Author: obsessivemom

How to Let Go of your teen – 6 easy tips

How to Let Go of your teen – 6 easy tips

Teen years are tough for youngsters, we’ve heard that enough number of times. However, as a parent, I find they’re just as trying for me too. One of the toughest tasks is to know when, how and how much to let go as our children grow.

Parenting a teen isn’t easy

Most of us are at positions of responsibility in the workplace. That means more stress. Moms are probably approaching menopause, slowing down just a little.

Our teens, on the other hand, are coming into their own, bringing out their most rebellious sides. They are a lot of work, not perhaps in the physical sense but definitely on a mental, emotional level.

If you’re the parent of a teen, I know you’re already nodding your head in agreement.

Letting go doesn’t happen overnight

Much as we would love our children to remain soft sweet cuddly lisping toddlers, growing up is inevitable. Thank goodness for that. Remember the poop and pee, the cleaning and the crying? Yeah, so thank goodness they are growing up. The hard part, though is letting them go.

It doesn’t happen overnight. We need to begin, bit by one tiny bit. The process of letting go should be a ‘process’, not a knee-jerk reaction to teen-rebellion. A landmark birthday – the 13th or the 16th – does, however, serve as a reminder that it’s time to begin.

My twins, H and N, stepped into their teens this year and this is one of the toughest tasks I’ve set myself.

Is it too early?

If you’re thinking 13 is too early to start worrying about letting go, even in the Indian context, you’ve not seen this new generation of teens and tweens. They are very aware of the idea of independence and value their freedom and their choice. That’s really a good thing, though hard to stomach for parents.

Is it easy? Nope it isn’t

As H and N are growing older I have given up control in many areas. I’d be lying if I say I have been okay with it because I am not.

However like all parents, I see the need to do so, to step back a little; one, to preserve my sanity and two, to keep the communication going. The thing is, if children feel we are on a completely different page, communication will certainly break down.

Also, this by no means implies that I have withdrawn completely even on the areas I have listed below. The mom in me won’t let me. There are days when I lose my cool and go after them. However, as a general rule, I try to curb myself, restricting myself to positive motivation only.

 

So here are the top six things I’ve learnt to let go of:

Micromanaging their routine

When the children were younger I was very very particular about timing their day. There was a time for their bath, a time to eat each meal, a time for study, time for play and a time for bed.

I’ve learnt to let that go, specially on weekends and holidays.

That’s not to say I don’t cringe when I see N emerging from the shower at 3 in the afternoon but I let go. As long as they’re having a bath every day I’m fine.

I’ve seen teens go without baths on the odd day and I hope I don’t live to see that day. But again, never say never. Who knows I might have to learn to be okay about that too. (Crossing my fingers and hoping to God it doesn’t happen).

Eating together on weekdays

With a very heavy heart, I have to admit I’ve let go of eating together on weekdays. However, on weekends, I go the whole hog, laying out the table and insisting that everyone sit together.

I like to have my dinner early and the Husband is diabetic and wanted to eat at a particular time too, but the children were either busy or not home from play.

Rather than fretting and fuming and messing everyone’s dinner (including mine), I now go ahead and eat. I am then in a much better frame of mind to handle them when they do show up.

Also during peak academic pressure, they want to carry their plates to the television room and I have learnt to be okay with that too.

Cleaning their room

This is such a pet peeve. All I am trying to stick to (and not always succeeding) is for them to make their beds on weekdays before they leave for school. And also, to not have clothes strewn on the floor. Other than that, I pretty much let their rooms be as they are.

I do pull them up on weekends or once a fortnight. I am hoping, with time, they will see the value of putting things in the right place.

Micromanaging their money

This is more relevant for slightly older children, specially those living away from home, but I wanted to make a beginning. And so I began to let H and N manage their own money.

This year we started them off on a small amount of pocket money. We give them a fixed amount and encourage them to keep account but refrain from commenting on how they spend it.

