Category: Letting go

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

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?

Another step forward

Another step forward

MM: They’re not old enough.
SM: We need to let them go.
MM: It’s dangerous.
SM: No it’s not. It’s just an amusement park for goodness sake.
MM: That’s the scary part. Don’t you read the papers? There was the time an entire ride came crashing down. And then there was the case of a child being molested. These are bad times.
SM: What about the hundreds of people, including children, who go to amusement parks every day, have a wonderful time and come home safe and happy? Hundreds and thousands across the world?
MM: Yeah well I’ll take them along some day. So I can keep an eye on them.
SM: Fuss around them, you mean! And nag them and caution them till they were driven out of their poor little minds and never learn to manage on their own.
MM: I don’t do that.
SM: You do and that’s why you need to let them go.

The subject of this grand argument was the children’s impending school trip to Imagica – an amusement park about 100kms from the city. And the two voices? Sane Mum and Mushy Mum. You do remember them, don’t you?

It took Sane Mum hours of convincing to get the Mushy Mum to agree.

Of course she had the backing of two very excited children who were in imminent danger of turning very very whiny if they didn’t have their way. Believe me when I say sometimes that’s the only motivation I need to do something. A reassuring call from the Husband sealed the deal.

Then began long hours of counselling and cautioning.

Don’t read in the bus you’ll get queasy.
Don’t go to the washroom alone
Don’t board a ride alone.
Don’t eat before a dangerous slide, you might throw up.
Don’t accept help from a stranger.
Don’t talk to strangers at all.
Stick around with your teacher.
Look out for each other.

Are you even listening?

Then they were off

Finally, with bags full of muffins and chips and mints they were on their way. Not once did they turn back to look after we dropped them to school, thought MM rather regretfully while SM thought that was a good sign.

Back at home..

..the house seemed a tad too quiet, even to SM. This is the quiet all mums, mushy or otherwise, cherish most days. But today it seemed almost ominous. I worked listlessly on a some half done articles, then roamed aimlessly about the house pretending to put things in place.

I checked the phone every few minutes for messages from school.

And then the phone buzzed. “The children had breakfast at McDonalds and have now reached Imagica.”

I cannot explain how comforting that was.

I focused on the mental picture of the children sitting down at McD’s with their best buddies around them laughing over fries and burgers, loud and boisterous and happy. And that was when I began to relax.

The anxiety demon did come by in flashes through the day but I managed to keep it at bay helped along by another message that all was well and finally a third one saying they were on their way back.

It was nightfall when I went to pick them up from school. H sat in his class reading his book, an assortment of weirdly shaped merchandise by his side. ‘I bought all of this,’ were his first words even as the hugest smile lit up his face, which morphed rapidly into an absolutely horrified expression when it seemed like I was reaching out for a hug. Oh okay, no hug then, thought I retreating. Just a smile and a hand clasp and we were on our way to N’s class who is way more forthcoming with her affection. She hugged me willingly and smiled saying, ‘I got you a gift and one for bua too.’ That completely warmed my heart.

We walked back to the car, H limping along from a bad blister which he didn’t seem to notice, as he fought with N for attention, talking nineteen to a dozen.

24 hours later the conversations continue to flow , the stories just don’t seem to end. They had stuck by their teachers, behaved responsibly and wonder of wonders they had even sought out each other to ask how they fared after the worst of the rides. I would gladly send them again for that one single reason alone.

Here’s what I need to remember:

My first trip out of town was pretty late in life – during graduation on a Geological tour with the teachers. I remember little things like ordering my own food or buying chai from the vendor in the train gave me such a thrill. When did you step out of home out on your own? Was it easy to convince your parents?

Picture Credit: Pixabay

Can a parent ever let go?

Can a parent ever let go?

This past week, in a bit of a coincidence, I’ve stumbled across multiple stories from friends – children and parents – who’ve disagreed with each other over important life-decisions like the choice of career or life partner.

It’s heartbreaking – this disagreeing with people closest to you, this not being able to understand each others thoughts and motivations.

Desperate children have been driven to the brink of suicide because they haven’t found it in their hearts to rebel. When I was younger I’d wonder why parents wouldn’t let them learn from their own mistakes. It seemed like such a logical thing to do.

