My Parenting Journey

 

“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” -Elizabeth Stone

I stumbled upon the above quote just around the time I became a mom. I realized how absurd it sounded and at the same time how true it was. It literally does feel like having your heart live outside your body. Anybody who is a mother would vouch for it, I am sure.

It’s such a crazy place to be, you know, inside the mind of a mom. One moment, you are so sure of yourself and your parenting skills and the next moment you wonder if you have made a grave, irreparable mistake by following your instinct. Simple decisions like letting them go out to play by themselves is enough to drive you nuts if your child is a little late in getting back home. By then, your impatient mind had concocted thousand different horrible things that could have gone wrong.

You want to shelter them and protect them and hide them from pain and heart ache and all the evil in the world just by keeping them safe and sound in the shadow of your wing like a mother hen. But then you also want them to grow strong and confident, kind and tolerant, generous and forgiving. Now these are not things that can be taught or learnt in isolation, removed from social interactions, disappointments or failures.

While my overprotective mother’s instinct would love to keep them under wraps unharmed and protected, it’s important for them to step into the world and experience all of this, to become well-rounded and well-adjusted people;  whether we like it or not. Incidentally, we would be doing more harm if we don’t allow this transition.

Therefore I surrender to that universal truth and instead pray that I’ll have the strength to love them well by protecting and covering when needed and letting go when the moment is right.

I know that I am learning on the job…stumbling, making mistakes and learning, all at the same time, so please help me God.

I’ll have to trust in God with all my heart to care for them when I can’t and when I feel things are beyond my control.

There’s no turning back now. Those little hearts of mine are walking around in the bodies of my kids, I love most. But do they understand all this I am going through inside, while trying to look all normal on the outside?

 

Kids & Reading – For the love of books…

I have lost count of the number of times I have been asked this question by my friends, colleagues and even complete strangers, “How did you get your kids to read?” Every single time someone sees them with their noses buried in a book, this is the first thing they ask me: “How did you instill the reading habit in them?” Seriously, I didn’t know how it happened either. Maybe it was something I did.

So I thought of jotting down a few things I did, mostly without the knowledge of the wonderful effect it would have years later, metamorphosing them into bookworms.

Though I would definitely like to say it’s never too late to start, it’d surely have a bigger impact if kids are introduced to books from a very young age. How early, you ask? Well, how about as early as 4-6 months? I can hear you snickering under your breath; but I do have the responsibility to present a true account, don’t I?

I started reading books to my first born when she was around 5-6 months old. It was mostly rhymes; by the time she was 7 months old, she was flipping through to the page which had the rhyme I was singing. I started reading story books and poems when she was 9 months and gradually started teaching her alphabets, numbers, fruits, vegetables, animals, birds, common objects and so on. To my amazement, she started reciting them as soon as she started talking… just like that. Children start internalising everything they see and hear, even before they start speaking, and then it’s just a matter of time.

I still remember quite vividly, reading a book of poems called “Rhymes for Annie Rose” to my 8 month old daughter. What a lovely book it was!  It soon became her favourite and I had to read that book at least 15-20 times a day to her for quite a few months. I still have that book with me; just couldn’t part with it, it brings back such fond memories. And I remember buying Dr.Seuss books for early readers just before she turned 3. I know, I know, it’s a little too ambitious, you may say… But it was exactly what she needed at that time. With a little phonics practice she was all set to read.

Once she started reading on her own, there was no turning back. Even now, at fourteen years, books are her best friends and she is completely oblivious of the world around her if she has a book for company.  The same story continues, three and a half years later, with my son too….I am sure there is no need for me to go on.

Reading opens up a whole new world for the children by kindling their imagination and creativity.

So, to all the New Mommies out there, start early; and to all my bookworm friends… Happy reading!

 

The Reading Room

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It was always my dream to have a small library at home. With all the travelling we had to do, being married to a software engineer, there was never a place we would stay at for more than a couple of years. With my husband’s numerous “on-site” projects which took us to the US, we never quite settled anywhere for almost fifteen years of our married life. Over the years, I had collected more than five hundred books on varying topics from fiction to cooking, decorating, designing, self-improvement, parenting, autobiographies, management and what not. And as kids happened along the way, my collection grew in leaps and bounds as kids literature got added to it in good measure.

As expected my kids grew up to be bookworms too. While most kids wish to be taken to a mall or a movie on weekends, my kids would only wish to be taken to the nearby library. We all spend a few happy hours in the library, each blissfully engrossed in books of their choice; biding good-bye to the library is one the of the toughest things to do! (And it so happened that many a times I had to literally drag them out kicking and screaming!!!)

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Inculcating the reading habit is very vital to a child’s development. It helps children imagine and explore and stretch their creativity. It not only helps build vocabulary and grammar but also enhances their understanding of nuances such as satire and poetic expressions which cannot be taught. Children imbibe these along with the moral values imparted indirectly without even realizing it.

As the kids grew, we finally decided to settle down, owing to their educational needs and that’s when my life-long dream of owning a library came to be a reality. The apartment we zeroed-in on had a tiny spare room to be used as a servant room or a study and almost immediately I knew what I wanted  do with that room. No prizes for guessing correctly!!! I got to work with the room’s layout and I put my heart and soul into designing my little library. My kids were thrilled with the idea too. Together we came up with a beautiful, cozy little library. And today it’s one of the most often used rooms in our house.

