Category: dilemmas

Traditions

Traditions

I don’t want to wear formals, announces H.

That’s how most of our festive days begin. We have this tussle each year, at every festival. I’ve been giving in to him slowly but surely, bending to his will, letting him have his way. We moved from Kurta pajamas, to short kurtas and trousers and then to a shirt with an Indian jacket and jeans. This year I don’t even have the mind-space to push for that.

I don’t regret it. Not much, at least. I know he’s getting older; he’s a teen and I’ve learnt to choose my battles.

‘Alright’, I tell him, ‘but change out of your shorts and vest’. Crumpled tees and shorts have been his uniform these past few Covid months. I haven’t much bothered. This was but a small trade-off for quiet mornings.

But he isn’t done. ‘Why must I change? ‘What’s wrong with these clothes? They’re clean and that’s what should matter,’ he challenges. He loves a good argument, this son of mine and I indulge him most often, but not today. The cook is on leave and a pile of chores beckon me from the kitchen.

‘This is why I hate festivals,’ he continues.

That gets my attention and stops me on the verge of my don’t-argue-just-go-and-change outburst.

It’s an almost compulsive thing with me, this need to make festivals happy and stress free. Paradoxically, the stress of being stress-free stresses me out.

That is one reason I’ve let go of many traditions. And that’s why H’s remark hits home.

I pull my gaze away from the kitchen, realise I’m frowning and straighten the frown. I will myself to relax as I prepare to gently wade into this sea of arguments.

N walks in holding up a bright orange tee shirt for H. ‘Remember, I gifted you this one? It’s perfect for today. Please please wear it.’

I sigh in relief and quickly push home. ‘Come on H’, I tell him. He gives a huge fake sigh but I know he’s coming around.

As I busy myself with the cooking, I hear them argue.

‘I won’t wear trousers.’
‘But you can’t wear these shorts.’
‘Okay, then I’ll wear my Eminem Tee shirt.’
‘Noooo!! Not on Rakshabandhan. Have you even heard his lyrics? He uses such bad words in his songs.
‘At least he has a message to convey. He’s not just mooning around like your One Direction.’
‘I don’t care. You’re not wearing that ugly black tee. Mamaaaa tell him, pleeease,’ N calls out to me.

I don’t respond. I don’t need to. As I stir the kheer on the stove and get out the dough for the puris, I know already that H will wear what she wants him to, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have his bit of fun. Just as I know N doesn’t really expect me to intervene when she  calls out to me.

When I glance into their room I find them giggling together, playing tug-of-war with the unfortunate Eminem teeshirt.

Finally, they’re ready. Much fuss is made out of tying the rakhis. As per their own weird tradition H smears N’s forehead with the kumkum instead of making a neat little teeka. She’s used to it and stands still while I wipe it off and make a small round one instead. ‘I’ll take revenge,’, she says when it’s her turn. That freaks him out a bit. He takes eons to fix the clasp of her rakhi and ends with pushing an entire kaju roll into her mouth. She does the same and we’re done.

As I put away the puja plate I realise I forgot to ask them to cover their heads, as per tradition. I realise I miss doing things the traditional way. I miss the colourful kurta-pajamas, the chaniya cholis, the laddoos, the elaborately decorated puja thali and the sitting down cross-legged on the ground with a handkerchief on the head. I miss it all. I was wrong when I said I didn’t regret letting go of traditions. I do, at least some part of me does.

I want to tell the children: this is your culture, your heritage, your link to the past. Don’t let it go.

I hear them laughing and arguing and I hold back.

Instead, I tell myself, this is change, embrace it.

Image by minxutopia from Pixabay

My Teacher Hates Me

My Teacher Hates Me

We sit together, bent over their books.
The twins and I.
‘I hate it’, says N, throwing down her pen.
She knows I dislike the work ‘hate’ and so she says it again,
‘I hate this teacher and I hate this subject.’