It’s interesting to see how each of them manages it. Children are really so very different, even twins! For instance one of them likes to buy small sweets and chocolates through the month while the other prefers to spend all of it in one go on a fancy bit of sweet. We let it remain their choice as long as they don’t come to us asking for a loan.

Also read: Raising Financially Savvy Tweens

Spending time together

Sadly enough, this is bound to take a beating too, sooner rather than later. The faster we realise it the better it is because we can then begin to value our time with our teen and ensure we make it count.

This growing away has, for me, been a rather gradual process but for my Husband who is working in another city, it is always a bit of a shock when he comes home and doesn’t have the children milling around him like they used to.

There was a time they would fight over having us in their rooms all the time. Not any longer. I’m often met with closed doors. How that annoys me! I simply go around opening them and (for now) am met with mild protests, ‘It helps me concentrate’, says one of them while, ‘I like to play loud music,’ says the other.

However, I know there will be a time when they won’t be as tolerant and I’m preparing myself for it. It works to lower one’s expectations.

Accompanying them everywhere

In a few months, we’ll complete one year of having moved into this new home. Since it is close to the kids’ school, they started walking to it. I accompanied them for a few days but now they manage on their own. In the beginning, I was apprehensive, since they have to cross a mall along the way but as it turns out they manage pretty well.

Since then, I’ve watched them cross crowded roads and negotiate traffic on their own.

Also, with much trepidation I’ve started letting them use Uber autos, following them on my phone all the way to their class. I make sure they carry a phone between them and have enabled location sharing so I know where they are at all times.

With these safeguards in place and loads and loads of advice on handling all possible situations I let them manage their commute on the days that I cannot go along.

I have to admit that a lot of this freedom has stemmed from the fact that being the lone parent with them, it simply isn’t been possible for me to accompany them everywhere. It helps hugely that there’s two of them. It is kind of comforting to know that they have each other when I’m not around.

Also read: The Road to Independence

So there, those are a few ways in which I’ve adjusted to my growing teens. I’d love to hear from you. How have you taught yourself to let go?

Last minute Valentines Day gift for your Teen

Last minute Valentines Day gift for your Teen

Valentine’s Day is two days away and I have nothing at all planned for the children. It shouldn’t matter, except that they really look forward to something special. That’s of course my fault entirely for having spoilt them so. However, I do believe we should celebrate every occasion we can, as long as it doesn’t become a compulsion or a pressure. This year with exams coming on early and the pressure of tests and projects, we’re in dire need of cheering up but I’ve hardly had time to think of anything.

That is why I was looking for something quick and easy (and also free) that they would love. I’m taking a cue from something H did once. There’s a little bit of a story here, hear me out and then I’ll share my idea. So the thing is while H is the huggiest child when it comes to immediate family, he’s extremely shy when it comes to friends and extended family. It’s a joke of sorts, with everyone trying to hug him while he runs around trying to avoid them. Once when he was clueless about ideas for his aunt’s birthday, he made ‘Huggie Coupons’ for her which she could ‘encash’ at will in exchange for a hug from him. They were essentially bits of paper with ‘One hug’ written on them since H isn’t the crafty kind but his aunt loved the intent.

Privilege Coupons

That’s what I’ll be doing this year for the children. I’m making coupons which they can encash for special privileges. I like that it gives them a sense of choice, which is something teens are always fighting for. That said, I really thought through my ‘offers’. The option of not being able to fulfil any of them doesn’t exist. Both H and N are absolute Shylocks when it comes to extracting their pound of flesh and I shall forever be labeled ‘unfair’ and a ‘promise breaker’ if I dishonour a coupon.

Here’s my list of offers:

1. Weekend Movie Night Pick

2. Chore Free Day

3. Order Out Day
Cannot be used the same week as Pizza Night

4. A meal of your choice
24-hour notice required

5. Pizza Night
Cannot be used the same week as Order Out Day

6. Mama Hour
An hour of Mama’s undivided attention for an activity of your choice
We could read along, craft together, watch videos, your pick. It has to be on a weekend.