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My Kiddo’s Birthday… and wait a sec… mine too!

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I am frantically getting geared up for my son’s birthday which happens to be in a couple of days. The friends list, snack menu, cake to be ordered, party decorations, inviting friends and relatives and of course the gift shopping extravaganza….uff…wonderful as it sounds, it sure is tiresome. But what’s a little hustle and bustle for your kid’s special day, isn’t it?

Now, when I think about the special day, isn’t it a special day for us moms too? It is, after all, a rebirth of sorts for mothers too. While we get all caught up with our child’s birthday celebration and all, I think it’s also an important time to celebrate our rebirth too with the same joy and verve.

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Just rewind….the day of your child’s birth, what a crucial and eventful day!!!  You would have been a nervous wreck since the moment you realised it was the D-day, not to mention rushing to the hospital, the agonising pain and the subsequent tears of joy. The anxious husband who was worried sick for the both of you and of course your parents, in-laws and any other support system you had, would have heaved a sigh of relief. Such a momentous event, not just for your baby but for you too…

Somehow I had not given this a serious thought till now….For one, it didn’t occur to me and two, it sounds selfish to hog the limelight of my kids special day; the selfless mothers that we are, it certainly feels that way. But I have decided to celebrate the event of my rebirth along with my kids from now on (better late than never). Yes, though not with so much of fanfare but quietly, thinking about the day and whatever I had undergone (because I am sure not everyone has a rosy tale to share about their labour); and the miracle that took place at the end of it all and what an out-of-the-body experience that was and feel a sense of great accomplishment and pride and more importantly, to remind myself that if I was able to endure that, then I am much stronger than I think I am. We all are….That’s reason enough for me to celebrate. I would, may be dress up a little and just have a smile on my face while I finish up with the party arrangements.

Because, it’s as much, my birthday too…. Related image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Father – The Unsung Hero

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From bearing the pain of childbirth to sacrificing her interests and career, mothers are always projected as a divine being next to god and true it is. But in all earnestness, we conveniently forget dads in the picture. Yes, they don’t go through what we mothers had to go through but their anxiety, heartache, stress and pain is of a different kind. They stay strong for the sake of their families and look all confident and fearless while panicking on the inside…

Fathers, just like mothers, carry the child in their heart instead of womb for the nine months and not only that, they carry the weight of the well-being of the mother and the child on their shoulders while trying to work and earn enough to make a comfortable home for them.

Fathers do get the advantage of playing the good cop when the child grows up a little and starts seeing his mother playing Hitler to the hilt all day long, telling him “No” for everything until dad enters the war zone and hugs the kid he has not seen all day and says “of course you can dear”….and there goes the best parent award, just like that!!!

Yes, I do resent fathers a little bit for that but, we all need a little perspective check once in a while and fathers provide that balance needed in a child’s life. For all the situations life throws at us, small or big, we need to look at the holistic picture.

As we are the ones watching the kid throwing tantrums for a silly thing, we often get so wrapped up in the whole situation with our full blown ego against our kids that the holistic picture gets blurred somewhere down the line and all we can actually see is how to make sure the kid doesn’t get his way or show who has the upper hand. Sounds silly doesn’t it….But we do end up in such situations more often than we would liketo.

So when a third person comes in and tells you, “Why couldn’t you have let the child have one more piece of candy?” “Did you just put yourself through all the crying, temper-tantrum and not to mention ruining a whole afternoon to this bitterness followed by guilt; all this for that one piece of candy?” And suddenly you wonder at the absurdity of the whole situation but all you could manage to say is “But you didn’t see the way he was…”

By now you know who the third person is. And though you wouldn’t want to admit it to his face but he is right… isn’t he?

Sometimes we need to pick our battles with our kids, let them win some now, so you can win the bigger battles later…

And that perspective is brought in by none other than our unsung heroes… fathers.

 

A Mother’s Wish For Her Kids…

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First, let me tell you how blessed I feel to have my two precious gems in my life. I had dreamt about them even before they were actually born. A sweet little girl and a cute little boy…how perfect;  And there is not a day I don’t thank god for these little bundles of joy.

Like every mother in the world, I want the best for my children; health, happiness and prosperity.  By best I don’t mean that they should get anything and everything they wish for. No, not at all…I mean, they should get all that they need to be empathetic, humane, strong-minded, kind, satisfied and eventually happy.

I wish that my kids experience everything in moderation, even at times…hunger and heart-breaks; not too much, to break them but just enough, to emerge stronger. Does this make any sense? But how else are they going to understand the importance of the most basic things in life like food and love.

I wish that my kids experience and learn to see through the malicious intentions of fair-weather friends and also the good intentions of the sharp-tongued but good-at-heart friends.

I wish that my kids experience small failures in life, only to help them learn to cherish their successes and also to embrace failure and success with a level head.

I wish that my kids succeed in their chosen field and to earn enough to fund their creative endeavours.

I wish my kids materialistic pleasures only so much, to make their lives comfortable; not too much to turn them into money-minded and self-centred individuals.

