So where do I start? It has been 3 weeks of absolute fun (considering my parents were here), unfinished arguments with husband, crazy Arjun times (thats my son), and some bouts of silence for me. Coctail is the word perhaps! And when it comes to arguments, which home doesn’t have it? Every home has fights. And after more than 2 years of marital bliss, I have understood one thing, ‘Nor can someone necessarily think the way you do and nor do you have to compulsorily think the way others think.’
A very simple statement but it takes time and experience to sink in. So whatever am I talking about? Guess, you got to read what I write!
Parenting is fun. Parenting is crazy. Parenting is draining. It is also a testing phase for a couple. It is one subject that brings a couple together and at the same time makes the couple comprehend the differences in each others’ opinions. And am sure all couples will have quite common arguments over how a child needs to brought up. We always do. My husband and I are polar opposites when it comes to personality. And talk about the faujis! My husband being one, can be very annoying with his sometimes stern approach towards our son. And it becomes all the more painful when he forgets that I am his wife and not a toddler like our son. Yes, at times he treats me and our son alike. And our son, being the right mixture happens to have inherited notorious traits from both of us, which at times drives both crazy, making us forget that we too have ‘been there and done that’ in those days. Nevertheless, we keep chiding each other over those traits and tend to explain in our own ways to our Simba
on what to do, how to do, what is what and what not to do. So here is a small incident I would like to share:
It so happened that my husband had been teaching our 14 month old son to kick his football. Yes, both father and son practice it every day in the evening and it is absolute delight to watch it. And yesterday we happened to drop in at a friend’s place (who have a 22 month old son). So the young lion cubs were in action, making a grab for that small football. And it so happened that our friend’s son started kicking the ball after a while, whereas our son preferred throwing the ball. And both the fathers were cheering their sons to play football. Our son however for that instant wasn’t interested in kicking which set his fauji dad thinking, ‘Why isn’t he kicking the ball? I taught him so!’
(Faujis, I tell you.....they give orders and they have to be obeyed) Of course as a mother, for me it wasn’t a big deal but my husband started, ‘Common Arjun, kick the ball!’
Well, our son having inherited my traits too, refused to obey. Anyways, the incident was small. But the fun part came only after we reached home. Arjun was playing football. He was kicking it hard here and there!
My husband was genuinely confused. Arjun was cheerful as always and all I could do is smile at the men in my life. It took me a lot of time to make my fauji husband understand that ‘Children are not robots. You can’t expect immediate results. You can’t make them do something that they don’t feel like doing at that precise moment.’ (Not forgetting to mention after a long evening of arguments). But then, an adorable father that he is, he immediately went back to playing with our son who couldn’t wait for him to kick the ball).
So with some experience, and some observation I have some candid parenting tips to share:
Give freedom, but make sure you are in their orbit.
Now, I don’t say I am an expert in psychology, but I know a little bit about it. You really can’t force children to do something that you think they should be doing. They are like those first creatures on earth who are more inclined to exploring rather than practicing something they have only tried the first time. If you observe any toddler, their absorption power is inversely proportional to their span of concentration. They concentrate very less on anything that catches their attention, but their grasping power in that limited time period is tremendous. And that is what makes our job all the more difficult. For instance, if we explain to our children that you must not do something, in every way possible, sweet, stern, with/without actions, you are bound to get defeated. Because children understand perfectly what you say. But they successfully hide the fact that they understand. Being fresh explorers they just want to test the various emotions that reside in you. They read your face, tone and body language and learn all they need to know about an emotion. They understand what is a conversation and what is an order. If you show anger, they realize that they have done something which they shouldn’t be doing. If you show appreciation, they take a cue from their own actions on how to keep getting that appreciation. And that is how a child evolves. For instance, in the earlier days, when my son used to open shoe cabinet and litter all sandals and shoes around, my stern and loud NO was enough to scare him. After repeated and resonating NOs, my son now puts back all the shoes in the cabinet and also closes the cabinet door properly. Of course, he gets a bear hug and a huge kiss for every good action of his. At this moment, I remember what my parents keep telling me time and again, ‘Children are like flowers. They need love slightly more than the nutrition you give them. With love, encouragement and your own good deeds, a child is bound to grow faster and healthier.’ Quite true!
Children and ego. Whoever said they don’t have it?
