The ultimate hit & trial of life
Parenthood, yes, indeed it is the ultimate hit and trial of life. I don’t think any one person has mastered the art of it. And thus, I firmly believe that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously whilst we are riding the course. Don’t kill yourself over it, don’t judge yourself too much, don’t compare every move, every decision of yours with the neighborhood mom. Just give it your best ! Period.
Your sense of values, your rights and wrongs maybe different from your peers and that’s ok. You may want your child to believe in tooth fairies and Santa Claus (I am one of those), while your colleague may have a staunch view of keeping it real and that’s ok ! Everyone has a prerogative to raise their children with either the values they grew up with or the ones they eventually grow up to believe in.
Same principle goes for advice from elders. Their advice may be food for thought and more often than not, would make sense but somewhere in your heart if it doesn’t ring a bell, let it go. Their times were enormously different from ours. We unfortunately live in a convoluted world with myriad technologies popping the surface of the earth each day. We not only have to tackle the nuances of this ever-dynamic world we are living in now but also constantly evaluate the impact of it on our children. By the time I had untangled the mystery of the blue whale challenge, the cutting challenge was pretty much sitting and counting seconds on my doorstep. Phew!! How much do we keep up with. It is exhausting and so give yourself the benefit of being human and allow yourself to falter every now and then.
We turned out fine and so will our children. We have to believe that it will all turn out fine in the end and that’s the only thing that can help us forge ahead on this rollercoaster expedition.
So here are a few of my learnings from this never-ending tumultuous voyage of parenthood:
Disclaimer: These learnings are from a parent aged 7 years, who is meticulously experimenting her budding thoughts. Try at your own risk
1. Be consistent with the rules you set for your children
Children like to test our boundaries and they are quite persistent with it, no matter how liberal or conservative a household you raise them in. Also, they will choose the moment that you may either be vulnerable or too engrossed in something to bother about putting up a fight with a NO. Try being consistent. It helps kids understand their boundaries and what is expected of them.
So our home has a rule of no screen time on school nights. It became a challenging one to follow through during the lockdown but we somehow survived through it. My kids made it a point to sneak in their chance to extract a yes from me at the oddest times. Like during my meetings whilst I am working from home and am in the middle of an intensive argument about the peculiarity of the situation we have landed up in a project (I am a lawyer by the way), they would creep up out of no where, to ask for some TV time. Mind you the shake of a head would never be sufficient because they were rather sure that I hadn’t understood their ask and would start playing dumb charades with me in the middle of my meeting coz they thought I was too dumb to understand what a TV was. They relentlessly found different ways of acting out what they wanted to watch, what a TV looked like each day, till they figured, the answer remained the same. I wanted to sometimes just say Yes for their ingenuity, but I refrained myself and just took pleasure in it by smiling and giving them a warm hug and telling them the answer remains the same my love.
A mean mom will say no to their child
A mean mom will lay out sanctions when their child has broken a rule or misbehaved
A mean mom will not give in to pleading
A mean mom will make her children to chores
A mean mom will raise respectful and successful children who will thank her when they’re grown
2. Strike a balance between the good cop and bad cop
Remember that you will always be the parent. It’s fair to want to be the friend that your child would want to confide in but you will have to take on the role of a parent every now and then. There will be moments that you will adorn the good cop hat and there will be times that you put on the bad cop one.
It is up to you to strike that balance and figure which card to call out. The key to understanding which card to call out is being more perceptive. Not all children are expressive enough to convey what tickles and pinches their heart. We have to try to understand beyond their words and sometimes even between the sentences that they try to frame.
Extremism on either side of the spectrum (good cop/bad cop) may end up back firing.
3. Keep a united front
More importantly, keep a united front as parents. Your disagreements even as parents need to be behind closed doors. Even if the kids think that mama calls the shots, they still need to know that if papa says no — mama will always agree. You can battle it out later in the silence of the night but not in front of them.
I have no qualms in saying that it is easier said than done. I still can’t avoid darting arrows with my eyes at my husband sometimes, but I have faith we will master it someday.