I wish my kids learn to appreciate good people in their lives before it’s too late.

I wish my kids to have enough confidence, courage and determination to follow their heart and do what they feel is right without worrying about other people’s opinions.

I wish my kids find themselves living a fearless, creative and content life more than anything else.

Apart from all of the above, I wish my kids learn to appreciate nature in all its glory, good food, good music and art, good friendships and good ol’ simple pleasures in life.

 

To My Children – You Don’t Owe Me Anything…

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Hey kids…Now you are wondering what is she going to say that we haven’t heard already, isn’t it? May be, I still can whip-up something interesting you would like to hear. Why don’t you stay tuned for a bit… you might like what you are about to hear!!!

So if you are thinking I am going to start preaching about how high and mighty a mother is and how you are in debt for life because she gave you your life and brought you up with so much of struggle and sacrificed quite a bit to make you the person that you are today, then think again!! It’s not about that at all…It’s quite the opposite actually.

So, here goes nothing…

First of all, you don’t owe me anything because I brought you into this world; I did it because I wanted to. I became a mother because of you!!! If you feel I had sacrificed some things in life, it’s because I wanted to, not because you wanted me to.

Sometimes, ok…quite a few times, you would have heard me saying those clichéd dialogues about motherhood and sacrifices and everything, but you have to excuse me here, as I grew up listening to all these overrated statements personally and of course our Indian movies don’t leave a stone unturned in portraying the sacrificial mother’s martyrdom. And mind you, you are equally to blame, with some insensitive jibes of yours, for pushing me to the thresholds of saying those abominable phrases which I swore I won’t use when I became a mother. So there you have it, I didn’t really mean those when I said it. I was on autopilot…

If I am a good mom and a better person, it’s because of you. You are the reason I wanted to become a better mom. You constantly pushed me to be a better person, to shed my ego, to overcome my obsessive compulsiveness, to let go and live in the moment.

I also learnt a whole lot of rhymes, more than I ever learnt when I was a kid, then of course, also learnt so much about the Ben 10 avatars, transformers, avengers and what not. I would never have known about those cool new age artists and their beautiful songs which you introduced me to. Hell, I even learnt to put my smart phone and computer to better use from you.

Now that you are old enough, I have to confess that I do feel guilty for not pushing you enough to join those coaching centres and other courses that all your friends and classmates are rushing off to while you seem to be content not joining the bandwagon. But here is the truth, deep down I really do feel that you are better off for the time-being without the unnecessary baggage. I like the fact that you guys know what you want and do not try to be someone you are not at such young age; I am learning that from you too.

I started out as an unsure mother and learnt things along the way, along with you. So we grew up together, so as to speak. I learnt so much, for you, from you and because of you. I just hope that through all this I have guided you well to make sound decisions when the time is right. So, all I wish for, is not a guilt-ridden obligation from you but to be in your hearts forever, minus the guilt.

 

Being The Different One

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Since when is being different a bad thing? On the contrary, being different is what makes a person unique and unique is a good thing.
In today’s day and age, trying to stay the way you are, in an ever changing world, is the biggest accomplishment. My kid that way is unique and one of a kind.
She doesn’t follow the crowd or get bogged down by peer- pressure to look or dress a certain way. She is, in a way, almost fierce about guarding her comfortable way of life and doesn’t like to complicate things just because others (even her best friends) are doing it.
Any occasion that calls for some dressing–up, invariably becomes a struggle. The endless cajoling that takes on a threatening tone, to wear a simple piece of jewelry or dressy attire, turns ugly. Anyone and everyone we meet are like “Oh! Why is she not dressed-up for the occasion? Why isn’t she wearing any jewelry?  And so on.  Sounds familiar….anyone?
Honestly, I did get upset about her fussing about such matters but then started wondering….. What’s wrong if she doesn’t want to? Yes, this might hurt my motherly desires of dressing up my only daughter and admiring her in pretty outfits, but if that’s not what makes her happy and on the contrary, makes her uncomfortable then its about time I put an end to my yearnings.
Similarly, instead of gossiping endlessly on whats-app or chat sessions, she prefers writing and she calls it her “Creative writing” time. Either that or she paints/draws or reads books. These are her routine after-school activities. And it doesn’t hurt to have an incredibly sharp mind either…that way, she doesn’t have to spend a lot of time slogging over her school work.  She effortlessly aces all her tests, leaving enough and ample time for all her so-called activities.
For an onlooker, it might seem like such a waste of a perfect evening, but for her it’s an evening well spent doing what she likes best. Sounds strange for a teenager, doesn’t it? Well…I definitely don’t think so and nor should you, if you have one like mine.
Do we unknowingly push our kids to be a certain way just because it’s the norm and everyone expects it from us? Do we regard other’s opinions over our own children’s likes and dislikes?  Most of the time, the answer is a very big and uncomfortable YES.
It all stems from our inherent want to be accepted as perfect parents having perfect kids…(knowing well that there is no such thing called a perfect parent or a perfect kid).
Let’s step aside from the rat race for our own good. Let’s celebrate our children’s uniqueness rather than forever trying to make them fit into an ill-fitting mould. They are wonderful as they are, so let’s let them be.

