant manifestation of this privilege. Even if a Granny is not ‘rich’ (and there are many who are not), they have access to the internet 24 by 7, access to computers and phones and a whole lot of other technological devices that allows them a life of relative ease. Grannies have, typically, ‘seen more of the world’; not only because they are older than the children (and therefore have many life experiences), but also because they have travelled beyond their homes (and often continue to indulge in this). They have studied, they have held jobs; they have taken on community responsibilities and so on.

But there are at least two ways in which one could incorporate these experiences. Enjoy and accept them as having enriched your own lives and continue with it pretty much the way you did beforehand OR let those new experiences really enter into your being – allowing them to ‘change yourself’, allowing the insight they given you to enable you to question your own lifestyle, your choices, your way of thinking. That is what being open as a Granny means. Acknowledging one’s privileged position and using that to question yourself and the world environment you inhabit. Because privilege can be dangerous – even with those of us who have the best intentions. It is something I frequently worry about as a ‘Granny’. Our privilege can, if we are not careful, tilt us towards a sense of being ‘givers’. It can give us a sense that because we are privileged we have more to offer, that the environment / society we live in in has developed/progressed in a way (and has reached a point) where we assume that other lifestyles or other societies are somehow lacking.

So a ‘good’ Granny will question what it is that she or he has to offer. And good Grannies will question and seek out what the children and their lives have to offer. Whether it’s about contentious or prickly issues like World conflict, Environmental issues, Soico-economic & gender inequality or fun matters like Celebrations & Festivals or even just everyday life. And they will weave this receptive and free orientation into their interaction.

Just as a quick example given the current furore over climate change. It is heart-warming that many Grannies bring this issue up in their sessions with the children at many different locations. They hope to give the children a sense of the urgency surrounding this issue as well as provide some strategies for dealing with it at individual, and hopefully community levels. Many of them attempt to acquaint children with concepts related to ‘Reduce – Reuse Recycle’. However, in the process they may sometimes forget that while these terms may be new to the children; the actions themselves are not. When we talk about concerns regarding the use of water for paper or electricity or gas; do we as Grannies, stop to consider what the children and their families actually use during the course of the day? These are issues that have come up in several Granny sessions over the years.  Have we considered or questioned what these concepts might mean (or may need to mean in our lives – our privileged lives – and how that might differ from the meaning and manifestation of those concepts in the children’s lives? Have we, as Grannies, gone in search of the historical background (not to mention the contemporary one!) across different countries in the world? Not for assigning blame but with a view to understanding what the present and next generations can do. These are the situations best suited for ongoing interactions so that complex themes can be explored in depth from various angles. The aim would be to ensure that we enable children to recognise this complexity and leave them empowered rather than anxious at the end of a discussion. Empowered to search for different pieces of information [even the contradictory bits!]. Empowered to consider ALL the information they and their friends gather together. And then empowered to act in meaningful and effective ways.

Being open in this context means going on a search ‘along with‘ the children. It means setting aside our beliefs and values and opening ourselves up to whatever information and ideas that come our way. Even when it makes us uncomfortable. It is openness we want to ‘pass on’ to the children – not our ideas about specific issues. It is the openness to continue the search and absorb new information as we access it that we aim to develop in the children. It is the openness to change our opinions, even our values and beliefs in the face of new knowledge that we want to encourage in the children.

And to achieve this – it means that first we have to bring in this kind of openness within ourselves as well. This is the kind of openness that makes the Grannies of The Granny Cloud special.

Let’s give it a go, shall we? 🙂

There are many related Granny Cloud Tales and other Blogs that you might want to explore!

A Deliberate Search for Varied Perspectives