For once, I refuse to rise to the bait deciding instead, that we all could do with a break. She walks off relieved and so do I.

It cannot be that time of the year without an exam post. Right? It’s a biennual ritual of sorts on the blog. This time however, there is a larger issue that’s been plaguing me for a while.

To be fair it’s been a rough year for all of us what with our move and the increased academic pressure. To make matters worse N has had it specially hard with a particular teacher who ‘hates her’, according to her. It doesn’t help that the subject is one of her least favourite ones.

I find it hard to believe that a teacher can hate a student, specially a non-trouble making, eager-to-please child like N and I’m not being partisan.

I know only too well that not being liked by a teacher can prejudice one against a subject for life. This particular teacher’s remarks range from mildly insulting to downright cruel. To be fair, none of his remarks are personal, but they’re mean nevertheless.

The thought of having a word with him has crossed my mind but I’ve been reluctant to do so. The thing is we all have had unpleasant teachers, the ones who insulted us in the worst possible ways. We learnt to handle them. We’d try get into their good books, we’d work harder or we’d simply lie low and get by.

So what has changed? Because something certainly has. I am seeing first hand how deeply it affects N. I see her already shaky teenage self-esteem being slowly chipped away by this one teacher. I know for a fact N isn’t the only one – I know of specific cases of other teachers and other children. Why are children so deeply affected these days?

Is it something to do with our parenting? Are we raising over-sensitive children? Is the idea of ‘gentle parenting’ proving to be counterproductive? If I intervene on her behalf am I taking away a learning opportunity from her? Easing her way, rather than letting her find her own?

Or

Have the teachers become less patient, more judgemental? It’s hardly a crime to not be good at a particular subject. Why be cruel? Back in our time, did we accept our teachers because we had complete faith in their impartiality and their intentions, which isn’t so now?

Or it’s none of the above

but just me, being an over anxious parent, giving too much importance to my daughter’s pain, which she might not even remember a few years hence?

 

It’s crazy how much of an overdrive my head goes into. Yeah, I’m seriously considering changing my name from obsessivemom to very-very-confused-over-thinking-mom.

I’d love to hear from you. How would you handle a situation like this?

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I am participating in the #wordsmatter bloghop. 38 of us have come together to write for this bloghop. I received the tag from Holly Jahangiri who blogs at A Fresh Perspective and I’m happy to pass on the tag to Rajlakshmi at Destiny’s ChildFollow the #WordsMatter Blog Hop for some interesting posts.

How honest are you with your children?

How honest are you with your children?

Last week the dentist told us H needed a root canal. He was blissfully unaware of the discomfort about to come his way, thanks to the wonderful paediatric dentist he went to when he was younger. I, on the other hand, was more than aware of what it entailed having undergone a rather painful procedure in my thirties.

I tried to not let my anxiety show but it must have been somewhat apparent because H asked me, ‘Will it hurt?’ Torn between reassuring him and being honest I hmmed and hawed and tried to get away with a noncommittal answer. I should have known better because H has the knack and persistence of a badger when it comes to exacting precise information.

Finally I told him it would hurt but that he would be on painkillers so he’d be okay. Rather than finding it reassuring it freaked him out to the extent that he tried to tell me he was quite fine and didn’t need the treatment after all.

That made me wonder if it would have been better had I not told him it would hurt. Perhaps it really wouldn’t, given that I had chosen this particular dentist on the recommendation of a friend whose son had sailed through a root canal without much trouble. I wondered if I had made H needlessly anxious.

When the kids are young it is easy to fob them off with simplistic truths or with a distraction. As they grow, however, their queries become more layered and they want honest, precise answers.

So what I want to ask you is How honest do you think one should be with one’s children? More specifically, with one’s teen? More so, when it isn’t something as straightforward as a root canal.

