Can I choose my child’s friends?

I am asking this in response to a similar question posed by R’s Mom. The concerns that she has raised are what I have had many a number of times as a mother myself.

While I do understand her point when she says that one cant control the friends one’s child makes, but what I do believe is that we, as parents can surely guide our children towards choosing the right friends.

Why I believe so is because I feel growing children are very vulnerable and innocent and if we dont keep an eye on who they befriend or who not, theres a chance of them swaying towards keeping the wrong company. Now I agree I cant be with my child, watch over her 24/7 but I surely can observe her behaviour, talk to her ANd make her talk, right? Yes I give her the right values, R & I always make sure that we behave ourselves in front of her as well just as we expect her to behave herself in front of us and everybody else. But. Many a times what I have observed as a mother of a 5year old is how a child has a tendency to pick the wrong actions or words much faster than the right ones. So if I can teach her how to differentiate between a good behaviour and a bad behaviour I can certainly help her make the right circle of friends, right? Thats the logic I apply when I observe who Namnam makes friends with or who she gets negatively influenced by. Yes she has every right to make the friends she wants, but I’d like to help her know if the friends she makes are genuinely right for her or no for the simple reason that at an age that she is, I feel that she needs that guidance from me.

I had this experience, last year- something that I have blogged about here– with one of Namnam’s classmates from her previous kindegarten who had been having a bit of a wrong influence on her.And it was only when I discussed the issue with her teacher that my concern could get settled. Of course, the fact that she came and told me and we could talk about it made a world of a difference to me in addressing that issue.

In a similar instance in the recent past, when a boisterous 5year old from our compound began to corner Namnam and exclude her from playing with other kids, even going to the extent of yelling ‘I hate you’ everytime Namnam came around to play, I adviced her, pretty sternly, that unless the girl said sorry, she was not to play with her or be her friend. Because quite honestly I felt ‘hate’ was too strong a word for a 5 year old to take in..atleast not yet. Thankfully Namnam took the right message out of it and stopped playing with her altogether. I’m glad she went ahead and made friends with other kids, not necessarily her age, some older and some of whom even younger than her, but far more sensitive and forthcoming. No I’m not saying that I chose those friends for her, but I’d like to believe that I helped her get an idea about who she would rather be happy being friends with.

I dont know if I have the right answer to the ques RM posed, but I do have an answer that seems to have worked well till now. And I hope it does so in future too, at least till the time Namnam is big enough to make her own choice.

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Does marriage change a person?

**For the long rant, blame me not, but PNA :D. Her post prompted me to write it 😀**

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Let me rephrase it and ask that question to myself. Has marriage changed me? Well, I’d say it will depend on the way I look at change. If it means change in the way I smile then I’d say no, marriage hasn’t changed me. I still smile the same. If it is change in the way I walk, then no again. I still walk the same- very fast! If it means change in my choice of clothes, then no. I like to wear my saris and suits just as much as I love to wear my jeans and tees. And I still wear them, albeit the size has changed though :D.

Thats the kind of change the society normally expects a girl to undergo as soon as she attains the ‘married’ tag, right? She is told, ‘Ok, now that you’re married, this is how you should smile, this is how you should eat, this is how you should sit, this is how you should talk to your husband, this is what you should be wearing,” ” What? Jeans? Nooooo, you should only wear sarees” so on and so forth. She has to endure piercing glares from them if she is heard addressing her own husband by his name and not ‘ettan/chettan** or A-ji, O-ji Sunoji. She is expected to change her approach towards her parents and give more importance to her in-laws. She is even asked to seek permission from them if she wishes to see her parents. Oh yes, I’ve come across households where such norms are practiced.

This is what bothers me. How can the society judge how a marriage should or should not work. Its for the people involved in the relationship to decide isnt it? If I choose to address my husband by his name, does it make me respect him any less? If I spend time with my parents just as much as I do with my inlaws, does it mean that I’m dishonoring my marriage? Or if I choose to put sindoor in my forehead can I claim that I wish for my husband’s well-being more than any other woman wishes for her husband? No. It will be so wrong on my part to even compare my love and respect for my spouse with anybody else. Its a matter of choice and understanding between the people involved. If my family and R’s family know what they mean to us and if R & I know and accept what we mean to our respective families, then I dont think any society can or should tell us how we should make our marriage work.

If thats what changing is then I can safely say I’ve NOT changed one bit. I’m fortunate and blessed to have grown up in a family which hardly paid any attention to these ridiculous societal norms as well as married into a family that didnt care for such norms either.