What A Mother Of 15 Years Can Tell A New Mother…

 

Today I have a 15 year old. Wow! Feels crazy to be typing this. It does not feel like 15 years since we were first “sleep deprived, confused, terrified, ecstatic, desperately wondering how in the world did God trust us to do this” new parents. She’s my eldest child. And you know what that means.  She’s the child we had spent most our time and attention in planning, analyzing and micro-managing every minute. Each new stage had a big learning curve and everything from baby essentials to learning toys to education was well researched.

Slumping down at the end of a particularly long tiring day, I would recollect what I had done that day and all I could come up with was, fed the baby, bathed her, put her down for nap, fed her, changed her, nap, feed, change and repeat…..somewhere in between I had miraculously managed to use the restroom, take a one-minute bath and eat something which I couldn’t even remember what. I would be completely overwhelmed and tired but still feel like I haven’t done anything at all. When friends and relatives came over to visit my new born child, they would say that it will all go by so fast that you wouldn’t even know how?  At that time, I had inwardly scoffed a little and wondered how people say such things.

But, how true was that…Feels like it was just yesterday; though it sounds clichéd but true it is. I have heard my grandmother say it, then my mother and so many aunts in-between and now I am saying it!!! The days sped up with each passing year. I watched her learn to walk and talk and then it seemed like she started kindergarten in the blink of an eye! I tried in vain to slow time down, but the elementary years made way for middle school and before I knew it, she is in high school.

Do you know what turning 15 means? Well, it means we are smack in the middle of the dreaded teenage years! Please let’s take a moment to fully understand this. The rolling of eyes, the sarcastic remarks, the up and down emotions, the sulking, the unpredictable moods, the late nights of worry, the negotiations over curfew to stay up late on schooldays, on computer time, the never-ending why’s…Not to mention how all things in life, in general is so unfair and how unlucky she is not to own a smart phone when all others have it.

My formerly clear-thinking, sensible beyond her years child has turned into someone whose friends take precedence over all else. I get it, and I completely understand it, because it’s all part of being a kid that age and it’s all part of growing up. But while I respect all that I’m also clear on what’s important and what my role as a parent is; I know very well when to be her friend, when to be her confidante and when to put my foot down and assert myself. Because, Hello….I’m a parent first; She can have all the friends in the world but she will have only one mother and yes, that’s me and only me!!!

I’m just not going to change my personal life policies regarding safety and sanity to cater to the whims and fancies of a teenager living in utter oblivion of life outside her circle of friends. And clearly they are not at the age to understand the long term benefits of rules and restrictions. It is unrealistic to expect kids to understand that? They are kids for god’s sake…how would they understand; if they did, then what’s the difference between a kid and an adult?

Standing our ground and holding the line when the oft repeated “everyone else is doing it” is thrown at us; well, let me tell you, “Just hang in there” and don’t buckle under pressure. I know it’s difficult, but we can do it!!! A parent comes with the in-built capacity of unbelievable tenacity, patience and tolerance….(you have to believe me on this).

And remember, time does fly…even though it seems like days are dragging by, you will find yourself repeating the same words a few years from now…Though taking a cue from others, I had consciously made a mental note every now and then telling myself “I want to remember this stage and cherish it forever, as she will be an year older next year” and  every once in a while I would tell myself to “record certain things in my memory and preserve it there, as she might out-grow that stage soon” and so on…No matter how annoying a particular stage might seem, believe me, you will still miss it once it’s gone.

So, cherish and savour every moment!!!

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Is My Kid Honest?

Now, that’s a billion dollar question. You know, as parents we all want our children to be open and honest with us. And we also know it’s not something we can keep telling them repeatedly and expect it to happen. It needs a lot more than that to ensure that our children are able to freely communicate with us without apprehensions. Most of the times we think that we have instilled that confidence and trust in our children and many of us even choose to believe that our children will come to us regarding anything and honestly tell us things as they are, but that may not always happen.

It’s not because they don’t want to tell the truth, it stems from the fear of disappointing their parents or consequences they might have to face due to their actions. And that fear is unintentionally instilled only by us; by the way we react to their honesty. So, over a period of time our kids get the feeling that it’s better to lie or twist the truth a bit to make it sound more acceptable to us and avoid unnecessary repercussions.

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Though we keep telling our kids that they can come to us regarding anything without hesitation, a lot of times our actions don’t complement our words. And we all know actions speak louder than words.

So when the time comes and our children come to us and tell us something honestly, we end up doing one of these:

Bombarding them with enquiring questions,

Over-reacting,

Start scolding them,

Ignore,

Shirk uncomfortable topics as unimportant.

And thus, slowly over-time children realize that it’s easier not to tell us or better yet, tell us what we want to hear.

And that’s not good news.

I am guilty of having done a few of the above myself as a parent and I have realised that this happens many a times without our conscious understanding of the situation.

Most of the times our reactions to situations are already hard-wired in our brains by years of conditioning; by observing our parents react to situations. So when a situation presents itself, your reaction is pre-set already without your conscious knowledge. You will automatically, by default, react the same way your mother/father did, no matter how much you would do not want to. How’s that for a shocking realisation? But that’s just how it is; unless we consciously re-wire by reacting differently, it is not going to change. It is just too hard because it takes conscious effort from our end to undo a lot of neural pathways already set in our brains for years.

