Motherhood

I’ve been a bully!

Probably not the proudest moment of my life but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about this!

So, I was the eldest sibling & I had 3 sisters who just doted on me. Along with this, I lived with cousins (younger than me) & a gang in school/college with such strong personalities that we couldn’t be bullied. So, quite naturally – all this resulted in a very fertile ground to make a bully out of me. But I wasn’t a bully you see in those high school movies – the mean ones! I usually bullied them to get my work done like bribing them to complete my assignments, having a ‘remote-will-always-be-in-my-hand’ rule etc! And despite all this, they all turned out to be fine individuals thereby proving my point – I wasn’t that bad after all..

So, why am I thinking about this now? Because one of the 2 things have happened:

1. Every act of my bullying has had a greater & opposite impact on my son OR
2. Karma is acting like a b#!@ch.. And all the bullying I did is coming back to haunt my son..

Yes! Sam is getting bullied. It’s not those physical hitting, being cruel things. But rather emotional like “You don’t do this, we’ll not play with you!”, “You tell your mom & we’ll not talk to you”, “You’re such a baby that you’re listening to your mom” etc. I’ve been constantly counseling him about this since I’ve heard but each story I hear every other day shows my counseling isn’t being effective.

I’m made a list of options/strategies I should use to deal with this:

1. Get involved & talk to those kids myself & prevent them from doing so. My in-laws have tried this & it has backfired as the bullies tow the line when they’re around & give Sam grief later! So, don’t think my intervention will achieve a different result.

2. Take this to be settled among parents & have their parents talk to leave him alone. But no parent will teach their children to bully so clearly them talking to the bullies may have same effect as option 1

3. Teach Sam bullying! It’s not the most ideal solution but hopefully this will help? But I’m forced to think am I solving an issue or creating a much larger one?

4. Empower Sam to stand up to them. I’m teaching him karate, making him play sports to increase his strength. I can make him stronger by this but he’ll still have to find the courage to stand up to them on his own! Even adults like us do things for “social acceptance” then is it unreal to expect a 6 year old to do things because he wants to be accepted?

5. Patiently listen to his concerns of them not talking/not playing with him & giving him a way out. Either have him play alone or play with another group. Choose his friends for him who I know won’t bully! But is that escapism or dealing with the problem effectively? Am I stunting his growth by taking decisions for him?

I’ve been thinking about these options for a while now but haven’t acted on either if them. Right now my strategy has been to wait n give him some more time to figure it out. I’m sure many kids in school do get bullied – for being smart, dumb, short, fat etc. And after school just turn out fine. So, all I want him to know right now is – that I’m always available, that there’s nothing he needs to change about himself & that there’s nothing that he needs to hide from!

Let’s hope this strategy (before I actively intervene) gets him through life like it got most of the people I bullied – through!

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Motherhood

Can competitions encourage kids?

Today was Sam’s first tryst with competition
He took part in solo singing competition, and didn’t win any prize. This was different from all the competitions he participated in till date. In his first year, everyone got certificates. If any student didn’t win in existing categories, they created a new category to make him/her win! In his second year, everyone got gold medals. At 2 years & 3 years, the management thought that participation & encouragement is more important than performance! But now at 4, this management decided that mollycoddling has to stop & they need to understand what they’ll have to face all their lives.

I’ve had numerous discussions with a friend on whether this is helps or harms? Obviously since I’m very competitive,  I supported the help side of the argument. She completely focused on the harms – how it could drive children mad (with obsessive mothers forcing them to do things) or drive insecurity (why don’t I ever get a prize / I’m not good enough?) or develop stage fright (I don’t want to go on stage & perform again to lose). We didn’t meet eye-to-eye on any aspect till we agreed that, “It’s the parents that determine if their kid perceives this as a good thing in their lives or bad!” And then she added, “you’ll definitely drive Sam nuts when it comes to competitions!”

There was no recall of this discussion – when as is wont – I analyzed the competition as I waited for Sam. Where did we go wrong, what did I learn from the winner’s performance, how can we get better next time etc. Mostly this was self reflection & at no point I thought I’ll discuss this with Sam. Also because, when he came out he seemed happy. He congratulated two of his friends who won prizes. (I’m so proud of him because I couldn’t get myself to congratulate the mother’s of the kids!)

