Why I sweat the small stuff

Why I sweat the small stuff

Dear H and N,

You know as well as I do that mornings aren’t the best time of the day for us. The stepping out of that warm quilt, the quick shower, the scramble for the id-card, the rush to the bus-stop – not quite your favourite things. I know.
A lot of these things aren’t really mandatory at school – like the bath or the ID card. And yet I insist. No you cannot stay up late on a school night, you cannot stay home just because you are feeling lazy today, you cannot go without a bath and you have to put your towel out to dry, yes you have to wear your ID card every day and yes you have to make two ponytails.
“But my teacher doesn’t mind,” you had whined today. You have a point, of course. So why should we struggle and worry and pick an argument every morning?
No I’m not crazy, though you may not quite believe it yet.
Let me begin at the beginning.
I was brought up in a disciplined household where we were taught to respect rules, at home and in school. Like you, I didn’t always agree with my parents. Many days I scrambled for the bus. I trimmed my nails on the way to school, I cut up my ribbon to make the mandatory two ponytails when I forgot. And when I couldn’t ‘manage the situation’ I was prepared for the punishment aware that I was at fault. Not that I had a choice.
It’s tough, isn’t it? Doing it the ‘proper’ way all the time?
As I grew I learnt that it was okay to stretch the deadline, be a little late, bend the rules and then further I learnt it was okay sometimes to not be completely honest. Yes I learnt all of that and I did it too.
So, I hear you ask, when we have to grow up to live in an imperfect world why not begin to learn its ways right now? Why struggle to learn things we will need to unlearn later? It’s the easier way, the more comfortable one, after all.
Here’s why..
Imagine my mum had told me it was okay to lie occasionally, that rules didn’t much matter and punctuality was useless. Would I, then, have even tried to do any of those things? How would I have even known right from wrong?
There lies the difference.
Each time I took the easy alternative I knew it wasn’t quite right. And I did try ever so hard to stick to the rules before I took up the other way. Even while I’m aware that I live in an imperfect world, I continue to appreciate and value a good habit, a disciplined lifestyle, an attempt at doing the right thing. The awareness of good and bad is the first step to striving for the good and it is my job to pass on this awareness to you, dear children, in as undiluted a form as I possibly can.
For now you will simply have to believe that the rules are there for a reason. In another few years you’ll be gone, studying and living on your own. I know then you will dump many of them. Do that, by all means, enjoy the freedom, stay up late, skip the bath, miss the bus. I did it too. What you do later in life, how you use your childhood lessons, whether you use them at all, will depend entirely on you.
I am hoping, however, that when you’ve had your fill of freedom, reason will return, like it did to me. I am hoping, as you grow you will see the wisdom of these age old values. Not all will stand the test of time and that is fine. You will question them and change them and make some of your own.
But when it comes to the really big things, I am hoping, you will know right from wrong and that you will find the courage to do the right thing.
I am counting on it.
That’s why I sweat the small stuff now – because often it is the small stuff that makes a big difference.


Love and hugs


36 Replies to “Why I sweat the small stuff”

  1. I think making rules and seeing them enforced, most of the times, is not small stuff. Ok, once in a while one can skip them but the same becoming the norm can be disastrous in the long term. I have seen a particular grown-up from very close who was never made to understand the value of rules, punctuality and discipline; who had it whichever way he liked and now the family living with him bears a certain degree of hardship because things with him hardly move. Thus, I am with you on your expedition of enforcing rules. I am myself a rule-oriented person and since I am raising up D all on my own with husband being away for more than a year, I hope I have done some rule drilling in D.

    1. That's the thing Anamika – this can be done only while the kids are young, after that it becomes harder for them to learn the basics and some of them never do get around to it.

  2. I so agree with you, Tulika. I went to a convent, where the nuns were so strict that we dreaded them. But as I grew up I was, and still am , thankful for all the rules we dreaded.
    I am sure your children will be thankful as well. I loved reading this post.

    1. Oh me too. I loved going to school. We had these Irish nuns who were particular about everything – how we sat, walked and talked. I think that worked for me.

  3. This reminded me of the discussion I had with my husband a few days back. I keep insisting and pushing my daughter to do things on time, be prim and all proper. He believes in stretching the rules a bit and not really things having to be proper always.. I should now show him this post. ..

    1. I think it is a very individual thing and has a lot to do with the way we were brought up ourselves. My husband and I differ too but the basics need to be agreed upon. Good luck to you :-).

