Parenting: The Stuff They Never Tell You

I am a semi-helicopter mother and not proud of it. Here are some things I’ve gleaned in the past few years of parenting. I’m not sure how helpful this is but for those contemplating marriage and eventually kids, do read this once. It may give you a different perspective (read abstinence or hardcore contraception) or it may reinforce what you see and hear in front of you everyday anyhow.

So..here we go!

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#1 Having a conversation with anyone else barring your child is like being in a boxing match. It goes like this- you speak 1,2,3 and someone jabs you. You try to regain your balance and speak again 1,2,3 and this time it’s an uppercut.

There are rare conversations that you can have without being interrupted; till you decide to give it up and just focus on the kid. And guess what precious nugget comes your way when you do? It’s quite possibly something along the lines of – (imagine it being spoken in all caps) “You know what? My poop is all orange from all the nachos I ate yesterday!!” And you nod helplessly because you hung up on an overseas call with your BFF to hear about your kid’s bodily function.

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#2 Farts are important. If they stink, how loud they are. If you’ve noticed the abovementioned smell and noise. If you haven’t they’ll probably poop their pants trying to squeeze one out that the whole neighborhood can be proud of.

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#3 You have to watch everything you say. Literally. Imagine becoming a psychotic with visual hallucinations where the words you think materialize in front of your face. You reject a few and allow the rest of them to be uttered. If you don’t, the next time you may be subjected to a bout of , ” Gimme a break or a ” Oh for crying out loud!” from a 1st grader because you cut off digital media or pool access at pre-agreed upon times.

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#4 Pool times are deadly. The child *never* remembers that staying for too long in the water causes their skin to prune up. When you tell them their time’s up, they mimic dolphins and scoot away from you.

Wading into the pool and dragging them out leads to yells and screams tantamount to child abduction with people looking at you and your offspring in distaste for causing ripples in their recreation or serenity.

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#5 Some part of the body always hurts during homework or DEEEEP sleep to rival Rip Van Winkle’s comes on in droves and it goes away only when the threat of homework does. And then, the recovery is more miraculous than the walking on water phenomenon! Faster too!

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#6 Waking the child up in the mornings is a drama par excellence. The hands flung over the eyes a la Scarlett O’Hara, the burrowing into the covers like a mole and coiling up smaller and smaller like a worm or a snake makes you gobsmacked! One child going through all these changes in a matter of seconds is nothing short of amazing.

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#7 Say goodbye to your stereo and tv and tablets. The kid rules all and owns all. You don’t come in second. You don’t come in. Period.

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#8 Holiday destinations are decided by where the wild things are. Literally. The continent with the most venomous snakes, biggest crocs makes the cut. Relaxing at a beach? Sure…but can you also see the Inland Taipan or the Tasmanian Devil? No? Then it’s a no-go.

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#9&#10– these two are probably the most annoying IMHO. Your bedroom and your bathroom time are no longer your own. And that’s mystifying because why on earth would someone want to spend so much time talking to you through the bathroom door, wanting to know what you’re doing, when you’re coming out and even going to the extent of shoving their ever-growing drawings of dragons under the door for you to peruse while you’re focused on something entirely different and faar more important.

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They creep you out by looming over you in the weekends; the one time you don’t have to run and bundle them into clothes and catch the school bus. They whisper slowly into your ears, distorting dreams with reality; often shoving tiny fingers up your nose to wake you thoroughly and even body flop on your sleeping, unsuspecting self just to tell you they LOVE YOU. And you feel compelled to reply in kind while you blindly kick out, hoping to connect with that tiny butt and get them the hell out of your sacred sleeping space.

Ah parenting…what a ride!

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Free-Range Vs Helicopter Parenting: Indian Scenario

I am all for being a hands-off parent. I really would like to be able to observe my child, see him grow rather than always be present while he is doing his thing. For someone who has been a SAHM from the first moment, it is quite a treat to be able to see your child interact with their environment, peers and the world at large without literally (and figuratively) pulling at the leash.

However and this is a big however, the concept of Free-Range parenting  isn’t always viable for the Indian mindset or for that matter the pan-Asian mindset.

While I cannot comment knowledgeably on a generic Asian temperament per se, let’s just say that it allows for a lot less permissiveness in the interaction between children, young adults with the adults they encounter. It’s not borne out of a compulsion of seeing the kids become “docile”, “controlled” or even submissive but out of a Father/Mother knows best funda which seeks to leave decision-making in the hands of an adult till the child reaches the sensibilities of an adult and can take independent decisions and their consequences.

