Category: Parenting Teens

If we were having coffee together – 8

If we were having coffee together – 8

If we were having coffee I’d tell you to pour yourself a cup and keep the kettle close by for this is going to be longish conversation. After all it’s been ages since we met up.

The Boards are Behind Us

If you’ve dropped by the blog over the last few months you’ll know the children took their Grade 10 Boards and came out fine. Even as we wait for the final results I cannot begin to say how happy and proud they made me. Exam scores aside, I was amazed to see that they handled the pressure calmly and maturely.

That said, I’m glad it is all behind us. 

It’s time for Junior College

If we were having coffee together I’d tell you how busy we’ve been sorting their junior college admissions. Choosing subjects, filling forms, scanning mark sheets and adhar cards, appearing for interviews. We as parents have also had to take interviews. One school wanted to know what school we went to, another asked for the marksheet of our last degree! That was strange.

While H is clear about what he wants to do, N is vacillating, still. Sometimes I feel it’s wholly unfair to expect a 16-year-old to know exactly what he or she wants from life. The Indian education system, inflexible as it is, with little room for changing streams or even subjects, frightens me.

I worry. A lot. What if I’m not giving the right advice to the children? What if a nudge in a different direction could prove life-changing? What on earth IS that right direction?

Uncertainty overwhelms me some days.

But then I have to remind myself to put it all away. I need to trust the children’s decision and mine even as I constantly assure them they have the freedom to take a different route any time they want, no matter the cost. In the end, it’s their happiness that counts.

A New Phase for the Children

If we were having coffee together I’d tell you that this will be the first time in their lives that the twins will be in different schools. Their timings are different too. It gives me a pang each time I think they will meet only in the evenings now.

I tell myself it’s a good thing. They need their space, they need to have different sets of friends and it’s time they forge their own different paths.

It truly is a whole new phase of their lives.

A New Phase for Me Too

If we were having coffee I’d tell you I feel as if this was a whole new phase for me too. I’m hoping, with their schools in order, my life can get back to some kind of a regular rhythm.

I have been exploring opportunities. I have to admit this change isn’t easy. Although I have been freelancing all these years, the twins have been a clear first priority for a decade and a half, specially with the husband being in another city. I find myself shying away from committing to anything full-time. I wonder if I will be able to strike a balance and be available if and when the children need me (which they won’t, one part of me reminds me, but the other me remains unconvinced).

I am allowing myself baby steps as of now and keeping my fingers crossed. Things have definitely eased out with the Husband coming home.

New Teachings, New Learnings

If we were having coffee I’d tell you how he and I have been taking turns teaching the children to drive a scooter. At 16, they are eligible to take to the roads although on smaller vehicles. We’re in no hurry since they still have two years to go before they can get onto a regular scooter but it’s fun, almost like the time they learnt to walk. One more step towards independence. While N remains cautious despite having a better sense of balance, H is, as always, sure of himself. They’re so different, these two, in everything they do.

If we were having coffee I’d wonder if you noticed how this post has been all about the children! That’s how much they’ve taken over my mind space this past month and that’s something I’m struggling to overcome. I really need to put the days of being obsessivemom behind me.

That’s it from me, for now. Tell me what’s happening with you. What’s been on your mind?

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?

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.

 

Sharing the post with Two Writing Teachers.

Why we need argumentative children

Why we need argumentative children

Sample this conversation here:

H: May I sleep in your room today?
Me: Why?
H: Because I get the best sleep there.
(The real reason is perhaps because his room is messy and he’s too lazy to clear it).
Me: Nope, you’re thirteen and you need to learn to be independent.
H: But mama India got independence after hundreds of years, I am just thirteen!

That was kind of funny, I know. However two words that top my list of most-detested-words are ‘But mama..’. I deal with them day in and day out, a million times a day. They have driven me to distraction, they have led to long arguments and missed buses. My personal Utopia would be a place where those two words didn’t exist.

Imagine for a moment, that did happen, that children stopped arguing with us. Imagine they ALWAYS did EXACTLY as we told them to.

Bliss.

Right?

Life would be peaceful.
There would be no dissonance.
There would be no tantrums, no whining, no arguments.
And so, things would move faster and we’d probably get way more done. We’d be more productive.

Right?

However, also, consider this:

Children would never learn to reason and think and make decisions.
Their mental capacities would lie in a limbo from disuse.
They’d grow up into adults with no minds of their own.
Things would perhaps never change because each generation would be a replica of the previous one.
There’d be no progress.
We’d probably still be hunter gatherers.

Puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? I mean arguing with your children sounds infinitely better than spending your life wearing leaves and living in deep dark caves crawling with all kinds of undesirable life forms, right?

Jokes aside, as a mom I hate the thought of my children not making their own decisions and taking over the course of their lives at some point. It is staggeringly frightening to think that I would always and forever be completely and wholly responsible for everything that’s right or wrong in their lives. That’s not how it should be.

Children argue because they have the capacity to think.
They argue because they do not want to follow rules blindly.
They argue because they want to try new things, new ways.
They argue because they think differently from you.

And that’s a blessing.

Be grateful.

 

Linking up with Mel for Microblog Mondays after a long time.