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It takes a village to raise a child

 

There is an old African proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. And the sooner we acknowledge & work towards this, the easier and more meaningful parenting would be.

This village was in the form of neighbors, a large family, relatives, family friends, teachers & whoever wished us well & was willing to contribute in our parenting.

I remember when we were growing up in the ’80s, we were part of a village of our own. This village ensured-

– we were always someone’s pet & in turn always had a favourite aunt/uncle

– learnt something from everyone by observing dynamics of relationships, power, favoritism, unconditional love and other myriad feelings

– we were exposed to various cultures, traditions, festivities, cuisines and even professions

– there was always someone who had time for us, to listen to us, play with us, care for us, answer our questions

– we learnt from real experiences not only books, and definitely not simulated environments

– there was always a home with its doors open, a lady willing to lovingly look over us & feed us as/with her own brood

– playdates were not an orchestrated event, it was our whole life

– the mother was always assured that her child was safely in some other mother’s care, giving her the much needed breather to complete her chores

Today many households are nuclear, with a single child, and sometimes with both parents working. Making it squarely the responsibility of the two parents to play all the roles required to raise a balanced and happy child! They have to care for the child, feed him, play with him, entertain him; along with carrying out their other household, professional & social duties.

 

This requires mammoth organisational skills, time, resources, sacrifices and enough energy to power a whole village in itself. Jokes apart, it is actually asking a lot. No wonder tired parents take the help of technology from time to time to keep their children engaged. And themselves risk a burn out.

Today ‘Mamas, mausis, buas’ have been replaced by ‘maids and drivers’. It has made the process detached, programmatic and with trust issues.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a tribe to make this journey of parenthood easier & meaningful.

– A friend who is also the bus in-charge who will wipe away your child’s tears when he cries on the first day to school

– A mother who can receive your child from the bus stop if you are running behind schedule

– A friend who can send over dinner just because you don’t feel like cooking today

– A mother who can look after your older child while you take the younger one for vaccination

With collaboration comes friendly, well meaning advice, help & love; which makes the journey of raising children so much easier & joyful.

The village has one, and only one rule- Take with right, but it give back equally to the pool with love. So look for a tribe near you. Its joys will fill your and your child’s life. If you don’t find one, start one of your own.

‘Saying that I am not responsible for somebody else’s child, is like saying I am not responsible for somebody else’s air. In the end, the choices we make about our world and our children affect us all. No child is someone else’s child. A child is simply a child.’

This post appeared on Huff Post India as ‘Creating A Village To Raise Your Child’

Image credit Pinterest

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Please don’t call it labour pains

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Last week I had the opportunity to meet a mother to be at a family function. While I was congratulating her on her beautiful glow & how privileged she should be feeling with a life growing within her, all she talked about was her impending ‘labour’ and how anxious she was of the pain. She was fearful of even asking me how my experience was as she had already listened to frightful stories from other mothers!

Why don’t mothers encourage pregnant mothers with more positive experiences is beyond me! Why do women wear the length of their ‘labour’ as badge of honors & scare others is something I have not been able to understand.

Fine. Bringing a child into this world hurts. But doesn’t getting pierced or tattooed not hurt? Ok, there is no comparison between these two. There is absolutely no comparison between the two. One if for beautification & personal statement; while the other is the most life changing and selfless act. But I digress here.

This article is to tell all would be mothers to look at ‘labour’ as not laboring, but as ‘birthing’ or anything which makes it more positive. How about a ‘right of passage’. Birthing is as arduous a process for the baby as it is for the mother. But, by going through this process, the child receives many benefits.

Have you heard of the story where a small child watched a butterfly trying to come out of the cocoon, and after seeing it struggle, opened the sac to make the process easier. The butterfly did emerge, but because of the lack of the struggle, its wings had not developed properly and it could no longer fly. When you think of the birthing process as an enabler through which the mother is assisting the child to enter the world with dignity, love & strength, suddenly the mother is humbled & empowered.