And that’s ultimately what any parent worth their salt is concerned about- consequences. Children primarily lack the ability to make judgement calls before a particular age sets in and I personally believe that for quite a few people, that age usually starts in their late teens or early twenties. The reason being that while they reach this age the gamut of experiences that they go through are more definitive and they pay more attention to the learnings that arise out of it, rather than having the moral of the story outlined (if you will) by their parents the way it was done during their early years.

And let’s not even open up the can of worms that includes predators et al. The world is a difficult place to navigate even for adults. Children with their innocence/lack of experience aren’t always able to gauge with certainty who they should place their trust in. A child is a child for a reason. Despite being conditioned to be responsible, or inherently of a more compliant nature, a child can lapse into carelessness, callousness and self-indulgent behavior because knowing altruism, benevolence or how to do the right thing isn’t what the doctor ordered for a 7 year-old.

And to expect them to be any different is to expect munchkin-sized adults to be walking around while looking much cuter than the normal-sized ones.

And what does this have to do with being a Helicopter Parent Vs. A Free-Range one? Well as adults we learn about balances and being a parent is the toughest balancing job in the whole world. The tightrope walking kind of pales in significance because there isn’t always a safety net and the worst case scenario is far worse than any of us could begin to fathom. So it comes down to this…is it better to suffocate your kid as a helicopter parent or not know where your kid is or doing what and to what extent because you’ve eased up too much on the free aspect of free-range parenting? Isn’t even a mild case of paranoia a given for a parent? Or do we actually sleep better knowing a 10 year old will definitely look both ways before crossing the street or a 5 year old knows what intuition is and is guided by it?

So while I veer more to the side of helicopter parenting (much to my chagrin) on matters of education, teaching of good behavior and imposing of rules et al; there are times when I can wear the mantle of a free-range parent as well. And I can give a good amount of leeway only because I stayed close, watched every step and made sure the most avoidable dangers could be identified and well…avoided. Some days I hop,skip and jump all over the place being both kinds of parents because the situation and my innate nature demands it.

But know this, no amount of parenting will help if an asteroid hits the earth and wipes away all of humanity. All you can do is know that you are being true to yourself while you bring your child up and despite all the time-outs, angry glares and whatnot if your child is genuinely happy to see you first thing in the morning and runs to tell you about every scrapped knee to every new bug he spotted on the road, then maybe, just maybe you haven’t screwed it up.

Just something to think about.

 

 

The Perils of Healthy Living

The biggest irk about “healthy living” is when it’s forced down your throat by someone who thinks they (meaning the rest of the family) ought to change their eating habits.

Recently Red went on a road trip with a childhood friend who has embraced healthier options in his life vis-a-vis his eating habits. This individual didn’t wake up one day and find a roll of fat around his waist and decided to go the Atkins way but thoroughly researched everything there is to find out there online and made changes right from the cooking oil to the stuff that finally winds up in his stomach.

Red was impressed. I wasn’t. It’s very easy for someone who doesn’t manage the kitchen to waltz in one day and ask for top-bottom changes in what we eat, what it’s made in and how it’s going to be made; and not lift a finger in the process. And the person asking for the said changes is slightly finicky about his grub to begin with.

But housewives being the modern-day Atlas, the brunt of doing the research fell on me, as was wont. Keeping all preconceived notions aside of what passes for good cooking traditionally I hit the Internet and started looking for credible sources (meaning I looked beyond Wikipedia) and I was surprised to find that Red and consequently his friend weren’t wrong. Canola oil, rice bran oil and many of the “lighter oils” I had known about earlier and thought were good for the heart and the overall health of a person, were actually not all that great. I found this and this to be helpful in understanding the matter at hand.

Still, I find that new findings crop up every now and then and there are still things which may end up being matters of long-term debates viz microwave cooking- impending health hazards vs. unsubstantiated myths. And now suddenly making these kind of changes is a bit tough. And we do it because no one wants arteries clogging up at 35. But more still because if there’s the slightest possibility of any of the findings being accurate then we owe it to ourselves to read a significant amount of literature backing pros and cons of the issue and then taking a call.

But in the meanwhile it gets me a bit testy to have Red looking over my shoulder of signs of improvement of “healthiness” in our eating patterns.

Very tough to be a meat and potatoes kind of person AND a midnight snacker in this day and age I must say,