We reached home & he told me he was feeling very sad because he didn’t get a trophy! An icy knife tore through my heart at this (you had to see his teary eyes to know that I’ve not simply used hyperbole). The discussion with my friend suddenly was all I could think of. Will I,

  • Make him complacent (you did well, the judges were wrong, they were partial etc.),
  • Make him insecure (others were better than you, you didn’t do actions, your voice isn’t clear) or 
  • Motivate him (there’s always a next time, you were awesome – next time do better etc.)

Deciding that I’ll motivate him, I sat and explained what I was reflecting post the result announcement (a watered down version of it). I told him how he did a great job (he sang a 2.5 minute song without forgetting even a single word) & how I messed up with song selection (Marathi song which didn’t engage the audience). I explained to him why the kids who won – won! After the result discussion, I underscored the importance of how him doing the best is more important than winning. I told him this is an opportunity to learn & become better in the next competition. I thought I got through to him when he listened intently for 30 minutes of my monologue. In the end, he said, “Mom, I understand all you said but I’m still feeling sad.” 

With nothing up my sleeve, I bribed him with a cake & a trophy I had in my house! Seeing that trophy, he had a twinkle in his eye. He showed it to everyone in the house, put it nicely in his cupboard & slept peacefully in the afternoon. I don’t subscribe to the way I’ve handled this, but I think that making him happy seemed a more important deal than making him realize “everyone can’t win.”

As I saw him sleeping, I thought about everything competitions can teach – sportsman spirit, grit, being innovative etc. & yet today I felt like concluding “competitions are great motivators but only if you WIN!”

Motherhood

Things I shouldn’t have taught my kid…

mom-lessons-4Raising a child right is more a test of your character than building his.

I understood this after some encounters with Sam. Things you do & say, quite inadvertently, are so easily picked up by kids of this generation, that its not funny! Obviously, to make him unlearn them – I have to unlearn them which is quite a task!

Here are things I wish Sam didn’t pick up from me.

Emotional Blackmail:

I was surprised at the effectiveness of this tool so naturally I ended up using it often. But this resulted in not only reduced effectiveness but also readied my son in this department. The other day, I was yelling at him for something he didn’t do. Suddenly, with puppy eyes (like #Pussinboots in the #Shrekseries) he says, “Mom, I know one day you will get very angry. You will not give me food to eat & even throw me out of the house…” So extreme was his reaction that I got worried & immediately hugged him saying, “Arre, can that ever happen!”

Oh I wish I had captured that cheeky smile after this line – only that could explain how I realized I am dealing with #emotionalblackmailkabaap

Making excuses:

In a corporate job, the one thing you can’t promise your kid is the time you will return home. Or rather, I couldn’t assure Sam I will reach at xx:xx hours. And most often, I had a good reason for it – like traffic jam, boss called in last minute, something went wrong etc. When he was so accommodating, I thanked my stars for such an understanding son. Alas, ‘as you sow, so shall you reap’ happened!

Sam started making excuses with, “I listened to you so you have to listen to me” deal. I am not going to cycle because it is raining, I won’t wear this because I am not “comfortable”, I cannot write now because I don’t feel like it etc.

Putting arbit senti:

Oh, I am quite a queen in this department (or so my friends ‘erroneously’ say). So, the other day, he was being fussy about eating food & I gave him gyaan on importance of food in getting energy, growing up etc. When he still didn’t listen, I told him, “You don’t want to listen to me then don’t hug me” He says, “But mom, I derive my energy from you. So, I am coming close. Why don’t you let me?”

What could I do after hearing this – I hugged him & smiled… Obviously, spinach in his plate bore the brunt of it!

Being a  Hypochondriac:

I was quite hyper whenever Sam felt ill. I have 4 pediatricians for consultations can help you visualize how out-of-hands my case is 😐

Anyway, so I constantly keep checking if he is showing any symptoms that can be a cause of concern. I think this constant talk of illness around him made him into this extremely conscious kid! The other day he says, “Mom, I feel like I am having dry cough – give me Piriton na” (yes, I am flabbergasted too that he remembered the medicine name) OR “Mom, I feel my stomach isn’t all that well, can I not go to school please.”

I became quite pensive about this being his character traits till sanity prevailed & I attributed them to just arbitrary instances. Yet, to be on a safer side – I’ve toned down display of these.