If we only let our bodies and nature, do its job, pregnancy & birthing is a beautiful process. I wanted to tell that scared mom-to-be to trust, believe & be in awe of her body. Without being asked, her body would nurture the child for 9 months inside, and forever, outside her body. She will produce the best food for the child through her body for as long as the baby needs it. Did you know that the breast milk changes its formulation (actual constituents) according to the need of the baby!

Our first memory of birthing is old hindi movies where the pregnant woman is rushed into a room & is heard screaming; with the father pacing outside the door. Since then we associate birthing with pain. Pregnancy is not a medical condition that requires treatment. In older times, there was a loving dai who would comfort & assist the mother-to-be birth, as she had done for all women in the village/family/community. She knew the mother personally, attended to her throughout the pregnancy, offered advice, and loving brought her baby into the world. The western world is now waking up to this phenomenon, but we seem to have forgotten it, despite having given it to them.

A gynecologist friend practicing in the UK told me that NHS assigns a pregnant woman a mid wife for the entire pregnancy & through the birthing process. A doctor is usually called in only for emergencies. Why? Because our bodies know best.

When you receive forwards on Social media telling that child birth pain is equivalent to 20 bones breaking, please do read that during this time our bodies produce crazy amount of endorphins which give relief from this pain. And guess what, the amount of endorphins produced is good enough to give the mother a high! But we have started interfering with our bodies and the process, and scared ourselves enough to dread the final days. The doctors ask the already tired mother to ‘push’ the baby out, but did you know when we clench the jaw while pushing, we are closing the birthing path! We are doing it all wrong. The calmer the mother is, the more the endorphins get produced, and the smoother the process becomes.

So when you plan to book your pre baby photo shoot & your baby shower, do look up for natural birth & pre birth classes. There is inspiration and power waiting to be discovered which will change your outlook. Also, the next time you have your pre natal gynae visit, tell your doctor you want a natural birth and ask her to guide you to it. She may be shocked/surprised, but chances are she may view you with a new respect.

Just so you know, I was no different from the would be mother I met. But I decided to take help & make a difference.

Childbirth is the only time you will assist God in a miracle
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An apology to my first born child

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Yes I know, parents are expected to do what is right for the universe in general, and for their kids in specific. But, I didn’t know jack when I became a mom for the first time. In fact, I have no shame in owning up to everything I did wrong.

So here are a few things (I am pretty sure I’ll add more as I go along the parenting path) I would like to apologize to my first born child for!

1. Being overprotective

If some moms are called “helicopter moms”, I have been nearly Air Force One to you! I wouldn’t let you out of my sight for even a second. You’d sneeze and I would recheck all the layers you were wearing and trawl WebMD for information on all possible causes and effects. I’m happy to change five pediatricians until I’m satisfied I’ve found the right one for you.

2. Being a killjoy

Politely put, I was a killjoy for the first few years. I’d be overcautious of rolling down the car window, freak out about you jumping on the bed or sliding down staircase railings, make a big deal about letting you eat something not-so-nutritious… total killjoy.

3. You were my guinea pig

I cut my parenting teeth on you, and you’re the one I made all my first mistakes with. Right from when I took my first steps into motherhood to my entire journey, you were and will be the person with whom I do everything for the first time. And the success rate is not going to be perfect. From weather-appropriate clothes, most nutritious food, feeding patterns, right school, friends, play dates… trust me, my list will be pretty long with quite a few hits and misses.

4. Crazy expectations

Throughout your life, I will have high/weird expectations from you. Not because you are older, but because I will always believe you are capable of tremendous feats, and also because I know nothing better!

5. Hypersensitive to feedback

I will worry about and question my parenting skills when any feedback or advice comes my way. You see till now I had no experience, but I am not 100% OK with someone else’s either.

6. Going by the book

I read books, articles and blogs written on parenting styles, milestones, what to watch out for and what not. If you missed any milestones, you could bet on some of my hair turning white. You see it took time for me to be confident of my own motherly instincts and judgement.

