Friday, December 14, 2007

Give your child roots and wings!

I had written earlier about some of my thoughts on parenting. The thought process will go on forever because once a parent, you are always a parent. When you are in the process of raising children, at least in the formative years, you let your instinct guide you. But in an every changing world, it helps to make adjustments and compromises and know when to let go and which battles to pick.

I read this article recently and I wonder what the world is coming to. How competitive can parents get? How base can one be in order to make his/her child win? And as you read this article, you think of “these” people, the nut jobs who cannot control themselves. Yet it is a reminder that the years to come brings forth a completely new set of challenges that will be more challenging than one may imagine them to be.

I am reminded of the conversation with my Ob/Gyn (I have said this before in some comment) when I told her “I can’t wait for both the kids to be two plus years of age, then it will be OK”. In her wisdom, she told me “Be careful what you wish for, it might be a goal you chase every two years”. Each year as they grow up, a new set of challenges start emerging.

I see it happening with KB. I used to think meal and naptime battles were hard. He was an angel child otherwise. He would be content playing on his own with what ever toys or Tupper ware containers he managed to get his hands on. He would hardly cry, even during his meal times. He was a slow eater and a restless sleeper. But in every other way he was good. And then it hit – those “Terrible two’s”! I could write a separate post on this new child but I am sure each of you who has crossed this point know what I am talking about. When did this happen? This gentle child now is more adamant than I can imagine. He fights me in his own special way enough for me to budge and yield to him when I swore to him “NO”! And what do I do when he insists he WILL not allow me to bathe baby girl, instead will do it himself and grabs the mug of water from me? I can physically over power him but there he is bawling his guts out in the most pitiful manner like I am torturing him. By the time I finish feeding him, baby girl, have my own lunch, change their diapers, make them nap and come and sit for a few minutes, it feels like I have fought a mini battle to earn this quiet time. And this is only supposed to get worse – with more challenges? More mental challenges? Yes, I am told. Wait and see, those with older kids say.

My friend told me the other day that his colleague at work has a son who is a freshman at one of the nation’s top universities. He has a roommate who has bipolar disorder. Apparently her son’s name features in his “hate list” on his face book entry. When the mother complained to the dean of her concerns, he told her that she could ask her son to change rooms if he so wished. But her son does not want to consider this option for fear that his friends would think he is a “wuss”! Now what should a mother do? In the wake of horrible killings one sees in the news, is she supposed to just sit back and let her son deal with it? What if something bad really happened? Can she live with the guilt of letting her son deal with it on her own? Or should she force a decision upon him?

Such situations crop up even at the toddler stage. Minor as it is, as a mother you do feel for your child. Especially when he/she is truly that – a child. When and how much do you interfere? KB for example does not grab toys from other children. He is willing to share his toys provided he is not using one of them at that moment. If some kid grabs it from him, he protests. He still does not know how to go and grab it back. He starts saying “Give it to me, give it to me”. And if he doesn’t get it back, he starts crying. When this happened at my friend’s place, she was not happy when I interfered and told KB that he should stop crying and that he could play with some other toy. She told me “Let them figure it out”. For one, baby girl was napping right there, I didn’t want him to wake her up. Two, how long do I let him cry? He was at my friend’s place and the toy KB had in his hand then was not his toy but the other kid’s toy. I felt I had to interfere. She was feeling bad for her son because he is not able to verbalize his feelings like KB and said that children who can do that and can cry it out get all the attention. Where as children who cannot do so and hence grab etc get the flak. It is hard in these situations to get into the nitty gritty of what happened. It feels too petty to do that. But if you don’t, you come back with some nagging feeling that something was left unsettled. There are no right answers.

The question that comes out of such situations is how much do you interfere? When I read such articles like the one I mentioned here, I think to myself, “God please, I hope I don’t ever become such an interfering micro managing parent”. You hope that along with your child, you will grow and find the wisdom to handle the pain that your child goes through in some social situations. You want to give them the feeling of security and love in their own home just so they can withstand things outside of it. It breaks your heart to see your child in even the mildest pain. I can imagine how some parents just break and take it upon themselves to wipe out the pain in their children’s lives. I see now that being a parent is also about being able to allow your child to experience both the joy and pain of growing up. Shielding them from pain and protecting them only prevents them from growing up into a capable adult. I read in some comment recently: “The best thing you can give your child are roots and wings”. Aptly said. Something to remember in the coming years.

12 comments:

S said...