Hopefully, these will just be a temporary phase of toddler-hood & not come to bite me in future as character traits.

 

Motherhood

When chips are down…

high-fever-clipart-1There is nothing as heart wrenching as seeing a child that is sick (unwell/ill). And if that sick child is your own – the indecisiveness, the pandemonium, the perplexities – add fuel to the all-consuming fire! Whenever Sam is unwell, I’ve experienced a range of things. I had thought that with time, I will get better at this or get lesser affected.

However, I am surprised at how the intensity of being overwhelmed (by his sickness, self-doubt, pessimism, worry etc.) has not gone down even a notch in the last 4 years! What strikes me odd is the consistency with which I experience some of these things irrespective of Sam’s illness!

Shaking the core – Am I good mother??..
It’s amazing how often and how easily I find myself at this turn! Things like am I doing the right thing, am I making him worse of, did I not take care of him enough in his formative years that he falls ill so often keep badgering me. Every time I start thinking like this, I fall into an abyss with the only salvation of him getting better.

Some days, ‘friendly folks’ in their effort to show they care ask – why does Sam fall ill so often? This generic question nudges me in the direction – did I fail him as a mother? I realize this is stupid when he is well but when he isn’t this creeps up in the corners of my mind!

The eternal conundrum – when to go to the doctor…
With 4 years experience now, I sort of know some medications for small things like running nose, fever etc. Had I gone to the doctor, he would probably give the same ones so, I consciously (& logically) decide to wait it out & let nature take its course!

But since the diagnosis is not done by a man in a white coat, I’m predisposed to think of worst case scenarios. What if this fever is malaria & not viral? What if this cold is actually allergic & not weather related etc.

Simpler to go to a doctor then isn’t it but I think masochism is my new thing!

Is this medicine the short term answer or a long term fit…
I’m a proponent of natural healing. Basically, I believe that God made the body so he also gave it power to handle infection. With time & some home remedies you can get better without doctor shoving chemicals into your system! I rarely go to a doctor myself but with Sam I’m scared to take this approach.

Whenever I give him xx ml of multicolored syrups, I keep wondering how are the doctors assured that the medicines are not making bacteria more resistant? Aren’t strides in medicines also resulting in bigger strides in bacteria/virus resistance? I remember how one ‘Crocin’ would fix my fever up instantly & how Sam requires it so many times in the day.

All this runs through my mind – for the entire duration of his illness & while I sit up at nights taking care of him with nothing else to do! Luckily, this fades as easily as it surfaces. But right now, I am in the thick of it with Sam sleeping beside me & me waiting to monitor his temperature.

So, here’s my question for you – am I the only one (certifying my psychoneuroses) OR it’s actually normal for mothers to be in this place when their wards get sick!

Motherhood

Do you believe in star signs?

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I don’t!

According to my star sign, I’m a shy & sensitive girl who is afraid of challenges.. Well, you only need to meet me once to realize that I’m neither shy nor afraid of challenges.. So, basically I believed that any science which assumed sun revolves around earth had to be wrong!

But then, I went ahead and took Sam’s homework & something astrological happened! We had to do one page of sleeping lines (24 in all) & I thought to myself, this’ll get done in ten fifteen minutes & I’ll watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S rerun on comedy central. Could I “BE” any wrong when I think this? Here is how this simple task took me 2 hours.

We finished 2 lines, Sam started narrating what happened in school. While I’m an invested parent, this was no time to talk about it. So, I used all my patience to get him back on track only to draw 3 more lines until the next break.

“Maa, let me count how many are still left”, he said. “18”, I said so that he doesn’t waste more time & we finish the goddamn page. This felt like watching a movie on TV! And we went back to drawing.

With some more done, he started, “Oh! my hand is paining. I can’t write any more.” This was a lie since he had done the exact same sheet in school without a single complaint (else his teacher would have notified me) I told him, “No more excuses. We need to finish this now.” Looking at me & sensing my tone, he gave in & continued.

I felt really bad ‘coz I was too strict with him. So, I decided that he needs a little encouragement & positive narration of his work. (#whatTFItaughtme) Alas! This move only added to distractions. Now, we did a mini wave of “Yay.. Yay.. Yay..” every time I said, “Excellent line.”