So when I was married some 10 years back I was accepted along with my giggly smile, my loud laugh, my brisk-walking style and much more. Not once was I made to feel as though I had to change myself. In fact R & my parents-in-law went out of their way to make me feel comfortable and welcome from day one.

My mother-in-law, who hated cooking, used to make my favorite dishes and wait for me to get back from work so she could surprise me! Imagine coming home after a hard day’s work, to the delicious sight of your favorite mutton-curry! When it was the season of mangoes, my father-in-law, who couldn’t stand the sight of the fruit, would go about in search of the ripest mangoes so I could gorge on them.

When my mother-in-law, an ardent follower of Mata Amritanandamayi, expressed a desire to take me to her ashram in Vallikavu, I agreed to go, despite having my own reservations about ‘Amma’ because I felt for someone who cared so much about my happiness, my likes and dislikes, this was the least I could do to make her happy. No I was not forced to change my beliefs, I still maintained my reservations. I went there out of my own will, purely because, to me my mother-in-law’s happiness mattered more than my staunch beliefs. A mother-in-law who cared about my happiness just as much. Believe me, when she was showing me around the ashram, introducing me to her friends there, the glee and excitement that I saw in her eyes is indescribable.

If this is what change is then I’ve no qualms in saying that marriage has changed me. I have become more understanding towards relationships, more tolerant, more patient, more giving. And I can confidently say the same for my husband too. If I, who was a shy meek girl, am molded and pushed by my husband, into becoming this strong bold woman who is much surer of herself and if my husband who was a blunt and rough person, is molded into becoming a more sensitive and thoughtful person, then I’d say this change is totally worth it. If marriage changes you in a positive way, if a husband and wife help each other to grow as a person, then the change should be welcome.Of course it has to be two-ways. You cant expect only one person to change. The other person has to put in just as much effort and care to nurture the relationship.

So if I ask myself again, ‘has marriage changed me as a person’ I’d say it sure has. For the better 🙂

** In many parts of Kerala, malayali wives address their husbands as Ettan/Chettan as a mark of respect, which in literal sense means big brother

Dear Namnam,

Today is the most memorable day in Amma & Papa’s life.The day when God blessed us,three years back,with the most beautiful and precious angel.You.

Yet it seems like yesterday that you were placed in my arms for the first time.I didnt even know how to hold you properly,yet I knew we were a part of each other and I could never let go of you.I could so hold you close to me for life!

Your Papa & I remember every stage of your life ever since.Your first smile,when you burst into giggles at the mere sight of us making faces at you.When you rolled over for the first time,and then crawled in the next stage,to reach every nook and corner of the house.When you learnt to stand up unaided,then walk and then run as though theres no stopping you.

Our happiness had no bounds when you addressed us ‘Amma’ & ‘Papa’ for the first time.You began to pick up more and more words,eventually amaze us by rattling off in sentences.Now,however,the situation is such that we have to be always on guard while conversing around or with you lest you pick up any wrong word!

The last one year,especially,has seen you become more expressive,more emotive,more aware of your surroundings.You run to us with hugs & kisses galore for no rhyme or reason.Although,occasionally,we have to tempt you with chocolates,your favourite Barney series,or a visit to the kiddie-zone,so that you shower us with extra doses of kisses!

You love to dress up like me.you use my scarf to wrap around like a skirt.There have been times when you’ve tried to apply lipstick with your crayons and I’ve watched,oblivious to you of course,in wonderment at your observation.You’ve even made me wonder if becoming a beautician is what you have in mind by indulging in something like this.

‘Sorry’ was one word that you took the longest to grasp in your early stages.But now the very same word is what you use the most often.Each mischief of yours is suffixed by a ‘Sorry,mama,I’ll not do it again’!

You are also in the process of getting into the ‘tell-me-why’ phase where you have to question anything that catches your attention.

Namnam,today,when you’ve already taken your first few steps towards making your own mark in life,Papa & I would like to tell you a few things.

You may face many challenges on the way.Dont shirk from them,face them head on.Make your mistakes,and learn from them.You may even fall,but rise must you,even stronger.Know your mind.If you know you are right,stick to it.And if you know others are wrong,be known that you have every right to question them,even if they are your own parents.We will always guide you through the right path,however be assured that you will have all the freedom to make your own choices.Shape yourself the way you want to.Its not just your right,but your duty.

Molu,always know one thing,your Papa&I love you the most in the world.We are proud of you and always will be.

Happy Birthday,Ponnukutty!

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