7. Weekend Coffee Date

8. Weekend Breakfast in Bed

9. Get Your Room Cleaned

10. Weekend trip to the mall
I included this one only because we have a small, very functional kind of mall right next to our apartment complex and I know the children love going to the mall but aren’t big on shopping.

I made my coupons on Canva. Click here if you want to try making your own. This is what they look like. I shall staple them together into a booklet, from which they can be torn out and given.

That’s the cover of the Coupon Booklet

This is a sample of the coupon

There are also loads of love-coupons-for-kids printables on the Net. You could try those. Or you could  design your own or, if you want to keep it really simple, cut out squares from fancy paper, write down your ‘offers’ and staple them together into a booklet. Easy Peasy.

A few pointers:

  1. Think in terms of activities (not things).
  2. Give them options you can see through.
  3. Add condition wherever you need to.

And you’re done.

Let me know if you try it.

Note: The coupons work for any age-group of kids and even for adults.

Growing Up

Growing Up

I wait outside the registration room and I watch H as he stands in the queue. He looks uncertain, but not scared. I watch as his turn comes, he signs up, picks up his ID card and walks out to me.

‘There. Done,’ he says with a grin, ‘You can go now. Or you can stay for the opening ceremony.’

I am here to drop him off for a mock UN session. We have travelled half way across the city for this annual event that brings together school children to represent various countries discussing a particular topic.

The instructions and timings are a little vague and H doesn’t know a soul here. That worries me. All through the forty-five minute drive I’ve been talking to him, explaining, cautioning, making sure he has the phone with him. Will he feel lost, lonely, scared? I wonder.

‘Don’t worry ma,’ he says reading my thoughts, ‘I’ll be fine.’ I look at him, taller than me already, in his formal suit, the ID card around his neck making him look oddly grown up, professional almost. To an outsider.

To me he’s just a 13-year-old. A goofy absentminded 13-year-old.

Unbidden, a memory comes to me, that of 6-year-old H, taking his first steps into Big School, bravely trying not to cry, walking away without a backward glance.

I look at him again. Try as I might, I see no traces of the scared 6-year-old. All I see is a young boy, chattering away excitedly. ‘I wish they’d have given me a more important country to represent. Philippines is just so sidey. China would have been good or the US or even India,’ he complains, ‘Next time we’ll register earlier.’

Nope, no traces of the six-year-old.

With an effort I make myself separate the two images.

‘Oh boy!’ he exclaims examining the programme for the day, ‘they have Breakfast after the Opening Ceremony. Last year I had three glasses of hot chocolate. I hope they have it this time too.’ The six-year-old is back again!

I can’t help but laugh, glad the younger version is still in there somewhere under the suit and the tie even as the teen tries to take over.

Choosing your own race

Choosing your own race

Choices are bad. Choices drive you crazy. Choices give you anxiety. Big anxiety.

It’s choices that have been troubling us over the past few months. This coming academic session the children will step into their first Board-exam year. They had to make subject choices and helping them make that decision drove us all to distraction. If you’re wondering why I didn’t simply ask them, tell me, do you really think a 13-year-old is equipped to make a life-decision like this one?

To be fair, it is possible but only for a child who is sorted, who has clear likes and dislikes, a clear path ahead of him. But what of the one who hasn’t yet formed a picture of the path he wishes to tread but can do reasonably well at whatever he takes up? How does he choose?

We’ve been going back and forth over their options in an attempt at selecting the least stressful one while not closing any doors to them later in life. We’ve done career counselling and aptitude tests but in the end the decision is so much more than all of that.

It is tempting to stick to the (generally perceived) educational Holy Trinity of science-maths-computers. Every reasonably decent student does that. And yet I just wasn’t convinced. Part of me argued why a child should study stressful subjects he has no interest in just because he can? Wouldn’t it be better to allow him time to focus on what he truly enjoys? The other part of me wondered if it was too early to close doors by quitting even one of the elements of the Trinity.

Seriously, when it comes to decisions I’m Chidi. From The Good Place. Have you watched it? If you haven’t, suffice it to say that I find making decisions very very hard, specially when it comes to the children, even more when the decisions will have long-term implications on their careers and lives.