I was tearing my hair apart by now so I stopped applauding. That backfired too! At less than 20 lines, he stopped & in all earnestness gave me a lecture on why I shouldn’t stop praising him (You have to meet him to know he has the potential to do this!). Later we flipped pages to see what’s in store, started scratching back/nose saying, “Arre, mosquito bit me – how is that my problem?”, called out the grandparents to show what we were doing etc.

Finally, with all the distractions we finished this page & he went off to play. Distraught at this complete lack of focus, I called my mom. I wanted to know if I troubled her with homework like this & she told me that I was a total rockstar completing homework by myself. Must be Viraj’s genes then I thought! But when I asked his mom, she also said something similar to my mom.

So, with no answer from genetics, I went to the stars. Linda Goodman wrote that a true Gemini can’t focus on any one thing! Think of someone working on the laptop with a story book on their lap, headphone in their ears & Facebook open on phone. Without asking you can be sure that the person is a Gemini! That explains it, I thought.

But I collapsed after that as a juggernaut force of realization hit me! I had 2 pages of homework to be done today… Sadly, in her book she didn’t give any suggestions as to how to get homework done of Gemini kids….

Motherhood

Am I killing the fun in my son’s life?

So, I’ve taken a 2 year sabbatical to teach children from low income families. During this time, I’m physically more available for my son; since the school functions only in the first half of the day. As a result, my son has now grown tired of me being excessively around 🙂

But all the tiredness aside, being around has it’s perks. Like a typical overenthusiastic parent, I decided that the time we have together, we will make good use of it. So, we ended up doing activities that he loves to do & me teaching him fun activities that I did when I was younger!

He loves painting & I literally helped him get his hands dirty when we painted 🙂 He loves stories & every time he slept, I told him a fresh story! He loves watching Disney cartoons & I was there to explain whenever he needed..

So far so good! But then came the stuff that I wanted to teach him. Like riding a bicycle without it’s support wheels, swimming, karate etc. Now, my intention of teaching these activities was to help Sam have fun – much like I did. My father taught these things to me so I wasn’t handled as delicately as I handled Sam. In about 3 months, he learnt to ride the bicycle without support wheels without falling even once (yes, I ran like a mad woman with him whenever he rode). He rides like a champ! While learning swimming, he doesn’t fear water anymore when it’s just been 7 days he has gone!

You would think all this is great, isn’t it! Then why the title? Because every time he rode his bicycle, it was because I bullied him into removing the support wheels! So, instead of a free spirit riding with wind in his hair, he is a scared child riding because his mother is making him (did I mention he never fell!!). He has learnt to float and kick. Yet, when it comes to diving or swimming alone, he cries in the pool (and this is when I’m constantly encouraging him & observing him. I’m even getting into the water next with him).

Am I being too demanding? But I see kids his age doing all these activities without needing any motivation! And he did volunteer to learn them! Like a true Gemini he just lost interest midway..

Am I being too pushy? Well, may be. Because next year, I won’t be around as much to run with him & get into water with him. I don’t want him to miss on these activities just because I’m a weekend mom!

Am I asking him to do this too soon? I learnt them when I was in third standard & the time I took to get over my fear was 3 times the time he took! And the ‘experts’ I spoke to said, “sooner they start, faster they learn”

Am I killing the fun quotient? May be.. Because as of today, he genuinely won’t do either of these activities if I don’t insist.

Strategy currently: Do not give up these midway but do not introduce any new activity!

Motherhood

Who would you rather be – Harry Potter or Ronald Weasley?

So I was inducting my son into the Harry Potter cult by telling him stories (customized for a three year old). I was reasonably happy that he seemed to like them. One day, we started giving character names to him & his friends. And obviously since I was doing the naming, Sam was supposed to be Harry Potter. As with most things, Sam surprised me yet again. However, I sold Harry’s role (brave, good friend, lead character etc.), he insisted on being Ronald Weasley! At first I was stumped but then I saw the pattern.

Sam is the first follower (watch here what this means). Always has been! I recounted numerous incidents, when much to my consternation he either followed his friend, his cousin or some random kid. One day I sat him down and had a tête-a-tête with him. “Sam, why do you always do what XYZ does? Why don’t you do your own thing?” And if you thought that I was troubling him, wait till you hear the response. His answer was (paraphrased to a large extent), “You also do follow know! While cooking you follow Aaji (mother-in-law), when we are driving you follow Baba (Viraj) etc. Do I come & ask you!” Obviously, there was only one thing I could possibly do when I got outwitted – I changed the topic (I know, really subtle!)