Ok, I’m deviating from the actual topic at hand but if you want to read more on this then this amazing book on Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman is just the book for you.

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It has so happened often that when my kids come home a bit late from wherever they were supposed to be returning from, the anxious mother in me is not ready to hear any reasonable excuse. So when my kid prances in happily and regales about how he met some of his school friends on the way back and lost track of time and all I could think of was giving him a piece of my mind.

I later realised that if I did that, he will probably try to think of a better excuse next time instead of telling me what really happened. Thankfully the realization occurred sooner than later and therefore I try (by that I mean really, consciously, try) and stop myself from blurting out whatever I would otherwise have done on auto-pilot). Instead I try to state calmly to him that I was really worried and it would be better that the next time around, he could keep me informed in case of any delay. That way, there is no fear in him regarding consequences and an understanding and expectation sets in.

Another time my kids come home and announce that they got their exam results. They start off excitedly about all the subjects where the scores are brilliant and save the one they are not so proud of, for the last. Once the cat is out of the bag, I have half the mind to immediately start bombarding them with questions like “where did you go wrong” “how did you lose marks” “didn’t you prepare well” etc etc.

Honestly speaking, I have uttered those phrases quite animatedly and absent-mindedly many times, because my brain is hard-wired that way; but I have consciously tried hard to suppress those outbursts and tell myself that I need to do this if I want that honesty and fearlessness in my kids.

So instead I find myself saying the much rehearsed, “Hey, you have done well in most of the subjects. And about the one in which you did not do well, try to get a better score next time”.  And till date, I don’t see my kids afraid or anxious about telling me their marks. Are they disappointed? Well, yes. But scared, no, not at all.

So neither is there room for selective narration nor there is hiding of unsavoury parts.

Same goes when my kids come to me with questions that I may not be comfortable discussing; I have to tell you that I am a bit old school, due to my conservative upbringing. And therefore I have to really try hard to keep a straight face and be honest with my kids regarding anything they ask. I have faced quite a lot of such questions, discussions and debates. Though I have my inhibitions in addressing certain topics, I try to make sure that it doesn’t hinder the spontaneity with which my kids come to me to discuss these topics.

So, I don’t change the topic;

I don’t tell them that they are too young to understand and

I certainly don’t tell them that we will discuss later.

I also make sure my attitude, body language and tone is neutral while taking in their questions no matter how earth shattering it might seem to me. Because I don’t want my child to feel embarrassed or make him/her feel that he/she had said something they shouldn’t have. My only purpose is to make sure that my actions are such that make my kids would come to me for anything without a second thought and that they should feel okay about telling me anything.

Nothing is taboo, nothing is off limits.

And if we don’t do this because we don’t feel comfortable, they will find someone else to discuss it with;

And if you tell them they are too young then again they will find someone else who will explain it to them;

And if you tell them that we will discuss it later and don’t do that later then they will never come to you with it again. We might pretend that they forgot about it and heave a sigh of relief but let’s get real. Yes, you guessed it right; they would have found someone else to discuss it with.

And believe me, that someone who is explaining and discussing those topics with your child is most probably a friend who is no older than your kid or a slightly older kid who could be painting an unwanted and false image in your kid’s mind. We wouldn’t want any of that, do we? No one else can explain things better than us, no matter how uncomfortable the topic is.

So all I would say is let’s get talking whenever an opportunity presents itself and create a positive environment for our children to come to us without inhibitions.

And let’s make it safe for our kids to be honest;

And make sure our actions and reactions speak the same language our words convey.

Let’s teach our children the importance of failure…

Yes. That’s right. You read it right. Failure is so very important that it should be taught. I know it sounds weird because all we hear around us all the time is the importance of success. But, providing an environment to fail without shame is the most important thing we can give our children.

I am a recovering perfectionist myself and I know the cost involved in it. I try to reinforce the message of taking failure in their stride to my children whenever and however I can. I know I may not be succeed at times in doing so because my daughter is a perfectionist and I know it’s in her genes and we all know how hard it is to change something that’s in our genes; but I am trying…and I will keep trying. What we don’t possess, we can learn by practice; I am a firm believer of that.

There has been a few times when my kids failed to bring home a prize or a trophy from so-and-so competition but I just tell them it’s ok. It’s important to say it without a tinge of disappointment though it’s hard to say it with a straight face seeing them heart broken. Recently, my daughter had one such experience and all I could think was that it’s ok. She had been on a winning streak for quite some time now and I thought probably this is good too. Does that make sense to you? Does that make me a bad mother? I know I am not. I am as fierce as any other tiger mom but this is something I truly want my children to experience.

Because failure makes success taste that much more sweeter!

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Children who are allowed to struggle will have better problem solving skills. It builds resilience and motivation to succeed. And they are the ones who live happier lives because they know problems are hard but solvable and failure is not the end of the world.

The fear of failure is so rampant and paralysing that it’s wreaking havoc in kid’s lives.  As a parent it’s so difficult to control the urge to step in and help or not to jump up and provide easy solutions to our kids, but we have to try.