Then there is something called ego. First I thought children don’t have it the way we do. But I guess, I was wrong. Children have tonnes of it and if hurt exhibit their anger in form of disobedience, hunger strike and crankiness. In some families that I observed, a child can be annoyingly cranky and stubborn in the most inconvenient time. It can get all the more unnerving when a child shows his frustration by harming kids around. Such kids tend to pull others’ hair, bite them and create a ruckus around. I just got to see that behavior with a friend’s kid some time back. When I discussed about such behavior with my mother, she said, ‘If a child exhibits such behavior, that means he is not getting the attention he needs from his parents. Such symptoms signal a wake up call for the parents. There is nothing more important in life for a parent than a child calling for attention that he deserves.’ Thankfully till date, my son has not exhibited such behavior. Not that my son is always in his best behavior, but then he has his own way of throwing tantrums. We scold him, admonish him if he does something that is not right, like playing with an other child’s toys without asking permission, or pinching or biting someone for fun. By that I don’t mean that my son takes all that sweetly. He has his way of channeling his hurt ego when we sternly correct him. He diverts himself in some other activity immediately to avert his mood from going bad to worse. Or he will wear that sullen look until we mellow down or he will resort to ‘moun vrath’. Every parent has his/her unique style of bringing up their children. Some may follow the stern method, whereas some may take up a docile approach. I believe, positive parenting must be a blend of both stern and docile methods.
Channeling the incredible energy of a toddler.
Now, at this point I am reminded of a saying in Tamil – ‘vilayum payir mulaiyilaeyae theriyum’
. Meaning: Traits of a sapling can be seen in the seed itself. For instance, if a child is aggressive by nature in the beginning, it is parent’s duty to channel the aggression by engaging him in thoughtful activities. Say, doodling, sketching, playing with ball, building the blocks etc.....Even if you take him out in the garden, walk with him, teach him about birds and animals, flowers and the trees. I never believed children really understand in the absolute sense, whatever we teach. But ever since I followed my mother’s persistent advice on this aspect by taking my son out and pointing nature’s beautiful creatures and explaining all about them, I was pleasantly surprised one day only to see my son calling bird ‘Abbaaad’ and beckoning squirrels and mainas to come to the window to have chapatis. It took me 3 months to get that reaction from him. But then, hard work pays after all! And then I got my son a doodle board. Though it is his last resort for entertainment, he keeps scribbling something or the other in it when no one is watching. What surprised me even more was I enjoyed doodling too (never did that before). And sometimes when I doodled on his board, he would jump in, snatch it and rub off whatever I might have scribbled and then he would start afresh with his art. As I discover ways to engage the incredible energy of my son, I also discover a new self which I was never aware of. Whatever, it is an enlightening experience. I wish I had at least one third of the incredible energy my son has. Then, I would really become one super woman!
Don’t ever underestimate your child’s understanding.
A child no matter how small, understands a lot more than we think they do. For instance, if you are sad, they can make out. If you are happy, they are at their best behavior. If you ignore them, they show their resentment by exhibiting crankiness. To understand the subtle nuances of their behavior, spend time with them, as much as you can. I believe, the first three years of a child’s life is most important for a parent, especially the mother. Professional and social obligations can wait. But childhood of a toddler won’t. It is the only phase in one’s life when the child will need the parent exclusively. Later when he increases his social orbit (i.e when his school life starts), we as parents can get some more time for ourselves, which seems almost impossible when the child is a toddler still.
Love your child, but scold him when you have to.
The first three years of a child’s life can actually test your patience and perseverance. It is like sitting on a hot stove every minute. Be on watch every minute. One needs to make sure every minute that the child doesn’t end up doing anything perilous. And most important is the tiring task of making the child understand what is right and what is not. This exercise can get very tiring especially when one assumes the child has not understood anything that has been said. Wrong. A child understands everything. Why he does what he is asked not to do, is just one means of garnering the attention he needs. And most of the times, it becomes fun too. But then, a parent has to be stern at times too. For instance, if a child is trying to hurt someone or if he is going after something that doesn’t belong to him or if he is getting destructive, or if he is on verge of causing himself harm unknowingly, a parent needs to voice it in a tough tone to make the child understand NO. One just can’t ignore it by thinking, ‘Arre baccha hai, jane do!’. A NO is a NO and there is no other way of understanding it.
Children play with food, chew toys.