Did you ask yourself – why does she think of such ridiculous questions when her son is just three? I wish I had a profound answer to this but it’s rather silly! Since Sam’s birth, both Viraj and I keep wondering who he resembles most closely. For eg. he loves sweets so his food habits are like him, he is competitive so he is like me (here is why) etc.

When I tried to place this ‘follower’ behavior, I deduced that it mostly resembles Viraj. Being the younger sibling, he was a natural follower of his sister as a kid. But since Sam is the eldest cousin on both sides of the family, I believe that his ‘follower’ phase would be ephemeral. How much fun can, being older to a 2 year old and a 1 year old be when all they do is just sit and stare! But once they all get older, he will realize that the power of being the eldest comes with very little responsibility! Having enjoyed that for considerable amount of time, I can vouch for it. Being the eldest – I got to set rules, bully my sisters to get work done, get new books and pass them on to them etc. It’s too awesome to not become the leader when you are the eldest. I smile at the idea of how Sam would get to lead his pack of boys like I had mine of girls 🙂

And whenever that happens, the only thing I know for certain is that Viraj won’t be happy to have two ‘Sharmili-like’ people in his life 🙂

Motherhood

How to teach your child to lose?

You know had I been the author of “How to…” series – like how to build your confidence, how to win, how to make presentations etc. – I would have definitely included this topic.. You would ask why would anyone want a book titled anything to do with losing? But, trust me when I say this that there is a target audience for this book after all.. It all started when I needed to find a way to set Sam’s schedule..

So when you have to set your baby’s schedule, you rely a lot on your past experiences and on the power of praying to get it done right. I mean imagine your kid only eats food if puréed or has to have milk at midnight etc. – it can get troublesome! Therefore, working towards setting a baby schedule is a test of both faith and skill :). Everyone has triggers which are sure shots of motivation. Eg. Tell me something I can’t do or something that you challenge me to do and I’ll definitely do it. While I was grappling with baby tantrums, I stumbled upon competition as a way to motivate him.. So, Sam could be motivated to do anything by saying, “I think I’ll do this faster than you.. Or I’ll be first to complete this activity..” And it worked like a charm.. Drinking milk, bathing, finishing food – just tell him I’ll beat you to it and I didn’t have to worry about the activity being completed. I’ve managed just fine by egging Sam on in eating, bathing, sleeping, playing etc. competitions. And since the result of the competition was supposed to help me get my work done, he was the star of the competition 🙂 I would always lose and he would always win..

But at 3.5 years, I’ve gotten myself into another predicament.. Because the boy has been “he who shall not lose” since he understood the meaning of competing, the only outcome he knows is winning. Recently when I asked him to race with his friend or when my sister beat him to opening door, I’ve had a lot of explaining to do. And he/she was faster than you are isn’t an acceptable explanation. I took up remedial measures after this episode, by trying to compete with him and winning myself but that episode is followed by “katti with me (silent treatment from him for winning).” After this failed, I tried to explain how to lose graciously when a friend slower than him lost & didn’t cry (didn’t find anyone of his age group since all cried when they didn’t win, so resorted to 5 year olds) but that event just brings “Yayy! I won..” memory & no recollection of any profound learning I imparted. Then, I resorted to movies since most sports movies have underdogs losing first but winning in the end. He just didn’t have patience to sit through the whole movie to get my point. Then came mythological, fictional stories but they didn’t help either (partly because God won every time & fictional characters weren’t relatable)..

The only arrow left in my quiver is the wait n watch strategy – that may be at 5 years he’ll be OK with losing like those other kids were.

Motherhood

God, Sam & religion…

There is one school of thought where God & things related to God are ‘tangiblized’! Like a person who visits temples / chants God’s name / fasts / does Pooja / sings Aarti / joins hands in front of any idol / puts a Tika on forehead etc. is more religious than someone who doesn’t.

There is another and a rather more convenient school of thought! You have that one awful day (could also be an awesome one) and you close your eyes & converse with God. The visualizations could be a bright formless light or a God you believe in! You just open up to him – with all the skeletons in your closet or ask for a sign to know the right way or just chant the ‘Gayatri Mantra‘ quietly because your mother taught you – it will always show you the way!