When they talk to you about complicated relationships (with friends and teachers and believe me when I say, it can get really complicated), about life choices, about friendships gone wrong… how honestly do you answer them? Would you warn them about the pitfalls they might encounter or would you rather they go ahead with innocent enthusiasm and figure it out for themselves? Do you worry that your constant warnings might turn them into suspicious over-thinkers (That’s rather ironic, given that you’re overthinking this whole thing in the first place).

I know I do.

It’s a tough one.

A lot will obviously be guided by our own experiences and attitude but I sometimes wonder if, in our bid to tell them ‘as it is’, we end up over-sharing details that really aren’t necessary and we mess their world view. That the children are growing up, means we can talk to them more freely yet they don’t need to know everything about the world in all gory detail. Sometimes it is okay to leave them to find out things on their own.

That might of course mean that they will sometimes fall on their faces, they will get hurt but those are the lessons they will remember forever, way better than the ones we tell them about.

Striking a balance is the hardest thing to do

Striking a balance is the hardest thing to do

If you’ve been with me on the blog for a while you’ll know how I have always rued the fact that the twins seem to feel no pressure of exams while I am completely freaking out. The more I worry, the less they seem to think about it.

During their mid-terms in October last year, things got worse than ever. All through those two months (before and during the exams) I was constantly yelling at them and then feeling terribly guilty at the things I had said. We’d reach a stalemate, go through silent spells and then I’d be back trying to appease them, trying to get them to study, only to lose my temper yet again.

The worry about their marks and exams hung like a dead weight on my mind dragging me into the dumps, waking me up at night and keeping me anxious all day. I hated the entire exam system, hated that I had to handle it all alone and hated that I had to put the children through it all. It was  vicious.

All for a class 6 mid-term!

I can see how foolish that was, now. But the thing is, the reaction of a troubled mind is often far from logical. In retrospect I realise it was also partly because I had been struggling with a lot of health issues. That must have contributed to my chaotic mental state.

By the end of exam time I knew just one thing – I never wanted to be in that space again. More importantly, I never wanted to put the children through that. No marks, no awards were worth it.

We talked about it, the children and I. And we promised that at the next exam all of us would work towards keeping our cool, NO MATTER WHAT.

The children call it my Kalinga War, moment 🙂

Yeah Asoka the Great is part of their syllabus this term. So basically, that last exam was a sort of turning point. I made the keep-my-cool promise, even more fervently, to myself. I promised I’d not let the worry of their scores push me to the edge of reason, ever.

I am happy to say, this time round exam time has been relatively peaceful. Nothing much has changed – I still have to push them all the time, they still rush off the moment my attention flags, they’re still playing computer games, watching television, amusing themselves in a hundred different ways and annoying me in a thousand more.

The only thing that has changed is my attitude.

Sometimes the only way to make things better is to change your attitude. Click To Tweet

This doesn’t mean I haven’t lost my temper at all. A leopard takes time to change her spots, right? But I have definitely dissociated myself a little bit and that feeling of panic hasn’t come back.

For that I am grateful.

After years of worrying that the children do not worry enough I can finally see the benefit of it. I never thought I’d say this but here I am feeling grateful that H and N do not panic. A friend, who is a teacher, spoke of kids who threw up constantly, suffered from headaches and body aches or ran a fever throughout the exams – all due to anxiety. And these are kids from class five and six, 11, 12 year olds. I would not wish that upon any child ever.

That said, I have to admit I doubt myself all the time, specially when I see a lot of moms pushing on relentlessly. I know of moms who solve each math problem along with their child. And when I hear of things like this I cannot help but  wonder if it’s just me. If it is I who am at fault, that I don’t have it in me to handle the pressure and then I worry that H and N might suffer because of that. Am I allowing them to slide into mediocrity by letting go? Have I been too hasty in letting go?

I don’t have any answers and so for now I push all these thoughts away. I’ll wait for their results before I make up my mind about anything. If they aren’t radically different from the mid-terms I’m good, or else I’ll need to rethink their study pattern.