Yes, it is true! Very true indeed. They play with food. Try giving them a bowl of cereals. The next minute the contents of the bowl will be littered all over the floor and the child will be either spreading it all the more, or will pick one, taste and then keep it back only to grab another. It is fun to watch it. But as a child grows, teach him how to eat. It all sounds good to see a child eating less and messing with food more. But then every phase in child’s growth is time bound. One has to know when it is time to make the child understand how to eat and what to eat. If a child gets too playful during his tummy time by running here and there with the parents running behind him, it is not advisable to continue with that habit for long. As I said, every phase is enjoyable only for a particular time period. Make him sit and eat. A good habit will form eventually. Otherwise, in that playful mood, not only does the food get cold, but the child wouldn’t have had more than 4 or 5 bites. Good habits when formed early are beneficial for the child as well as for the parents.
Talk to him like an adult. But don’t treat him like one.
My son’s pediatrician always advises the above. No baby talk she says! Talk to him as you talk to anyone. If he points at something, observe and then explain to him what it is, instead of ‘gooo---ing’ and ‘gaaa----ing’. This method sure works. Children are fast learners. They listen to whatever we talk and most important, their behavior entirely depends on how we behave. And that is why they say, happy homes produce happy children. Also, at a very young age, engage them in activities like, ‘Keep this thing in that place’, or ‘Clean your bed’, ‘Put back your toys in your box’ etc..... Such habits will help child comprehend responsibility at a young age. They will do what they are supposed to without being asked to do. Which, I say solves many problems for the future.
Spend quality time with your child.
Needless to say. What matters most in life is not the moments that you breathe, but the ones that take your breath away. And that is where spending those breath taking moments with the child, comes into picture. I agree, spending most of the 24 hours by running behind the child, playing with him, engaging him in activities, making him eat, potty training etc.....can get very tiring and at times crazy too. I am also one of those home makers who experiences blues time and again as I rarely get time to do what I want, like reading and writing, playing keyboard or shopping to my heart’s content or even dining out once in a while. But then, I have come to understand that these very sacrifices and some compromises will eventually give me a better result at a later stage when my son can do things independently and while I can pursue what I want. It is never late to do things you like. A few months back, when I met this lady who happens to be an army wife like me, I was stunned to see her fret and frown over the fact that she hasn’t been able to do what she wants because all her time goes in running behind her almost 2 year old son. She was quite beleaguered and she even found it difficult to enjoy the naughtiness of her kid. It was more because in the previous place where she stayed, she had a help to take care of the child and here there is none. And every time, I meet her, all she can share with me are mere complaints. Not that her feelings are entirely unjustified altogether. Every mother undergoes those parental blues in the first three years of a child’s life. But then, is it not why they say, Mum is the word! No matter how naughty a child can be, all it wants is that love, attention and acknowledgement from the mother. And a mother too wants it as much as her child. My son gives me a tough time too. But the moment, he knows I am not happy with some of his antics, he immediately tries to rectify what he did in his own way. The other day, when he tore up the newspaper while I was reading it, I kind of yelled at him for doing so. He blinked at me for a while, made a sorry face and then collected all those bits of the paper and placed them on my lap. That very moment, my anger dissipated and tears welled up from within. I scooped him and kissed him hard until he pushed my face away as if telling me, ‘ok! Enough!’ Nevertheless, I enjoy those crazy taxing moments too, only because I know such moments happen just once!
Even as I have mentioned umpteen times on how rewarding I feel to be a mother, there are times when that mother in me goes blank and becomes a child again and turns to its own parents, my son’s grandparents that is, for guidance and for comfort. And so as I end this post, I know I cannot thank my own parents enough as their continuous guidance and words of wisdom have helped me sail through this first phase of parenting successfully. They keep telling me all the time, ‘What a child will turn out to be at school depends on how you have tutored him in his first primal years’. So true!
Before I sign off, I am reminded of a small incident that happened a couple of days back and would like to share it with all my readers:
My son had opened our dressing table cabinet and had picked on a wooden box that contained some of his very old toys. (I had kept them so that I could give them away to someone who have babies at home.) After exploring its contents for a while, he put the box back in the cabinet and then, closed the door. He walked a few steps and then realized that the cabinet door had not closed properly. So he went back and closed it tight! Both my husband and I were watching and smiling.....and that smile on my face instantly turned to smirk the moment my husband beaming with pride said, 'Those traits are mine, not yours!' Men, I say.....Proud! especially more when they become fathers!
Now that I have graduated from parenting a baby to parenting a toddler, I am sure I will have lot to share with people around in coming years. Till now, the learning has been a gratifying experience. Parenting is a different ballgame altogether. It is like playing a game of chess. You have to protect the king (the children) no matter what. Hope I am a good parent myself and guide my son to become a wonderful and a successful human being.
Signing off for now.....
Cheers & God bless...!!
Labels: Parent's perspective