Day 13- Not Before You

So, the other day I was getting ready to pick Namnam up from school.  Her school finishes at around 3. Even though I am just 5 minutes away from school, I leave more than half an hour early so I can claim a good parking spot in time and save myself from getting squished by other vehicles scampering for space. Its a mad rush otherwise!

Now on most of the days I wait till she is back from school, to have my lunch with her. But that day I was very hungry so I ate before leaving to pick her. When she was home she didn’t fret about having to eat her lunch alone because she knew I had eaten mine. And she was cool about it. Since I have done it a couple of times before, she was probably convinced that it was not such a big deal that her Amma had eaten lunch without waiting for her 😀

Every time I do this, my thoughts take me to my grandmother who would have been disappointed, if she were alive. She would have scolded me for my nonchalance! She was someone who always waited for her husband, her children and later on her grandchildren- that’s me and my brother- to get home from wherever we would be, till she served us our meals and then sat with us to have hers.  So there was always an underlying message where she subtly insisted on waiting for us whether we wanted to be waited for or no.

A lot of parents behave in this manner, I have observed,without realizing the undue pressure they may be putting on their children. While I know the intention is to convey that they care, but I find the gesture pretty constricting.

I remember a friend mentioning once how terrible she and her husband felt when they came home after a late night dinner only to eat again with their parents because they were waiting for them till late!! And they felt guilty to have made them wait, despite informing that they would be late.

Its like suffocating our kids with our impractical love, isn’t it?. By making them feel guilty with our claustrophobic show of love, we aren’t making them love us more, instead we may be driving them away from us.

I sometimes feel bad when I can’t keep up to the expectations I might have set in Namnam’s mind. Then I realize that by setting an impractical bar of expectation in my kid’s mind, I may be knowingly or unknowingly misleading her. She may get dejected if for some reason I am not in a position to keep up to that expectation.

So it’s best to establish a more practical understanding of each other where there’s no room for disappointment or undue pressure on either.

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Dear Namnam, you’re 10!!

It’s a milestone! A double digit age! Can you visualize Amma with both her hands on her cheeks, mouth agape and her jaws dropping? Yup, that’s what happens every time the fact hits me.

Where did all the time go, da?

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Much as it may sound cliched, it does seem like yesterday when I had gone for a regular check up, with you safely cocooned inside me, and Dr. Rakhi told me that I was ready to bring you out to this world. Rather you were ready to come out, though you didn’t give me any signs aside the casual pokes and kicks. Was I nervous? Was I in pain? Well I can’t really remember being in pain or any discomfort for long. You were a wonderful baby, you didn’t give me any trouble all the while I was pushing you to come out. In fact I was prancing around the hospital ward all happy and gay, chatting with your Ammamma who was by my side all through. Your Ammamma was more tensed than I was. Mothers I tell you!

And then just like that, in a few hours you were placed in my arms.

I didn’t even know what to expect at that point. It took us sometime to sink in that the moment we had been praying for, waiting for, was finally here. Although your Papa & I knew much in advance that we were going to be blessed with a daughter, we didn’t know what else was to come. We weren’t even sure if we were holding you right!

We were as new to the world of parenthood as you were to babyhood. When you discovered the perfect nook to sleep by snuggling in to our necks, we discovered the immeasurable joy of just watching you. You learned your ways around your world while we learned to guide you. You learned to talk, we learned to read you. You learned to walk, we learned to chase. You learned to eat ( fussily at that) and we learned to savor your leftovers…and gain some pounds too in the process! And the stage of fussy-eating and savoring-your-leftover still continues 😉

We learned to get used to being called Amma..Papa while you learned to get used to not only Namnam but all kinds of pet names that we could think of. We learned all the baby talks and cuddles that we could possibly shower on you, you learned to decipher them and respond to our crazy lingo with your dialect!

And now. Just like that. You’ve turned 10.

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You’re not a minikin anymore. You’re not that one year old who had screamed her lungs out when she heard those thunderous claps of so many people known and unknown, coming at her as her first birthday cake was being cut!

You are a young girl now on the threshold of what they call “preadolescence”. I didn’t even know that a word like this existed until recently. As if adolescence wasn’t scary enough a term. Now there’s preadolescence or preteen or tween to get us parents to hyperventilate even more!

Much as I am glad that you are well over that phase of stranger anxiety, much as I am glad to see you shaping up stronger, much surer of yourself and your surroundings, much as I am looking forward to knowing how much of a fine person you will grow up to be, I can’t help wishing there was a way to hold on to the time dashing past. Then and now alike.

You’re growing up so fast!

So fast that I sometimes tend to refuse to let you grow out of my fold. Papa always tells me that I shouldn’t be mollycoddling you so much. You are old enough to be treated in a more mature manner. While I am still grappling with the speed at which you are growing, I do realize that he is right.

