Category: letter

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

MaPic: PIXABAY

Of ‘well-meaning’ advice

Of ‘well-meaning’ advice

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Dear well-wisher friend,

This letter comes after much thought and heartache. I’m sure you remember yesterday’s incident. The kids were playing together on the slide. Of course they are too old to slide the conventional way so they were inventing a host of games climbing up, sliding down, crashing into each other, creating a ‘jam’. There was some amount of roughhousing but they were having fun.

After a while we heard a commotion and by the time we got there N was in tears while H stood looking guilty. Apparently as he pulled her down the slide he twisted her ankle. Worse, her dress climbed up embarrassing her and bringing out the tears.

Yes I felt her embarrassment every bit as acutely as she did herself. After all she gets it from me – this feeling of wanting to disappear from the face pf the earth at the slightest unfavourable attention. Given that some of it was witnessed by a bunch of boys and girls, must have felt terrible. I know the feeling. I’ve been there – many times over.

I took H aside, gave him a talking to and sent him home.

However, I seemed to have failed you in your expectation. According to you I should have meted out a harsher punishment. No, it wasn’t enough that I speak to him later at home. I was too soft on him, you felt. He deserved a dressing down right there before his friends. He should have been embarrassed just as he had embarrassed N so that he would remember it the next time, you said.

I wholeheartedly agree H needs to be sensitive in the playground. I know he gets carried away in a crazy sort of way. I agree he needs to be punished. However I do not think shaming him in public is the way to do it. You may not agree of course, and that’s your prerogative entirely.

While you remain my friend and have known the twins for some time I’d like to remind you that I do know them a little better than you. I know what H did wasn’t done with the intention of embarrassing N while should I have done the same to him it would have been very much intentional, that, when I’m decades older than him and hopefully more sensible.

Also, you were not there to see that by the time we got home H had done both our beds, warmed the food, set the table and served us all dinner – his way of saying ‘sorry’. I also know that he may err again. I know it might take him time to turn into the perfect gentleman that I hope he will become one day. I am prepared to wait.

Meanwhile I’m happy to inform you that the incident has done no permanent damage to N going by the way she was wrestling with H this morning.

Your comments hurt me terribly, even though I am convinced I did the right thing. Perhaps that is because, of late, I’ve been on extremely rocky parenting ground constantly analysing each step I take till somedays I feel I feel I’ll go completely crazy. I’d truly appreciate if you keep your suggestions, however well-meaning, as I’m sure they are, to yourself.

Also, if you do have some serious advice, I’d love for you to say it to me directly, rather than saying it came from one of the kids because then I am more likely to take it seriously.

Thank you again for your concern.

OM

The truth about lies

The truth about lies

Dear H and N,

You remember the other day we were reading Matilda? The formidable Ms Trunchbull was yelling at her and Matilda tells a tiny white lie to save herself. You know what a white lie is, don’t you? It’s that small harmless lie that hurts no one but might actually save someone.

A question in your worksheet asked, “Did you think Matilda did right?” Both of you were in complete agreement with her, given that Ms Trunchbull was such a tyrant and she was but a child.

We talked about honesty and H, you were pretty accurate when you said, ‘If a lie doesn’t harm anyone, it is okay.’And N you had added, “When mamas tell babies to drink up their milk or their bones will break, it’s okay na, even though bones don’t ACTUALLY break if we don’t drink milk, right?’

Yes well you are right. 

Or are you??

Listen to this story before you make up your mind…

Imagine you have a friend; a special friend who is always with you. He talks to no one but you and no one can hear him but you. He’s a bit magical in that he always knows right from wrong. He has a problem, though – he cannot keep quiet when he sees any dishonesty – even the tiniest most harmless one. He’s a bit crazy like that.

Each time you are dishonest — even a tinny tiny bit, even when you’ve simply kept quiet when you might have spoken up — he bugs you and bugs you and bugs you till you feel really bad. Just when you are feeling relieved you’ve warded off a horrible yelling or a punishment he reminds you that you’ve done it dishonestly and makes you feel bad all over again.

And so you get angry and tell him to shut up. “I know it’s not the complete truth but THIS time it doesn’t matter. It’s just a tiny lie,” you say. But he doesn’t listen. “A lie is a lie,” says he, over and over again. Finally you’ve had enough and you’re so angry you tape his lips.

With each little lie another bit of tape goes onto your friend’s lips. 

Over the years it becomes a habit, this ‘shutting up’ your friend. His voice becomes more and more faint, till you can hear it no more and you’re lying without even thinking. You forget you ever had a friend. Finally there comes a time when you’re all grown up and you have a big complicated decision to make where the right and wrong is all mixed up and you cannot make out one from the other. “Aha!” you think then, “my friend can tell me, he has the magic that tells right from wrong”.

Then you remember, with a bit of regret, you’ve taped him up. “No problem,” you think as you start to painstakingly remove it all. Finally, the tape is off but what is this?? He still cannot speak. After years and years of silence he has lost his magic voice.

What do you do then? Of course, you might come to me or to papa but we might not be around by then. Besides, we haven’t been with you all along like your friend and may not have the right answers. What then? You’re quite stuck, right? It will be a hard hard task to teach your friend to talk again and by then it just might be too late.

We all have this friend inside us. It’s called the Conscience. The thing to do, dear children, is to keep your little friend up and fighting fit. Let him yell at you and bug you till he gets his way. Yes, he will make you confess you broke that plate, and get you yelled at too, but then he will also free you from endless days worrying about ‘what will happen when mama finds out?’. And that extra tight hug she gave you saying she was glad you owned up – totally worth it, wasn’t it?