I believe in giving my children opportunities to fail.

Let’s give our children the freedom to fail. Let’s not mourn failures; instead, use it to teach them the importance of struggle. Celebrate their efforts, however small, even failures; they are as important as the successes.

While I consciously try doing this, sometimes I do forget. (You know, that perfectionist inside me…yeah, I am still recovering). And in those times, my husband and kids remind me…

Chores are important for building life skills in kids…

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©Lazy summer diaries

 

That’s my son drying out his laundry. He does his own laundry and so does my daughter. I have made a conscious decision to make them do this early on along with many other chores as these are things that can teach them stuff which can’t be taught and they might not learn otherwise. Things like:

Patience:

You know, in this fast paced world of instant gratification, kids are losing out on this much needed virtue, patience. Doing something that is boring and that does not excite them, is not something kids like to do but that doesn’t mean they can get away without doing it. Life isn’t that way. Teaching them that no matter how boring or hard it gets you need to do it. Getting it done is the only way you will you have clean clothes to wear the next day. They have to understand that and that understanding will come only by doing it.

Perseverance:

Teaching perseverance; is there anything more complicated than that? How do you teach that? Is there a course to accomplish that?

Making them do simple repetitive chores like these will instil that and it is also meditative in the sense that it helps calm our kid’s ever busy minds and bodies. It helps them slow down and concentrate on the work at hand, teaching them the unhurried ways of life.

Appreciation for hard work:

Nowadays, where do kids have any opportunity to do any kind of manual work at all? We have appliances for everything and our better economic status has ensured that we can hire help for all our needs. Where does that leave our kids? Growing up with an entitled mind-set and lacking basic human values needed for respecting hard work.

Dignity of labour:

If not by doing dishes or doing your laundry, sweeping or mopping, how else can we instil this value. If our kids only get to see house maids doing these chores and get the idea that we are somehow superior to these helpers we are able to hire, how are they ever going to appreciate dignity of labour.

I think we parents have landed here due to the mind frame that we somehow thought whatever chores we were made to do as a child (that we didn’t enjoy) we wouldn’t make our kids do. By doing that, we feel elated in some way; that probably we are being better parents than our own parents. But, please let’s understand that those chores gave us the skills that helped us at every stage of our life and those were the chores that kept us humble and those were the chores that kept us disciplined and those very chores taught us dignity of labour.

Why are more and more kids reported to be suffering from depression and resorting to suicide? Mobile addiction, social media addiction, falling prey to killer games like blue whale and what not…

Why is human race failing so miserably?

Where are we going wrong?

Why despite providing everything our parents weren’t able to provide us, our kids are not content or half as happy as we were?

Why in spite of great awareness and conscious parenting, we are failing as parents?

Definitely the current generation of parents are far more educated than our generation or the generation before…then where are we lacking? What’s the missing link?

By providing excess stimulation (anything in excess is always bad) to young minds with television, mobiles, computers and all such gadgets, we are disabling their faculties to have a clear thought process and to make an informed decision. If they don’t see success immediately; if they don’t see the results instantly, they get frustrated. You can see them getting irritable, angry and lashing out at even minor set-backs. And that’s not good news.

It’s just my opinion that probably we need to rethink our parenting style. Take a cue from our previous generations and understand why we were highly motivated to aim higher, achieve bigger dreams and why that drive is lacking in our kids.

Rethink, what gave us satisfaction? What gave us a sense of accomplishment? What gave us happiness? What made us grateful? What made us practice gratitude? What made us believe in prayers and goodwill? What gave us hope?

Now, let’s give that to our children.

Don’t buy them things. Give them experiences.

Lazy Parents Make Happy Kids And Happy Families!!!

Let me start by saying that I am guilty of being the exact opposite of what I am writing about, (at least for the first few years) and that’s what makes me the best person to talk about this.

First and foremost, I want to confess that I was a hyper-active parent, hovering over every single activity my kids were doing. If they were playing with building blocks, I would intervene and help them build great structures; or give ideas to enhance their art and craft activity…all in the name of being an active, hands-on parent.

Yes, I am guilty as charged and phew…what a relief, now that the load is off my chest. Okay, so let me try explaining why lazy parenting is best for your kids and your family as well…

This one time, my sister came to visit me and we were having a cup of tea in my balcony when we noticed a couple with two kids, who were out for a stroll. The older kid was about three or three and a half years old and the younger one didn’t look more than one and half years old. The couple sat down on a raised platform and got busy with their phones and general chatting while the kids ran around. While the younger one was stumbling and tripping down every now and then, the older one was running around recklessly with full speed ready to take a fall any minute.

Now watching this my sister and I suffered a thousand minor heart-attacks; and you would think the mother or father would have run to their kids to pick them up or generally followed them around just to ensure they didn’t fall; But No, Not even once did they budge from their places and not a sign of distress or worry….nah not a trace.

So, once I recovered from my heart condition, my mind started analyzing. First of course, I criticized the parents with statements like, “How could they be so insensitive and careless”. “What if the child gets hurt?” “What kind of heart-less parents are they?” and so on….But then my mind started working over-time and I saw another perspective quite clearly; May be these kids are going to grow up to be self-reliant and resilient. They would take a fall now, but eventually learn how to avoid falling down very early in their lives. This does seem a bit extreme but it’s a true incident that I quoted and it is just an example to drive home my point.