On the flipside

So that was my guilt list of errors. But before you start wondering about why you were punished thus just because you happened to be born first, let me share some of the beautiful things about our bond.

1. You brought about the biggest life-changing event for me. I have never been more proud of what I as a human could achieve. You made me a woman from a girl.

2. All my first parenting experiences were with you. Your first smile, first full night’s sleep, your first tooth, first vaccination, first scraped knee… you bought in the first of everything.

3. I became obsessed with you. I am positive I have been called crazy behind my back because I have bored everyone with your pictures, anecdotes (which seem funny only to the parent). I’d give you weird funny names thinking they were cute. (Ok, this point might be better off in the mistakes list, but trust me I had only good intentions!)

4. You got the first and for the longest time, the best of me—my love, my patience, and yes practically speaking my physical strength.

5. You brought so many new relations to life—people become grandparents, aunts, uncles for the first time thanks to you!

As the adage goes, “Behind every happy kid is a mom who’s pretty sure she’s messing it all up!”

This post appeared on Huff Post India as ‘An apology to my first born child’

Image credit Pinterest

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Young teachers

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As I sit in my yoga pose searching for my zen & trying to still my mind which is trained to run parallel errands lists, I happen to look at the children in the playground near my home.

And I realize that as adults we are duty bound to teach children so many things. But isn’t it amazing what children can teach us in return.

Here are some-

  1. Fear-

A child knows no fear. He’ll jump two stairs at a time. Always. He’ll run at the top speed his pudgy legs would carry him at. He’ll tell you on your face if what you have cooked is tasty or not. He will call the slightly obese person ‘fat’ without any malice.

Children have no fear- physiological, psychological, or sociological. They embrace and emit what is, as is.

2.  Ego-

A child sees everyone and everything in the same vein. They take everything at face value, and earnestly. They laugh for no one but themselves. They dance for pleasure. Even when no one is watching. Maybe without music too J. Their universe is inside them.

3. Live in the moment-

They do everything whole-heartedly, immersing themselves in the act. May it be eating, playing, sleeping, or horsing around. They don’t remember what happened 5 minutes back (unless you took away their candy & we are in the middle of a tantrum) and are not concerned about the future. The present moment is where they live. Happily. Always. Giving it their best & their all.

 4. True happiness-

They feel from their heart & their happiness is pure. Simple things like a splash in the puddle, or being able to stand on toes to press the elevator button which 3 months back was out of reach, or an unexpected tickle can make them happy. They don’t need outward materialistic things to give them joy.

 5. Yogis-

Children are born yogis. Upto the age of four, most children will naturally choose to sit in poses which are complex yoga asanas. Their bodies are part of a fluid continuum which they are discovering and slowly putting to use. Most of their games are stretches & bends which we adults need to perform under guidance lest we invite injury.

6. Laugh-

Children have a belly laughter. They can laugh till tears stream down their cheeks. They gurgle with laughter which they can’t control. Its contagious & the most beautiful thing to witness. On an average a child laughs 300-500 times a day and it can be brought about by the silliest of things. We adults don’t even manage 15 laughs a day (and that too after many whatsapp forwards or mostly at someone else’s expense).

7. No concept of time-

Children can’t rush anything up. They will kick each & every stone in their way between the home & bus stop. Its your problem if the bus might miss, not theirs. They don’t multi-task, neither physically, nor in their heads.

8. Play-

If necessity is the mother of all inventions, then play is definitely the father. I read this in my children’s school. And how true is it! Children don’t play to win, to score, or to improve their skills. They play because it is fun to go whooshing down a slide. Maybe fall in the process. But that’s fun too.

9. The joy of eating-

They eat their food with their mouths. Not as an instagram opportunity, or a zomato rating, or something which is just sustenance. They savour what they are eating. They’ll close their eyes with every mouthful of the ice cream as if it was their first, or their last. They will eat it with greed, with pleasure and with satisfaction.