Listen to your little friend with all your heart because honesty, complete honesty is, and will always be, the best policy.

Love and hugs always,

Ma.

When friendships change

When friendships change

Dear girls who play with my son,

Last time I found H in a scrambling match with one of you and took him to task. You remember that I’m sure. A few days back I found two of you again, walking away. One of you was in tears and the other, outraged on her behalf, for the same reason – a scuffle with a boy during a game, where her t-shirt got pulled.

Okay I’ll admit my first thought was, “No, not H again!” It wasn’t.

But that’s not the issue at all. The point is, there are some things you will need to understand when you play together. In a game that needs some amount of physicality, when one of the children is supposed to catch another (and count to ten while the other tries to free himself/herself), t-shirts will get pulled, dresses will fly, hands will be twisted, feet will be stepped upon.

You know the rules, right? You are the ones who put them in place along with the others. You cannot then, in all fairness, start to cry, or get angry or quit the game either. You will simply come across as a bad loser.

You’re growing up, I know. You’re becoming more conscious of yourself and the changes in you and that’s just how it should be. But don’t let it take away the fun from your playtime. Don’t let it take away from your friendships.

Soon you’ll all be grown up and out in the world – working, competing, playing and socialising with men, on an equal footing. Each time a situation like this crops up you cannot break into tears, you cannot get outraged and worse, you cannot withdraw. 

You cannot.

If you do, just like in the playground, be prepared to be laughed at, or what’s much much worse, patronised by the others. You’ll hate it, take my word for that. Just as you will be left out of the game now, you will be shut out from the more exciting challenging opportunities to learn and grow and prove yourself.

Most importantly you’ll miss out on many many good friendships. Men do make for wonderful companions – easy, uncomplicated, fun. I say that from experience. And that would be truly sad.

For now, I’ll repeat the five simple rules I keep telling H – 
1. Set the rules before the game – Make it clear what is acceptable and what is not. Do be reasonable and practical.
2. Dress for the playground – Wear sensible clothes: shorts, tights, jeans, running shoes.
3. Be prepared for some amount of rough play – It can be fun once you give up your ‘I’m a girl I shouldn’t do this’ self image.
4. Accept no nonsense – But don’t be over sensitive.
5. Assess the situation, the intention – An unintentional pull of the T shirt is NOT a bad touch.

Remember these rules. They work in the grown up world too – Set the rules, dress sensibly, be prepared to fight rough, accept no nonsense and asses an intention fairly.

For now, stop being girls or boys – just be friends.

Love and hugs
Mom of H.
Linking to ABC Wednesday , after a long long time, for the letter C for Change. It’s good to be back here.

Finding Santa

Finding Santa

Dear H and N,

Christmas this year, is going to be different for it was only this year that you discovered Santa wasn’t real. N, how you cried! It broke my heart. I had no answer to your ‘you lied to me‘. It’s true of course. It did. It was I who ate up your cookies, I who put the gifts and I who read the letters I’d helped you write in the first place.

I’m sorry I should have done it differently, perhaps.

I know you’ll miss him. That smiling, silver-haired presence bearing gifts, the one who made everyone smile – he’ll be missed sorely.But wait. What if I told you there really IS a Santa – nope, not a make-believe one in a red suit, a real one. There’ll be no more lies, I’ve learnt my lesson. He’s a bit different, this one, from the one I told you about.

He doesn’t live at the North Pole to begin with.

So where is he? You ask. I can see the disbelief in your little faces. Hear me out then and be patient.This Santa is all around us. What’s more, he’s far more generous than the one you’ve known all along. He doesn’t wait for Christmas to give us gifts. He comes unannounced any day, anytime, sometimes many times a day, bearing precious gifts. You’ll have to look carefully though for he’s in disguise – no red suit, no silver beard.

‘So how will we know him?’ I hear you ask, suspicious still.Well, first, wipe off those disbelieving looks then listen on my little doubting Thomas’ – here’s how you can see him.

Shut your eyes.
Go on do it.

Now open your hearts.

And think.
Did someone make your face light up with a smile?
Did someone do anything to make you feel special?
Did someone make your heart swell with happiness and fill with warmth?
Did a hug, a kiss, a compliment make you feel like the happiest person on earth?
Did someone make you feel so happy you wanted the whole world to smile with you?
Well.. hold on to them, that right there is your Santa.

 

The friend who stood up for you, the teacher who said ‘well done’, mama who surprised you with your favourite tiffin, grandma who saves up a new story for you everyday, dad who came home early with your favourite sweet – they’re your Santa.And your gifts? – the smile, the warmth, the happiness – aren’t they all precious? Way more precious than that remote controlled car, that crashed within a week of it’s arrival, right H? Or that Barbie buried somewhere deep in your toy cupboard N.

And you know what? You are a Santa too.

Remember that one time I came home all tired and you ran to give me a hug? I so needed it then, and you were my Santa. And that cake in a cup you made for me – you were my Santa again. To tell you the truth, you became my Santas the moment you were born.

There’s a Santa in all of us. He just hides away sometimes under the stress of homework and housework, the arguments and the anger. This Christmas let’s dig him out and give him a new life, shall we? Let’s all be Santas this Christmas – real live Santas.

Love and hugs,

Ma.

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