If I were to ask you about 2 people you know – who do you think is God-fearing / religious? One of them who always does a tangible ‘God thing’ or the other whom you have never seen do anything! I am sure most of you would answer the first one, isn’t it?

And in such a scenario, if you want to bring up your son with values of being God-fearing, being religious – which is the most logical next step? Obviously, the tangible route, isn’t it? And when you have grandparents around, trust me, there is no other better route possible. I remember how my grandmother would tell us stories of Lord Krishna, Ganesha etc. to keep us engaged (& make us religious) while my mother was taking care of chores.

So, now Sam knows stories of Ramayana, Hanuman, Ganesha, etc. (Hindu mythology gives us 33 crore Gods to talk about with very interesting stories) & also sings Aartis / devotional songs in his past time like I would sing a Bollywood number. Yes! it is quite a scene at my place when Sam is singing Gajanana Gajanana (Lord Ganesha song) & my phone rings to ‘Sheela ki Jawani’ 🙂 Thanks to Sam, God is even present on my iPad which has games where you feed Lord Ganesha with Modak & where Lord Hanuman has to climb mountains to reach Lanka!

Then why does it still bother me? He has inculcated a deep sense of being religious which was the aim after all. But still something seems amiss! Because I think he knows these aartis / stories without knowing the real meaning behind them. He doesn’t know that being honest, being kind to everyone, being helpful, sharing with others – takes you closer to God than singing aartis 24×7. Yes, he is only 3.5 years old and I have a lot of time but the route that we have selected has forced my hand. So, while there are people in his life devoting time to all these tangible things, others are working towards the intangibles!

When he is old enough – I hope he is empowered enough to select his way of being religious! But till then – singing aartis & not lying will be taught with equal vigor!

Motherhood

Remember the first time you went for a movie?

This is what happened when Sam went for one. Back in the land of psycho moms ruled by a super psycho mom (yours truly), a random research dictated that right age to take your kid to a theatre is 5 years. FYI, there are really valid reasons for these findings (emphatic underscore on valid)! But on 25th Sep 15, I made an exception to my rule – not willingly just to add. At 3.5 years of age, a lot of cajoling and coaxing led me to take Sam to his first theatre experience! Apparently, my decision to protect his eyes and ears from damage was misconstrued as depriving Sam from “newer experiences” 😦

I was waiting for the right movie for him & even had analysis for a right show time (I just read this line again & realized it doesn’t portray me too well. But I would call this being analytical rather than being a psycho) – but given the push comes to shove situation, we ended up going to this:

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As we entered the theatre, Sam was mesmerised. I thought he’ll be scared of dark but instead was fascinated by the lights on steps. He loved the popcorn (the cheese one in particular). Obviously, there was a barrage of questions and welling up when a ‘motherly’ figure died. Luckily for me there was another mother to replace (read this if you don’t get why I was lucky). He couldn’t understand how in few minutes the baby became Prabhas but he was so mesmerised by initial scenes of the waterfall jump that he didn’t press his questions. Oh, I was so awkward about the dressing Tamanna up scene but I think I’ve a while to explain such things to Sam (Phew! Thank God for that). I kept asking him if he was fine through out the movie and he squatted me aside like a noisy fly!

It was then, I was beginning to feel that may be I did deprive him of movies while he was ready all along! Feeling of begin more a psycho than analytical crept in slowly. When intermission started Sam exclaimed, “I’m done with movie. Let’s go out”. I told him the movie was still not done and asked him if he wants to leave because his eyes or ears were hurting? He says, “I’m a strong boy with strong eyes so my eyes aren’t hurting”. Then sheepishly adds, “My ears are weak so they are hurting a little. Let’s go home!”

Suddenly, I felt vindicated. I was analytical & not a psycho to not take him. I took him out & he played at the game arcade with his father. But after that day, any new person he met he told them how he saw Bahubali and how he’ll be as strong as him one day.

I know people who have taken a 3 month old to the theatre & even those who waited till 5 years. I guess in this case it’s to each his own! May be the next time, I’ll take him to a nice short Disney movie & say the right age to take kids to a movie is 3.5 years!