When your kid is attempting to paint with water colours and wants some water to rinse the brush, don’t drop everything and run to fetch it; instead ask them politely to get up and wash it in the sink. Slowly let them learn to fend for themselves. Start as early as two or three years.

Don’t be afraid to upset your kids. Believe me you are doing them a favour by not becoming their second in command.

I read somewhere recently where our feisty actor Kajol was quoted saying “If my kids had it their way, I would be their bai”. She is not too far from the truth, let me tell you.

Don’t start defending your kids saying,” My kids are not like that”, because kids are kids and you are conditioning them to use you. You can’t blame them later for being insensitive, because you never gave them a chance to understand that.

Don’t become their chauffeurs and drive them from one class to the next; No good is going to come out of enrolling them in ten different activities like robotics, swimming, keyboard, dance, chess, French, cricket and math tuition, thinking that you are doing a great service to them. In fact, you and your kid end up fatigued with absolutely no time to actually bond or have fun. What good is that?

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Instead pick just one or two activities that they are truly interested in and leave ample scope for un-structured play time. Let them play with friends on a daily basis, spend time together as a family more often like packing a picnic, cooking together, camping trips, weekend beach outings, playing family games etc. Those are more enriching than any other class they attend.

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Instead of a being a hands-on parent try being a hand-off parent….Our parents were hand-off parents, weren’t they? Didn’t we have a magical childhood? Do you remember telling your mom that you were bored? I wouldn’t…because if I did, I know a chore is coming my way!!!

With limited resources, didn’t we invent new games every day? A worn out canvas shoe would become a boat, a worn-out basket would turn into a basketball hoop….you just need imagination. But where are we giving room for imagination now? They have more toys than utensils in the kitchen and yet they are bored…Go figure….

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Be a responsible parent; give them nutritious food, surround them with wonderful books and stimulating materials but stop being their personal assistant.

A lazy (read laid-back) parent is a more relaxed parent and a more relaxed parent is a happy parent; And a happy parent automatically translates to happy kids and happy families!!!

In The Name Of Gender Equality…

Men and women are not made equal. Period. Let’s stop saying that and let’s stop justifying that! It just doesn’t make sense. Wondering what I mean??  I mean to say that we are not made equal…we are made to complement each other. If you look around and observe nature, its creations are wonderfully complementary. Every creation is exceptional in its own way and has its own strength.  Let’s allow that natural, in-built, unique quality endowed upon us by nature to help pave way for a well-balanced society, the way it’s meant to be.  By nature women are more nurturing and caring and similarly men are more logical and result oriented. There is nothing wrong with that. This doesn’t mean stereotyping men and women in any way. There are men who are nurturers and women who are go-getters. Let’s accept who we are and not try to be something we are not.

Today I see this growing trend where parents are often heard saying “I am going to bring my daughter up like a son” and therefore  will not let her waste her time doing household chores and instead let her focus on academics, sports and other important things. Nothing wrong with that, you might ask. What if I say, this mentality is not right.

If the statement means she will have equal opportunities as that of a boy, then all is well. But if it implies that she will not have to cook or clean or help with household chores as if it is somehow inferior to other things, then there is something fundamentally wrong. I recently read somewhere something divergent to the above statement, and that is “bringing up my son like a daughter”.  I feel both cases are wrong.

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It’s about time we allow both our sons and daughters to do all the things irrespective of the nature of the job or gender.

Whether it’s a boy or a girl, both should be involved in all the household chores. Teach your son and daughter to cook simple meals, clean the dishes, tidy up the house, do laundry, change a light bulb, fix minor plumbing and electrical problems, sew a button and hem.  This will help bring a sense of equality at the same time teach important life skills. Children who grow up in such an environment will not grow up feeling superior or inferior towards the opposite gender. Inculcating the sense of equality has to start at home.

With the society changing and men and women handling challenging jobs outside homes, our mind set also has to undergo a radical change. What kind of a world will it be when the kids grow up, get married and start a family with both not knowing a thing about domestic life and what it takes to have marital harmony. What will your daughter who has been brought up saying she doesn’t have to enter the kitchen, do when she is suddenly faced with the responsibility of cooking and taking care of a family?  And how lost will your son feel not being able to contribute equally in managing household chores when his wife who also has a challenging job, is equally busy. What kind of chaotic life would that be? What will happen to the harmony of family life?

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Implanting a false idea in a daughter that she may not need to do any household work ever and a bringing up a son with an idea that later a woman who will be his wife will take care of all his domestic needs is just wrong.

Aren’t we deceiving our kids and setting them up for a big disappointment and failure in future?

Why I Hate “The 10 Things List” on Parenting

Parenting is a joyous journey for all of us, no matter what our stories are. And having said that, parenting is also hard at times; not knowing if we are doing the right thing or not; and amidst all this confusion it doesn’t help to find news feeds like: “10 things you should never say to your child”… Imagine an anxious mom scrolling down her news feed after a meltdown with her kid and finds an article like that. What good is that going to do?