  4. Tulika, you nailed it. Being aware of what is right and what's wrong is very important. Just to instill these values, we have to continue to be monsters (in our children's eyes). They will understand why we had to be like this when they're older. Beautifully written Tulika, as usual.

  5. Tulika ! its bang on ! that's exactly what I feel when preaching (read yelling!).
    I see some hope here to go on with what i have been doing , some day H will understand the value of all this. And who knows she might end up doing what exactly i am doing today !

    kuddos for hitting the right chord !

    1. We all do that slinking away from rules but as a mom it is important to enforce them. As it is the kids love slacking. Such a simple and mindful way of sharing the truth.

  6. Oh Tulika, just saw your blog now – was thinking today about the small stuff that makes the big life…. Lovely put, and couldn't agree more…. Lots of love and hugs my sweet friend:-)

  7. This was such a thoughtful letter. Little things make the most difference and these little habits inculcated in childhood will take one a long way in life. Loved reading this.

  8. I loved this post, Tulika and this is the best things about your writing. One needn't be parent to find the lesson in what you write. Rules are important and one may choose to dunk them but many times they bring sanity in an otherwise insane chaos of life.

  9. Not to mention use 'chalk' to polish white canvas shoes! Gosh I love this post! Mum and dad were strict but I learnt more about punctuality because of school. They would not just start a function on time but also finish it exactly when the notice they sent home would read. All the guys in our college group were so amazed when I'd get ready on time whenever we bunked classes 😛 and went on trips! Yes, they thought girls could never be on time! Proved them wrong! There is something about making a conscience choice to break/bend a rule vs just not being able to follow it! They are going to love you for making it so hard for them now!

    1. Oh yes oh yes – we did the chalk thing too. Our problem is that H and N's school is pretty lenient. That complicates matters because I have to do most of the disciplining and they cannot understand why that should be done when the school doesn't demand it.

  10. What I like most about this post is the honesty and sincerity of your voice, Tulika. Not just as a parent but as a human being, as an adult who knows and accepts the imperfection of the world outside and also the world inside us, our limitations and inabilities to always do the right thing even when we are aware what is right, and yet continue to make efforts as sincerely as we can to pursue the path of right despite failures or challenges. I am sure your children will gain tremendously from this insight that you pass on to them.

  11. When l was a child, l was very obedient doing as the parents mandated. Ours was a very democratic family. In our teens, we discussed rules with parents of we didn't like them but they had the last word and we deferred to that. In the younger years especially kids need a firm hand. They don't have a foundation to know right from wrong and hence it is important to sweat the small stuff because it builds long-term habits. You are a parent first and a friend only after.

    1. Absolutely right. We have to remember to be parents although it is tempting to let go and become a friend but that should happen very slowly once the kids grow up. We have to be responsible for passing on good habits to our kids.

  12. Habit that are formed in the childhood stays with you lifelong. I had thought this out as soon as I became a parent – live by what you want your child to do – believe me, my children know mama does not lie, she will finish her chores and also you can depend not to make her angry if you told the truth. though they have not told me directly, there lay the subtle indications in their actions. Nice read Tulika! Reminded me of my childhood too!

  13. I'm not a parent yet but I just cannot stop sweating the small stuff. I am so used to doing things a certain way that I keep worrying about perfection all the time. At the workplace too! My husband tells me to chill a bit, but I know how much these things matter in the long run.

    I'm sure H and N will understand this soon too.

    1. I hope so too Soumya. It isn't easy to ignore the small things. It niggles and niggles till you feel it's better to do it and get over with it.

  14. Isn't it odd? As we grow older, we are sounding more and more like our parents. We are also realising the importance of discipline as our parents wanted to teach us. Lets hope our children will also realise the same when they grow older. Very good post.

    1. Thank you Ls. It's true. Only when we grow older do we realise the importance of all what our parents tried to teach us. When we have children it becomes only more pronounced.

  15. I never thought of it that way but I know what you mean. Every other day I keep discovering that I actually like doing things the way my parents told me to as a child, I like the things my parents told I should like. I'm sure H and N will appreciate these small things later on in life like we all do. Beautiful post, Tulika.

  16. Yes, we all did that – followed the rules under duress, chucked them out of the window when we could and then came back to following those rules when we realised how chaotic life can get if there are no rules to teach you the value of being righteous, conscientious. It's a journey we all go through and learn from. I am sure your children will learn about it some day,too!

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