Let the clash of opinions between a mom and dad make its way only in the thick of the night
4. Appreciate the uniqueness of each child
Every child is exceptional in their own way, we as parents only need to recognize it. For some that recognition may come sooner, for some it may involve some work but you will see it. Academia is not the be all and end all in this world. We are not living in the same world as we did 20 years ago when they were literally 4 professions to choose from. Children today have a gamut of options in front of them. In fact, I think we will eventually face the challenge of plenty. And thus, we need to prep ourselves to help them sift through that confusion.
The focus is needed to appreciate the learning process and the efforts that the young minds are investing in trying new things instead of going gung-ho on the outcomes. Their abilities & talents are too nascent and just budding. Let’s not limit their minds. Nurture their minds to open up towards the enormity of opportunities spread out in front of them and give them the courage and support to attempt it all.
My experiments with my elder one continues in full swing. Can’t yet boast of too much success but nonetheless I am shamelessly at it.
Let Children believe and revel in the idea of life and its opportunities being limitless.
5. Change your Mindset
This in some way flows from my previous point. Channel your energies in creating a mindset for your child that facilitates them to accept and be open to new challenges and different things and experiences. They need to believe that their intelligence is not fixed or limited. We should not live in this world of ruthless cynicism where we believe that children are only born intelligent. No one is born smart. We bring them up in an environment where we consciously or subconsciously create a certain frame of mind for them. Children need to trust that practice and perseverance can turn the course of things for everyone. Nothing comes easy. We work towards becoming more intelligent. It is not handed out on a platter. Exposure and upbringing are key elements in not allowing your child to succumb to this ancient mentality.
It is also crucial for them to understand how to handle failing at things. If you fail, you try harder. Do not let unsuccessful attempts make them cast themselves as failures. You cannot be a failure till you don’t think of yourself as one.
There is a great book at Dr. Carol S Dweck called “Mindset” that revolutionized my world and I would recommend it to all young parents.
There is again a thin line between “failing” (an action) and thinking of yourself as a “failure” (an identity) — Dr. Carol S Dweck
6. Empower your child
With the growing years, you will have to learn to give your child independence little by little and see what they do with it. Empower them to feel independent yet let go when you feel the time is right.
My kids started demanding that they would like to go for a walk all by herself without a chaperon. As much as we wanted them to feel independent, we as parents were apprehensive coz our condominium is huge and though we definitely are not helicopter parents, we like to keep a watchful eye. My husband more than me 😊. So while I was willing to give it a shot, my husband took a more ingenious approach towards it. We sent them off for a walk with a bunch of basic rules, my husband decided to discreetly walk behind them at a safe distance to keep an eye out for what they were up to. He did this for 3 days while I felt like I was living in one of those pink panther movies except, the background score was missing. Finally, 3 days and many eyerolls later (from me), he declared that he was comfortable.
Behind every child who believes in himself, is a parent who believed first
7. Build coping mechanisms to suit your needs
Find your own sanity in this mayhem. Your coping mechanisms need to be your own and are much needed for you to be the parent that you want to be. There is no such thing as a bad parent but only bad moments. And if you want to reduce the degree of those bad moments, you need to find time for your peace.
Me and husband take short breaks once or twice a year without the kids. And we have been doing this ever since my elder daughter was not even 1. I saw a lot of raised eyebrows, many intrusive questions about my child’s wellbeing and so on but it never deterred us. I was awfully clear in my head that I needed the time to reconnect with my husband like before. I desired to feel the serenity around, the tranquility in my head and a renewed bond with my love and I had no reservations in wanting that.
I also was amongst the first to keep a nanny and when I told people that my child was back home with the nanny while I was at work, I was asked to clarify — NANI (grandmother in Hindi) or NANNY. And I went close to their ear and said NANNY with NANI sometimes and sometimes only NANNY. I really don’t think I pioneered the job profile of a nanny but somehow the reaction made me definitely wonder if I did.
You need to allow the thoughts in your mind to get louder than the chaos around you.