Very thought provoking post indeed. Like you say, there are no 'right' answers .. we just have to figure out stuff as we go along.

ranjani.sathish said...

This was a very good post noon ! It pretty much reflects my own thoughts on the challenges of child rearing. I loved this line "I see now that being a parent is also about being able to allow your child to experience both the joy and pain of growing up. Shielding them from pain and protecting them only prevents them from growing up into a capable adult". It is very true, but it is so difficult to demarcate the thin line between "being there as a support for your child" and "keeping a little distance away to give them the space to handle their problems".

This post of yours makes me want to do a post on some of the challenges I face in my day to day life..hope I get to it soon !

You are coming up so quickly with posts these days...I like it :-)

Aryan said...

Very well written and thought provoking..post. You are right about not doing micro management. Even we don't like to be micro managed by anyone, then why should we do that to our kid...

noon said...

Hi S - thanks. There are no right answers - most of the time we are in the gray area !:)

Ranjani - thanks. Pl do post - would love to read it.
And I find myself weak in this point (I guess at different levels we are all weak when it comes to our children) - I just get so stressed out if I see my child in pain - right now it is only physical pain - as they grow up - all these new challenges will come up...

noon said...

Aryan - very true. Except you are held responsible each time something goes wrong - Hey - what was the parent - esp the mother - doing?! That's what you hear most! But yeah I often think I should treat my children the way I would like to be treated. Even in simple things like meals - like today I did not feel like eating at all since it was late by the time I could sit for dinner. I just had cereal even though I had made rice for myself. But if KB wanted to skip a meal and just eat cereal again - I would probably try and coax him into having a proper meal unless he really fought me hard and insisted on cereal. I feel bad for these poor kids really. For good and bad, they are at our mercy!

Rohini said...

Basically, there are no 'easy' times for us coming up anytime soon....

Preethi said...

a well written well thought out post.. and like you say the challenges only change with age.. it never goes away I think.
As for the grabbing troubles.. Kb is being good in voicing his troubles rather than getting physical.. you need to encourage that.. but is it really ok to tell him to give up and take another toy? shudnt we be telling the other kid its not ok to grab?? I had the same troubles with acouple of kids who would come over to play with Nantu. I usually tellthe kids that its not ok to grab.. and tell Nantu that itssnot ok to scream ...
As they grow older it might be a good idea to let them have it out by themselves.. but 2 is too early to start that... my two cents!

Aryan said...

BTW—Yes..you are right. For good or bad, kids are at our mercy.
A thought just now came when I heard about this eating habit. The other day Aryan did not eat anything. From office when I came my amma told this. I said, why you did not show him stick and make him eat. He eats when we show him stick. My amma simply refused that and said, not every day you eat whatever I give. Same is for kids.. If they don't eat one day leave them alone. Don't be too much bossy. If you are, once in for all you will spoil his eating habits. She said, "Konjam vettu pedikanam". But I feel if I do the vettu thing..I cannot pedichufy later.

My amma is great I cannot be like her...

noon said...

Rohini - for sure! :)

Preethi - thanks. I felt compelled to tell him to give up and take another toy only because it was not his toy in the first place.
I think so too - two is too early for them to figure things out on their own totally.

Aryan - I like your "Tanglish" - pedichufy etc! :) Well, in my case, if I don't force KB to eat, he will be happy then, but later will be so cranky and won't eat even more and will continue to be cranky because he will be hungry...so I try to make sure with some coaxing to get past starting trouble, I somehow give him his meals on time...

noon said...

BTW - Anitha (Nikki's mom) - I saw (when I finished reading your birth story) that you had the same quote posted. Quite a coincidence. I saw this in the comments someone had posted in some random blog I happened to read (not the one I regularly read). It was quite amazing to see it in your blog too after I posted this!

Poppins said...

Very beautiful post ! I would have reacted the same way as you, and sometimes yes I do worry about the micromanaging part versus benign neglect. Mostly though I know how you feel right now about KB, as we are sailing in the same boat.

Wish I had answers to give. All I can say if we are good humans, doing our best to raise our children, giving ourselves, our attention to them, it will come to use eventually. And they will be truly OK.

As for your friend, she should insist her son move out of that room!

DotMom said...

i had read the horryfying story you linked to.. that's an extreme.. i think most helicopter parents are benign to others... I let Chip deal with things like toys etc. and when doubt, Chip always needs to give back the toy. One day, I hope he realizes that he is a better peron when he does that.