Anyhow, based on what they said, taking into account their likes and dislikes, their interest, their aptitude, their attitude, their capacity for hard work, also discounting peer pressure and societal norms and tempering all of that with doses of practicality, we have together made the choice.

Fingers crossed now.

The pressure on the children is incredible. And no matter how cool we are, how much we tell them that grades don’t matter, it doesn’t ring true given the the whole world’s obsession with them. During one long tearful conversation N said as much, ‘No matter what you say,’ she had said, ‘grades matter. Maybe not to you, but they matter to my teachers, to my friends and to everyone else. And so they have to matter to me.’

The race has become only too real. Already.

As parents our goal should be to keep our heads above water, to make sure our children make the correct choices, to ascertain that they don’t get overwhelmed, or give in to panic with this whole ‘It’s-our-first-boards-exam’ thing. That’s what I’m going to do.

We have to try our darndest to help our children stay focussed on their own individual races, rather than joining in the ones laid out by their schools, their peers, the society or even their own siblings.

I am writing. Again.

I am writing. Again.

The beginning of a year has always filled me with new vigour. It seems magical somehow, full of possibilities. Each year I print out planners, set blogging goals and health goals. I make resolutions, some of which I even manage to stick to.

This year, however, has been different. Because I’ve done nothing! Nothing at all. I tried to plan. To write. I opened my laptop multiple times. I sat staring at it but I just couldn’t. I read articles and blogs in search of inspiration. That’s what got me out of my limbo in the past.

Curiously enough, this time the more I saw year-end posts and resolutions, and Word of the Year posts and Vision Boards, the less I felt like writing. Because, honestly, I have no goals for this year. That sounds terrible – like a lost directionless ship. Moreso when everyone else seems to have everything worked out neatly.

Perhaps that’s why I couldn’t bring myself to write. It isn’t a happy confession to make – that one is directionless. It’s like belittling the whole business of writing/blogging.

Then today I received a gift and a beautiful little note from friends from a blogging community which I am sort of part of – in a very peripheral kind of way. But that small note reminded me of the fact that I am a blogger. Goals or not, professional or not, good or bad, five views or five thousand, I am a blogger, I write. That’s what I’ve done for over a decade, not counting the years I did it for a living. There’s no way I could stop doing it.

And so I resolved to try again.

Each evening when I drop the kids for their classes I workout at a gym. Today I decided to dump it. I ditched my tights and tee. I picked out a gorgeous new top and my favourite pair of jeans. I put on some gloss for good measure. Then I did away with my gym rucksack, got out my bright red handbag instead and slid in my laptop.

Today, I was going to write.

The children looked on, a trifle puzzled. H, who can never hold in a question asked, ‘Where are you going  ma?’ ‘To write,’ I replied cryptically.

As they walked off to their class I headed for the smoky cafe I go to sometimes. It’s been an hour since I sat  here with a terrible cup of bitter green tea for company and I’ve got down a thousand words! Not all thousand are going to make it to the publish button, maybe none of them will, but the good thing is I am writing. Again.

The blogging world is vast. It is easy to feel lost and inconsequential, like you and your writing don’t matter (and maybe they don’t, really). However, one must keep writing with the hope that someday, some small piece of writing may make a difference to someone somewhere, that it might touch someone in a special way, bring a smile maybe, or a nod of relief and understanding. And for that, one must keep writing.

So here I am with my directionless rambling. Perhaps this will mean something to someone else feeling just as directionless. Perhaps it will make them continue on their path, like me, in the hope of better things. Perhaps, tomorrow I’ll find my goal and write something meaningful. But for now, this is all I have, this will have to do.

On my other blog: Beat About The Book

What is 'Natural'? #BookBytes 25

What is 'Natural'? #BookBytes 25

I just wrapped up Elif Shafak’s 10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in This Strange World and while I still have to make up my mind about the book but some of its quotes were too good to not be shared. And so I’ve been sharing them on social media all this past week. Here’s one […]