Every situation is different and so is every parent and child. I agree there are some hurtful things that shouldn’t be said to a child, but saying that it will scar your child for life and totally crush his self- esteem, is just wrong! On the contrary, these types of articles are the ones crushing the confidence of moms around the world. And what do you think the aforementioned mom would do immediately after coming across such a post; she’ll look up for more articles like “How to be a good parent” or “How to get your child to listen to you in 5 easy steps”, How to parent without yelling at your kids” etc…etc. It’s like an online shopping portal selling parenting advise to vulnerable, self-doubting parent community – “in just 5 easy installments” or “10 easy payments”.

I once attended an 8 hour session where the speaker was a renowned Spiritual personality. While she spoke at length about instilling values in children, she also gave a lot of examples where parents react to situations rather than respond. I just had one question in my mind after the long session, “What does a person know about parenting who has never been a parent?” “How can someone, who has never been put in a spot with a raging toddler or a teenager, know how difficult it would be to decide whether to react or respond?”

For that matter I would tell anyone who is not a parent himself/herself to back off from doling out advises to parents, simply because you just don’t know what you are talking about, unless you have been in the given situation. He or she may be a renowned psychiatrist , psychologist or a great philosopher or an accomplished rocket scientist or a monk, if he/she is not a parent, then I don’t think they know what they are talking about. Period.

It is very easy to sit in your comfort zone, in a calm, composed, peaceful and serene environment and comment on how to do things and how to react or respond whereas it’s a whole new ball game when you are smack-dab in the middle of a full blown tantrum, with so many eyes looking at you and judging you and all you want is for the ground to break open and swallow you.

As parents we all need inspiration, motivation and guidelines from time to time, and now with the information overload around us, there is no dearth of information regarding anything and everything.

Know that parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual. There is no custom designed manual for every child, to know where exactly which button is located and what are the do’s and don’t’s. But it does come with one thing, a most crucial thing, the one and only thing the child needs; and that’s You… A mother, who gives all she has got to be the best parent that she can be. And that’s enough. More than enough.

Let’s give ourselves a chance…let’s take pride in our successes and failures in our parenting journey. Let’s understand that IT’S OKAY TO STUMBLE. It’s not the end of the world. If your child knows that you love him then, that one incident will not scar him for life. Let’s please have faith in our parenting ways. If you decide to reprimand your child for a particular reason, I am sure you are doing it to instill good behaviour or good value system in your child. There is absolutely no need to feel bad about it. It’s important to teach our children boundaries and right and wrong, if not us, who else will…definitely not the so called parenting experts? We are the ones facing the real situations and so we decide what’s best for our child at that moment.

Parenting is such a unique journey that one set of rules or a manual can’t help. Even parenting between your own kids can be completely different from one another. Even a mother of ten kids won’t become an expert in parenting because each one of her kid is different and so will be her style of parenting with each one.

Let’s not beat ourselves up with the so called books- “parenting 101” or “10 things successful parents do” or “10 things never to tell your child” or “how to be a good parent”, because as parents we inherently know these things already. Let’s read these books and articles to learn and be prepared but not to stress ourselves out so much so that we start doubting our parenting abilities.

You are the best person to know what, how, when and where about your child, no expert can tell you how to parent your kid. We can learn from each other, from each other’s parenting journey and be prepared to expect certain things but what you do in a given situation depends on so many factors that you shouldn’t be looking at an ideal response, because there is none.

How you respond (or god forbid…react) in a particular situation might be completely different from how you yourself will react in the same situation some other time. Depends upon the external environment (such as guests around, you are in a supermarket or a restaurant or at home without anyone around) and internal environment (you might be going through PMS, periods, migraine or may be feeling extremely cheerful ). We are humans after all. Please, let’s cut ourselves some slack here….

Your response will be definitely different to the same situations at different times.

I think what we do need is to do what we think is humanly possible in a given situation and if, you are not completely happy with the way you responded, then after a while, when you are calm to deal with the situation,sit down with your child and have a second innings at it. That’s something that is possible. Beating yourself up thinking you are not managing the way so and so, calm and composed person would, does not help our case.

Actually that kind of paranoid parenting, of whether we are doing the right thing every minute of every second, is what’s doing more harm. It sucks the joy out of parenting and an unhappy parent cannot raise a happy child? There are some posts like, “Are you doing these 10 things with your new born child?” “90% of the child’s brain development is over by the time your child is 4 years old? Did you do all this to ensure that?” It’s not whether these statements are true or not. I am not commenting on the authenticity of these statements. I am only saying, let’s not get sucked into this and lose perspective of the real. The real thing is to do what we think is right to our best of knowledge and enjoy our time with our kids. We all are anyway engaging and providing our children with a stimulating environment, so there is no need to be hyper about it.

We are humans in flesh and blood…and not to mention, with hormones and with loads of cleaning, cooking and laundry to do…So please for our own sanity, mothers, LET’S KEEP IT REAL.

Accept the real and enjoy the real…

PS: This post was on my list for so long, because I honestly feel it is so important for us mothers to keep it real and to support each other and to show our real, vulnerable side of parenting…because of late, I only see pretence and falsely projected images of perfect parenting, which is far from reality and blurs the image of real parenting.

 

 

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