You are blossoming into a wonderfully accommodating, practical, sensible girl with a terrific sense of humour. An avid reader. An ardent watcher of YouTube shows, so much so that you are turning into a potential insomniac. Psst…the insomniac bit is not said in a very celebratory tone, note that ok!

You’re a bundle of energy, always ready with questions and opinions bursting through your curious mind. I look forward to our dinner sessions because that’s also the time when the three of us converse on a range of things. It’s a different matter though that while Papa and I eat AND converse, you…you only converse. And you know what I find most amazing? That you think of the most interesting, relevant questions to ask when you have a plateful of food to finish!

That said, I cherish the wonderfully interesting discussions that we have been having about Greek Gods and mythology and how they have got you to draw parallels with Indian mythology and mindsets of those times.

Oh I hold dear even those peculiar questions that find their way to our dining table. Like when you want to know how you behaved when you were in my tummy. Or if it was your finger or toe nail that did the scratching or poking from inside. Or how could we be so sure that your first word was Amma. Or why is there no such term as a person-made or human-made? Why do we refer to a creation as man-made? What if it was created by a woman?

Namnam, please don’t stop asking questions. Ever. Peculiar or not. Relevant or not. Asking questions is a beautiful way to widen your horizon. To rubbish prejudices. So ask away. Whatever you want to. Whomever you want to.

The other day you wanted to know whether people judge others solely by their looks? It was an interesting topic to broach. And I could tell where you were coming from. Why you sounded so affected. You hate, you tear up when someone calls you tiny or short to belittle your capabilities. You wonder how anyone can judge you merely by how short or tall you look without really knowing how capable you are. You are right, Namnam. They cannot judge you. They shouldn’t. But how people judge you is not in your control. They may judge you for the choices you make, for a certain way you behave, for the accent you talk in, for the way you eat, for the way you dance. What you can control is whether you choose to get affected by them. If you choose not to be affected by those shallow judgments and take pride in what you are, being confident in your own capabilities, you are proving those people wrong already.
Let me give you a piece of advice that your Ammamma used to drill into me and Raghumamu while growing up. Something that has always stayed with me.

Put your heart and soul into whatever it is that you do or wish to do or desire. Give your best and it will come your way, come what may.

Having said that, don’t ever expect for things to come your way on the very first try. You need to keep trying and pursuing. There’s a slight chance that they may not even come to you. You are not to give up on hope if that happens. Do your best. Keep trying and if need be explore other pastures. But don’t ever give up.

With that the birthday special edition of advices comes to a close. The next batch shall be offered in another week. Okay, okay..not for another month. Now  go ahead and enjoy your day. Celebrate being you.

Always know that Papa & I are ever so proud of you. Ever so blessed to have you in our lives. We love you more and more with each passing moment. Always will.

Happy 10th, darling 🙂

Amma

Dear Namnam,

Sorry, da.

There are so many things that I want to say sorry to you for. Many times I do say it to you, but a lot of times I forget. Actually the fact is that I forget because you make it so easy for me to forget.

Because YOU forget.

You forget that I was horrible to you. Then, you ever so easily put me back in your “my Amma is the best” space!

I’m not the best yet da. You deserve to be treated so much better by your Amma. But I sometimes get so caught up with things happening around me and even more, inside my mind that I go astray and cause mayhem while dealing with you.

So let me say it again. Sorry for the many things that I do or don’t do even, that eventually hurt you or disappoint you. You may just say, it’s ok, Amma and move on, like you always do. Because that’s the kind of person you are. A child still. Ever so forgiving. But that, in no way, means that I can get away, right.

I hate myself, Namnam, absolutely hate myself when I take out my monster self on you. I yelled at you today. I yelled at you last night. And the day before. Each time, probably making you wonder if it’s something that I am beginning to enjoy as a hobby.

Now, sometimes you ask for that monster mom to be pulled out, we can’t deny that, can we! Like today? I did start off by being soft on you, all the while trying my best to keep my lava boiling inside my panicking-mind from bursting, when you had to be coaxed and prodded to dress up fast. But despite being aware that you were running late for school, you had to run back upstairs in the nick of time to get your book!! And the result? The lava burst and out came the monster-mom spitting fire!

Or what about last night? When you were well past your bed time but you still couldn’t help making that feeble attempt at staying awake for that extra minute by sneaking out of your bed on the pretext of getting some water to drink? I had no choice but to resort to a roar loud enough for you to crawl back in bed meekly.

Of course I instantly regretted roaring at you, when you kissed me goodnight with a tight hug as though nothing else but your love for me mattered.

So, sorry, kanna, for being hard on you. But sometimes, that’s the only way to get you back in track.