10. Forgive and forget-

They don’t hold grudges. A minute ago they may have hated you (yes, their emotions are quite strong) for taking away the remote, but just now they love you. They don’t bring up old incidents for getting even in an argument. They don’t keep records of fights. They only care how much you love them now, in this moment.

11. Imagine-

Children have boundless imagination! They can role play  effortlessly, become a tree, a dog, weave stories, have weird names, games… the list is endless. They can imagine themselves as anything. They don’t know the concept of capabilities defining/limiting opportunities.

12. Magic-

Children believe in magic with all innocence & honesty, and their parents and loved ones to be capable of all magical powers. They believe in fairies and fairytales.

To me, Magic = Boundless imagination + Unmoving faith

Which is also the formula for success.

 13. Passion-

Children are filled with passion. Ask a toddler to describe his favorite toy, and behold his animated 5 minute description. They give their all to whatever catches their fancy.

14. Love-

Children love purely. Not because they want something in return. Not because it is a social requirement. Not because they feel inadequate. But they love, because they like you. And because for them it is their only way of expression. No fancy cards, dinners or presents. Just a hug or an ‘I love you’ is what they have.

As parents we are in such a rush to get over the difficult, tiring, diaper changing, feeding and dependent years. We want our children to grow up fast. We feel we have earned the right by becoming parents to teach them everything we have garnered as wisdom and experience. But I think, it should be the other way around. With children, we have an opportunity to unlearn everything that has cluttered & bottled us up, and become free and wild again. They are the true teachers.

‘Getting older is inevitable, but growing up is a choice. Embrace your inner child. No matter what age you are’

This post appeared on Huff Post India as ’14 things children can do way better than adults’

Image credit Pinterest

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I was told my child could not color between the lines. And it made me happy!

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For nearly two years I was told that my four year child could not color between the lines. And, has poor handwriting? Can’t take instructions you see.

So what did I do? Did I sit with her practicing formations and coloring within the dotted lines?

Nope.

Don’t spend hours trying to make her fall in the line. Instead, explore what she is inclined towards. And you’ll be surprised (and mighty proud) of what you find. Did you know that sea horse is the only male animal/fish to actually give birth? And that the giraffe is the only animal which cannot make any sound. I learnt this with my child who is fascinated with animals.

It could be blocks, story reading, animals,… the possibilities are endless because a four year old child doesn’t know the lines to bind her. Its been fed into our heads that we are good at this or that; not hers, at least not yet.

Unbridled she will blossom. Good handwriting & coloring never created a masterpiece. Being unique & willingness to explore new things did.

What do you want to be known for? Impeccable handwriting? Ok, maybe if you are aiming to become a calligrapher. Who says a good handwriting is important for success in life? Communication is important, not the writing. It is merely for the readers convenience.

A fellow mom was one day hastily summoned to the school and told that her 5 year old child was not following the traditional/teachers’ way of writing the alphabets. She had apparently devised a shortcut to the formations. The poor mom was at her wits end figuring out how to overcome this disaster.

I told her to book a table & celebrate with her husband. Her small child had done what we at 40 struggle to do. Reinventing!

So the next time you are told that your child has poor handwriting, thank the person, leave the room, hug your kids & be happy. You have a unique kid. Don’t force the kids to follow. Be brave to see & nurture the uniqueness. It’s an admirable quality.

Be your child’s first, last & best ally. Tell her she is unique & polish her sparkle. She will meet too many people wiling to tell her otherwise.

 

P.S. I have been told I suck at parenting. So pls exercise discretion after reading this. You see I am just trying to raise individuals. Not mini-me’s.

And by the way, after 2 years, my child did color within the lines. But can make a mean dinosaur too.

‘The true sign of intelligence in imagination, not knowledge- Albert Einstein’

This post appeared on Huff Post India as ‘I was told my child could not color between the lines. And it made me happy!’

Image credit Pinterest

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The unlikely woman behind the success of my career

 

When women support each other

As I look back at my 16-year career, spanning different industries, each demanding, ever-evolving and keeping me on my toes, I cannot help but see the enablers who helped me to succeed. The better part of these 16 years was after I got married and started a family.