However, there’s one thing I’m sure of and that is that I never want to go back to the madness of those anxiety ridden days, for their sake as well as my own. I’d much rather they score less and be happy than top their class but become a bundle of nerves.

And for now I’m enjoying the sense of peace.

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Linking up with Vidya’s Gratitude Circle

 

Parenting decisions

Parenting decisions

It was six in the morning. I was done with the tiffins and was making a start on the kids’ breakfast as I called out to them to wake up for school. N woke up after a call or two but there was no response from H. When he refused to get up after repeated entreaties I went to check on him only to find him burrowing deeper under the covers.

‘My head hurts’, he mumbled, ‘I couldn’t sleep all night. May I please not go to school today?’

‘Not today!’, thought I, ‘God! please, not today’. Today I didn’t have the patience or the bandwidth to cajole or to fool around, to bribe or to offer concessions in a bid to keep the morning-before-school peaceful. Somedays it is almost stressful – this struggle to keep the mornings stressfree.

Annoyance rose up inside me. No sympathy, no concern, just plain annoyance.

I was supposed to go for a much postponed medical examination that day. This was something I’d been planning since the start of the year but just hadn’t been able to get around to. It would have taken up the entire day so plenty of planning was involved. The maids had to be informed, the children entrusted with a key to the house and told to manage their snack on their own when they got back from school. The zumba class had to be rescheduled and I was expecting a package from amazon so the neighbour had to be informed. As a stay-at-home mum, stepping out for one whole day is challenging.

Finally everything had been done and I had let the anxiety of the medical exam wash over me. The sense of achievement at having scheduled everything had faded at the thought of the ordeal ahead – the poking, the pricking and the drawing of blood and then of course there were the results to consider. What if there was something seriously wrong?

It was something I was looking forward to as much as I was dreading it.

For over a year I had been struggling with niggling aches and pains. Somedays I’d wake up with all my joints, right down to the digits of my fingers hurting. Somedays I’d wake up with a headache and carry it around for two or three days before it decided to leave. With no one to push me to get that checkup I had just let it be. I do hate going to the doctor on my own.

Finally, however, I had managed to ready myself and now this! I thought in frustration. This was something my already strung out nerves could have done without. Annoyance bubbled up again as I glanced over at my sleeping son. I’d have to reschedule and replan, provided I found the will-power to rebook that appointment. And all for a headache, which in all probability, would disappear even before his bus disappeared round the corner, I rued.

Am I being too soft on the children? Should I push him to go to school? It would be a struggle but I knew he would go if I pushed him. But was that too harsh? What if his head was really hurting? What if it was the beginning of one those terrible colds that seem to catch him all too easily? What if it turned into something serious, a fever, maybe? I touched his forehead. It felt cool. He turned over, forcing his eyes open, ‘Please ma, may I stay home, today?’ How sorely I missed the Husband at times like these!

I looked at H waiting for my response, his hair tousled, his blanket half on the ground, and I nodded slowly as a wave of guilt washed over me. Guilt. How could I feel annoyed at a child for being ill? Would I push him to go to school when he could barely open his eyes?

I saw his foot sticking out of the covers and reached out to pull up the blanket. He might be an 11-year-old tween with a size 10 foot but he still is my baby. The baby who comes looking for me at night when his nose is blocked or when he’s been all macho and watched a scary movie in the day.

Sigh!

Often I feel the children’s pain, physical or mental, more acutely than they themselves do but somedays, just somedays, I lose all sympathy and feel plain frustration, followed soon enough by guilt. And even while I know both feelings are way out of proportion I find myself unable to do anything about it.

On my other blog: Beat About The Book

Dopehri #BookReview

Dopehri #BookReview

Book: दोपहरीAuthor: Pankaj Kapoor I don’t know why I took so long to pick up this book. It is written by an actor I love; an erudite, eloquent, thinking actor. It’s set in my hometown. It has a promising title and gorgeous cover page. I really can’t imagine why I didn’t pick it up earlier. […]