And then there are times when I wonder if I am a little too dismissive. When you pretend to be a baby and ask to be carried and cuddled like one. Or creep and crawl to the bathroom and ask that you be given a shower. I dismiss all of your pleas at times, tell you off and remind you of your “big girl” status. Much as I hate reminding myself that you are growing up, times like this when you remind me otherwise, make me wonder how strange and weird life is.

Sometimes, much I sense that I am unfair to you, I find myself pushing you to give your best, ignoring that you probably are giving your best afterall. I ignore still, just so that you can belong to the peer you represent. I’m really really sorry for that, Namnam. I genuinely am. Sometimes I get buckled under peer pressure of my own. And I realize very well that I need to take it easy and curb my anxieties.

So please forgive for being what may seem unjust.

You are my pride. And there’s not been a single day that I haven’t said this to myself. I have re-iterated it to you at every occasion. I must say it more often, I realize that. You are the best in your own right. Be the best in your own eyes, on your own terms. Thats all that matters.

With the hope that you will be as forgiving as you are..

Love always,

Amma.

Day 3- Today’s learning programme is brought to you by …

A very interesting, interactive and extremely engaging session that I had with the Dean of the Primary Year Programme at Namnam’s school. I came out of the hall quite enlightened after hearing all that she had to say about the programme that the school curriculum had in place for its children. And reassured too. I sincerely hope that the programme does achieve the goal that it’s set out to. And that is to help all its children become internationally minded people.

So far I have been happy with how Namnam has been progressing ever since she joined this school. But, like any parent, I would like her to aim for a better reach. She has still a long way to go, but I’m convinced that she is being guided through the right path here. And I’m hopeful that if the school goes about implementing the methods and ideas that the Dean so articulately shared, then she can truly benefit and evolve as a person.

Let me just jot down some of the things that I, as a parent, took away from the meeting today:

Let go of how I learned back in school and embrace the method that my child is being taught in. I’m perfectly ok with it as long as the method is progressive. Having said that I must say that the school doesn’t mind an open-learning policy either. So if I believe that my method of teaching a concept to my child is simpler than how it is taught in school, then the school is encouraging enough to let her learn it my way as long as she has grasped the said concept well.

Encourage my child to ask questions. Oh yes I completely endorse that. I have time and again tried to drill into Namnam that she needs to speak her mind, not suppress her queries, instead express them openly. I particularly loved it when the Dean said that in this programme of learning

there is no such thing as a dumb question.

Oh how I wanted to hug her for saying that! So many a time, we hold ourselves back from speaking our mind thinking that we might sound dumb, don’t we? So here’s a school of thought that urges any hesitant mind to let go and open up.

Education has evolved, technology has evolved, allow my child to evolve too. I agree as long as technology doesn’t border on addiction and misuse. Education is not about rote-learning anymore. It’s become lot more interactive and research based where the focus is more on practical study of concepts. Namnam’s school has been allowing the use of ipads and other tablets from as early as Grade 4, for educational research, of course with stringent restrictions in place. Though I agree there is a grave risk of such devices being misused and kids falling prey to addiction, but there’s no denying that constructive use of these devices has helped children to become more independent and resourceful.

Teacher is a facilitator. I love the term which gives such a huge scope to a child to grow. A child doesnt need to blindly follow or memorize what the teacher asks of him/her. Instead the child has the freedom to explore the concept in his/her own manner and interpret it in his/her own way with the teacher’s guidance. The teacher facilitates an environment suitable for the child to learn.

Approach learning with fun. Do not freak out if my child doesn’t bring any homework home. I’m one of those parents who’s the happiest on days when her child does not bring home any assignments! So this particular take away sits well on me :). Jokes apart, I do get the point the Dean tried to make. Homework is not the only way to practice what’s been taught. There are other ways to ensure that my child stays in touch with her lessons, which I can approach in a more fun and practical manner.

Be constantly involved with the Unit of Inquiry. One of the core features of the curriculum that her school follows is that of an Inquirer. Each term a class is given a topic which the children have to inquire upon, do research, and make power-point presentations of their observation. interestingly this is one of Namnam’s favourite subjects as she gets to sit online and research and I can’t admonish her for spending much time glued to her screen!

Allow my child to be independent. Not just while she goes through her lessons. But in every other aspect. I need to learn to let go and allow her to explore her world independently.

Learning doesn’t stop at the school gate. The responsibility of teaching my child to become a risk-taker, a critical thinker, internationally minded doesn’t just begin from home and end at school or vice versa. It’s to be jointly shared and undertaken by both, the parents and teachers. And this process of learning has to go beyond as an an ongoing process.

Last but never the least, the take away that stays with me is that, we are all learners. The Teachers, the parents, the children all alike. I couldn’t agree more.