As a mom now, I am no longer so certain. My children seem such a part of me, like a physical living part of my body, my heart, that it seems only natural to reach out and stop them, protect them from making mistakes. Separating myself from them seems the hardest thing I will ever need to do.

I wonder where I will find the courage to let them do something that, to my mind, is clearly a disaster. Would I be okay if they left the tried and tested to strike out on an unknown journey? Would I be okay, for instance, if one of them chose a career in music over academics, or would want to try their luck in Bollywood or strike out in the jungles as a photographer?

Would I be able to let them go? And yet be ready to have their back should they fail? Without a hint of ‘I told you so’? And then when they’re back up on their feet, would I be ready to let them make their next mistake? Be ready to have their back yet again?

It’s not going to be easy.

As I’ve grown older, possibly wiser, I’ve known some people who rebelled against their parents and found happiness. Some didn’t. Some heeded their advice and found happiness, others didn’t.

The thing is, one never can tell with life.

While children follow their passion, parents have to be the voice of reason. Click To Tweet

Ever so slowly, I hope they learn to balance their passion with reason, on their own. And I hope I’m around till they learn to do that. As their parent if I’m even writing this post, thinking I will have to let them go someday, it’s a step forward.

Meanwhile I make this promise to myself..

that I shall keep an open mind and respect their wish to follow their passion.

that I shall always always place their happiness above societal pressures – a lesson gifted to me by my parents.

and most of all, I will never close the doors of communication.

And I hope when the time comes, the children will give me and my concerns a patient hearing. And then, if they choose to go ahead despite it all, I shall find the courage to stand by them.

***********

 

Linking up with Mackenzie at Reflections from Me #mg

The Road to Independence #Monday Musings

The Road to Independence #Monday Musings

Last weekend as I was picking up H from his guitar class we saw one of his classmates walking back home. He lives close by and goes to the same  class.

I happened to say, ‘How very responsible and independent he is! Walking back home by himself!’ And that, dear friend, was a mistake  you must remember never to make when you’re with your tween. I regretted it almost immediately.

Never praise the independence of another child unless you are willing to let yours have it too. Click To Tweet

I really should have just kept my mouth shut. But then even the most cautious of us slips occasionally.

Obviously, H wouldn’t stop talking about it. Obviously he pestered me to let him walk there and back on his own. The distance doesn’t worry me, it is a little over 1.5 kms. It’s the fact that he would have to cross roads twice through fast-moving traffic and the fact that he is rather absent-minded.

Of late I have started allowing the twins step out on their own. They walk down to the stationery shop to get their own supplies and to the library. We are fortunate to have all of those within a few hundred meters around our apartment complex. I love it that they can run small errands for me like picking up grocery or giving clothes for ironing, which takes such a load off me, while making them feel responsible too.

But this was something I was skeptical about.

After much discussion (read argument) and silent contemplation (read sulking) we reached an agreement, or so I thought. It was decided that we would have a few ‘trials’. H asked if he could walk back with his friend. I agreed, assuming I would be walking with the two of them. Of course he assumed I wasn’t.

When the weekend approached and he realised I was going to walk with them he threw a fit, the kind of fit only a be-dead-rather-than-be-seen-with-mom-by-your-friend tween can throw. After another round of ‘discussions’ and ‘silent contemplation’ he said I could walk along as long as I kept twenty paces behind them.

So imagine this – H walking ahead with his friend pretending he didn’t know me and I following like a detective sent out by a suspicious wife to keep an eye on her cheating husband (or vice versa, for that matter), ready to turn my back or duck behind lamp posts to avoid being spotted, except he would have been more worried than me about me being seen.

The things one has to do for one’s children!

Mercifully, H tired of the walk soon-enough and realised that getting a ride with me was a way more comfortable option. I’ve begun to look upon laziness as a serious virtue. For now, the matter is resolved, till the next bout of independence strikes.

Meanwhile we are practicing crossing roads together, while I practice keeping my mouth shut. Tight.

What do you think, dear reader? Am I being too cautious, ‘overprotective’ as H accuses me of? What’s the right age to let children out on the roads on their own? And I’m talking Indian roads here.

 

Linking up with #MondayMusings at Everydaygyan

 

With Mackenzie at Reflections from Me

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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. […]