Category: growing up

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Also, this by no means implies that I have withdrawn completely even on the areas I have listed below.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?

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.

Mornings #SOL

Mornings #SOL

6.15, says the kitchen clock. The sun is just lighting up the skies. I slide some butter on the hot pan, the sizzle sounding loud in the early morning quiet. I put in slices of bread quietening the sizzle, then turn the flame down and head off to wake the children.

I find H sleeping on his stomach, head twisted upwards at an awkward angle, a thin sheet barely covering him, the fan on full blast. I reach out and decrease the fan speed then call out to him. He doesn’t stir. I give him a gentle shake, trying to reach him through the swathes of sleep. He nods finally, as I tell him he has five more minutes.

This five minute warning, I have found, helps ease the children to start the day. I like it too. I hate dragging them out of bed, specially on cold winter mornings or on rainy overcast days. Mondays are the worst, specially exam Mondays, like today.

He’s a night owl, this one, lying awake late, then waking up to lethargic mornings, often begging for an extra minute after the five-minute buffer.

In her room, N lies invisible among the folds of a thick comforter, the fan switched off. She stirs as I call her, gets her head out then silently points to her cheek, eyes still shut. I give her a kiss. She turns her head and points to the other one for another kiss – our own private little ritual. Then she snuggles down for the extra five minutes. Mornings are easier for her specially if she has a ‘good’ day lined up.

I marvel at how different they are.

I smile remembering how passionately we read Linda Goodman back during college, how confidently we allotted character traits to people we barely new. ‘Ooh she’s a Scorpio, beware’. ‘Oh he’s an Arian, bound to be flighty’. Judgement came only too easily.

How ridiculous it seems now! How can people born over thirty days have the same traits when these two, born a few minutes apart, are chalk and cheese? How drastically did the planet alignment shift in those two minutes to get me two such varied ones?

Interesting subject of study for an astrologer, I muse flipping the bread, and tipping the egg on to it on the pan.

I glance at the clock again. Five minutes are up. I walk to each of their rooms in turn, checking on them, calling out again, trying to inject a sternness in my voice this time, a sternness I don’t really feel but there’s no time for mush now.

Another day beckons.

 

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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.

Five ways in which parents embarrass their teens

Five ways in which parents embarrass their teens

The other morning as we were walking to the bus stop I noticed that H’s collar was askew. Without thinking about it I reached out to settle it and he drew back like I was going to bite his head off.

‘What?’ I said surprised
‘Nothing. Just don’t do that,’ he said
‘Do what?’
‘Fiddle with my clothes. It’s embarrassing. I don’t even know why you come down to see us off to school. It’s not like we’d get lost from the building to the gate,’ he said trying to roll his eyes. He still can’t (roll his eyes) by the way, and I caught myself thinking how cute that is and stopped myself right there because apparently a smile that says ‘You’re cute’ is also embarrassing.

Seriously?? After puking on me in a flight, throwing a tantrum in the mall, flaunting underwear before guests, smearing banana mash all over me at a party (on my good top too, and I had to keep wearing it till the end of the party and pose for pictures in it), he has the audacity to say I embarrassed him

Obviously, the teens are on their way.

Everything I do these days seems to embarrass them – the way I talk (too loud), the way I walk (too slow or too fast), the way I dress (too bright, too strange), the way I laugh (too loud, again), everything. So here’s a list of the top five things that parents (like me) do to embarrass their teens – a sort of ‘do not do’ guide.

1. Fuss over them in public

Make that ‘any physical contact in public’. Do not settle their collars or their hair or tuck in their shirts. Don’t even brush off a speck of dust from their noses. They’re cool leaving it there all day rather than having their mum brush it off. And God forbid you reach out for a hug. They’ll probably not talk to you for a decade. Which might not actually be such a bad thing.

2. Talk loudly

This is such an unfair expectation considering that the only reason I talk loudly is because they refuse to listen any other way. To hold it against me is rather, as I said, unfair. But then who’s listening? When they have friends over, they can scream and shout and that’s okay but it still holds for you. You cannot even hum softly to yourself, not even in your own room.
Once during a football match a mom noticed her son’s shoelace had come undone and shouted for him to tie it up. There was such silence after that you could have heard a pin drop. Mercifully it wasn’t me.
Corollary: Cheering for them during a game is also a no no. Don’t do it. Their friends can, but you cannot. Don’t ask me why, just don’t do it.

3. Correcting them/their friends

I have a few house rules that I’m rather strict about and one of them is the use of proper language. So if I hear a ‘shit’ during a game I protest or if one of their friends asks me for a glass of water without a ‘please’ I point it out. I mean, their friends are like my own kids, right? So if I can correct my children I can correct their friends too, no? However, all I get for my pains are the most eloquent stares and then an earful later on. ‘Everyone says ‘shit’,’ they’ll tell me, ‘even teachers say it.’

All I’ll say is ‘My house my rules’.

4. Talking about baby stuff

This one is big. You see a toddler walking towards you and suddenly you remember yours when they were little. And you get all emotional and misty eyed and you strike up a conversation with the toddler’s mum, ‘When H and N were babies…,’ you begin enthusiastically until you catch sight of your not-a-young-one-any-longer giving you the daggers. So no baby stories, no baby poetry, no tales of cute antics or cute pronunciations, nothing. No nicknames too, please.

Note to self: Destroy blog before they turn thirteen.

5. Wear anything different

Once I went to pick them up from school and I wore a salwar suit, which is different from my regular jeans/trousers. And I got a, ‘What are you wearing? It looks funny.’ Funny? A salwar suit? I mean half of India wears it. Then one day I wore a dress and got the very same reaction. The thing is you’re not allowed to stand out. If you don’t normally wear makeup, you need to continue not wearing it, if you don’t normally wear heels, you cannot begin to do so now.

Basically you shouldn’t be heard or seen. You’ve to become invisible till they tide over their teens. Find a rock and get beneath it.

Here’s a better plan, though – This is the time for delicious revenge. So do your own thing and totally enjoy it. Suddenly we have the power. Between them embarrassing me and I embarrassing them, the latter is definitely the lesser of two evils, from my perspective of course. Moreso since I had all that practice as a mom to toddler twins.

PS: I have a good mind to fish out a wedding sari and appear in all my finery for one of their PTMs. Wouldn’t that be just priceless?

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I’m taking part in the Bar-A-Thon – the fortnight long Blogging Challenge and really stretching the prompts this time round :-). The prompt for today was ‘Lesser of two evils’.