Yes, my mother raised me and played an important part in my education and decision-making, and I owe my being to her, but the woman who actually ensured I went to office every day and led a successful professional life was my mother-in-law. Yes, it seems strange and it isn’t something we hear of often, but I’m proof that it’s possible. She shared my struggles, enjoyed my success and offered support and stood by me as my mom would have. We were just two women making our way in the world.

It’s almost fashionable now to stay away from your in-laws and have your child raised by an outsider.

Here, you might be tempted to scoff at me. To say how I had it all laid out conveniently for me, making it a breeze for me to continue full-time work. And how lucky I am etc. Trust me, it’s not a breeze, nothing in life ever is—but isn’t the effort worth everything?

As any other working mother of two small, naughty/demanding children, the only way I could give my 100% at work, have ambition and work towards achieving it, was when I knew my children were safe, unconditionally loved and cared for in the best possible way. How could I depend on an outsider to do this? At work, we assign a job/task to the best suited, right skilled and dependent team member. At home, why can we not look at our mothers-in-law in a similar way?

In the boardrooms and office hallways I have so often heard the joke that the person responsible for a woman’s active career is a maid. Without a stable, reliable and skilled maid, your house can’t function, and therefore you can’t function in the office. In virtually the same breath, they say they choose not to live with their in-laws because it’s better if a distance is maintained.

When we are willing and more than ready to go out of our way to accommodate, appease and compromise with external help (maids, nannies and childcare), why have we suddenly become less tolerant of our family members? It’s almost fashionable now to stay away from your in-laws and have your child raised by an outsider.

In my opinion, grandparents are perfect guardians for our children in our absence—after all, they did a good job of raising us back in the day! As a woman I wish more women try to find support at home, and go on to achieve great things outside: “When women help each other, incredible things happen.”

This post also appeared on HuffingtonPostIndia as ‘Your Mother-in-Law could help you achieve career success’

Image credit Instagram

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Become Interesting

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Have you noticed how some people are always full of stories & anecdotes. How they become the heart/soul of a party/gathering, and draw people like a magnet.

Ok, so lets become interesting. But how? These are people who have experiences, not, merely possessions. A new place, a new type of food, a new experience, that they enthral you with! Have stories to tell.

If in your last 10 conversations you have nothing new to say/tell people, you are in big trouble…. Take that as a sign and make some stories, have some adventures, life life, else you will end up with life passing by without you having lived it.

Take baby steps.

The easiest is by travelling. The journey itself will give you few starts, then the food you discover on the way, the people you meet, the place you stay in, the new places you visit, the photos you click……

Books are another way to go places before you visit them in person, and peeping into people’s thinking & minds before meeting them!

Whatever you choose to do, just start having fun in life….. That’s the surest way of making an interesting personality. Do everything you did before you became wise (or so you think), when you were a child & didn’t care if you looked silly wearing mismatched socks, just because you wanted to.

But why is it important to be interesting? I’ll tell you why. Not only because this will come handy professionally, but personally too.

Harvard said in a report that an important characteristic it seeks from applicants is that they should be ‘interesting’. What it means is that academic & extra curricular excellence is now the baseline, not a merit. You have to have an extra dimension to your personality to make you stand out.

In the professional world, interesting, lively people are more successful. They connect easily, have a wider social network & can easily fit into newer situations & milieu, thus have more propensity to grow.

Personally, these people are more open to change, are adaptive & open to risk taking, as that’s the part of their nature which makes them interesting. They experience live more openly, are less judgemental, don’t lose their mojo, and don’t get hit by mid-life crisis ;-D.

But why are we discussing this here? Well, because we should start early right? Open up your child’s horizons. Give her experiences, not just possessions. Encourage fickle mindedness (but in moderation). Let her try her hand at different things till she finds her calling. The process of elimination will eventually lead to the best fit, and in the course give her stories from the various things she experienced!