Writing has always been a passion of mine, ever since I was in school. But I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a writer. The first time that I realised I wanted to be one, was when my elder son was born 6 years ago – I was a new mom and this role was my inspiration for what would eventually become a very large piece of my life. I sensed that the writing life would be all-consuming and motherhood would be all consuming. I often wondered if I could do both – could I?
There have been so many times that I have thrown my hands up in the air in complete exasperation. I have set aside my stack of notebooks and colorful pens. I never thought motherhood and writing could peacefully co-exist. I told myself that eventually, motherhood would take the place of writing, and that it was inevitable.
I was wrong of course.
The book ‘Flow’ by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, has touched many lives, including mine. When we talk about being “in the zone”, as I have often been when writing, we are experiencing ‘Flow’. Have you ever been so completely and utterly immersed in a task, oblivious to the outside world, focusing only on what is going on right here and now? If yes, you are in a state of ‘Flow’.
I had also read about and spoken to friends about having a sanctified work space at home. But, does this sacred space actually exist for everyone?
I started running the concept of trying to be in a state of ‘Flow’ and a dedicated work space, in a loop in my head. It was hard for me to remember a time that external influences were non-existent, allowing me to actually set a sacred work space aside for myself. I couldn’t. I have indeed experienced ‘Flow’ many a time when writing – resulting in high levels of productivity, but definitely for not as long as I would have liked.
In all honesty, I did try and create a sanctified work space in my own room. But it was just a matter of a time before it turned into a multi-purpose space – yes, it was a desk welded into the wall which I used to write, but it was also a bookshelf, storage for drawings by my boys, a resting place for various wires and chargers and so much more.
My children wake up at 6.45 am to start their morning routine and get ready for school. I thought of waking up at 4.30 am, untangling myself from my 3-year-old’s arms, and tip-toeing out of the room to write at the dining table. I tried it, only to have one of the boys wake up shortly after to use the restroom, losing all their sleep in the process.
I thought of all the other places that had been my ‘writing desk’ over the years – a corner of my terrace, a parked car, my regular table at Starbucks, a couch in the bar room, and even my kids Teepee tent. I write at the back of my mind.
I thought of all the times I sat down to write, only to be interrupted by shouts and crying that one child had ‘by mistake’ poked the other one with a super-hero toy,
I had set a goal of authoring two books by the time I turned 40. There have been times when I thought about going away to some beautiful writing retreats I had read about. I remembered the guilt I felt thinking about leaving the two boys for an extended period of time. Sure, I have taken trips with friends, but they have always been short ones.
I understand now that ‘Flow’ is something we can all experience, but not all the time. The sacred desk space maybe something we don’t all have access to either. Do I experience Flow all the time when I write, and do I write in a dedicated space all the time? No! I make notes on my phone when I am in the restroom, when I am playing UNO with my 6-year-old and I know I should only be focusing on him, and when I am sitting at Football class. I write in the splinters of time I can find amid by responsibilities as a mother, and other work.
But you know what the amazing thing is? Motherhood follows me everywhere and my writing would be nothing without it! It has and will always figure into my writing process. Being a mother, has not taken the place of me being a writer and an aspiring author. In fact, it would be impossible for me to give up the writing life.
As much as I love my kids fiercely, and cherish every single moment I spend with them, motherhood has never been fulfilling enough for me. While writing in solitude all the time maybe a bit of a stretch, it is something I do to feel the occasional magic, among many other things. It is a means of keeping my boundaries intact, and a step towards preserving a sense of self.
There have been a few days when I have been unable to write even a little, for various reasons, and those were the days I have felt terribly incomplete. I realised something then – that if I couldn’t do this work, my life would not be my life. I cut my hand on a girl’s trip I went on recently, and aside from “ouch” and “I hope that stops bleeding soon”, my next thought was “thank god I didn’t get cut in a spot that would hinder my typing”.
Every day, as I pursue my writing, I also try to successfully juggle my family’s needs, and other work that make me who I am. I see my children are watching. But my mantra has become to do my own work first. To me, this means to spend some time reading different articles, websites and books to develop my mind and language, and devote the best of my mind to writing. To me, this means to surround myself with friends who look at life the same way I do, and people who have helping others, stitched into the fabric of who they are.
While the ideal situation is to stay in a state of Flow for as long as possible, and have that sanctified writing space, we don’t need them all the time to write. I know I need to keep writing not only in the absence of obstacles that emerge in various forms, but even through them. Through interruptions. As I am writing this, my elder son came up to me and said “Something bit me. Can you please help me and apply some cream on it”? I put my laptop down and said “Sure, I’ll help you”. I stop writing this article.
I know what many of you must be thinking reading this quote. "There are other ways to learn how to live right side up! Why does a world shattered by an infectious disease need to be the time to learn life lessons?"
There is nothing good about this chilling disease that has killed many and brought panic and fear into hearts and homes. Well, isn't it always during our most painful times that epiphanies occur?
Those who know me well, know that I am the sort of person to thrive most with work and social contact. On days where I miss out on either one of these, I feel incomplete and lost. Ever since the world as we know it has been thrown into complete disarray, many aspects of our daily lives have been snatched away from us leaving very little to almost no time to adjust. Rules have been enforced taking into account our well-being and measures taken to ensure that we emerge on the other side of this pandemic, successfully. We have been thrown into the 'new normal' that varies for each family, which will once again evolve during the post-viral stage. On a deeper level, this has forced us all to slow down and hit the pause button on our busy and sometimes surreal lives. It has pushed us to fall into new patterns. This chilling disease has forcibly thrust us towards embracing change.
Without the constant juggling of article deadlines, back to back meetings, play dates, school/class drop-offs and pick-ups, I know it will take me some time to stop feeling like I am in a Twilight Zone. I know many of you feel the same as well; as a close friend of mine said today - "I feel like we are in the middle of a Zombie apocalypse!" I have been feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude the last few days, watching both my boys pretend play, argue and fight. Considering that many are wondering how to feed their families right now, being at home and available to give my kids baths has been a privilege for me. Implementing their daily class schedules at home has been eye-opening! Needless to say my respect for teachers has grown multi-fold and I think they are angels in disguise.
I can guarantee that once we see the light at the end of the Corona Virus tunnel and life starts to get back on track, most of us will go rushing back to our pre-viral routines or to one that closely resembles it with fierce determination. But I hope we remember to slow down, remain calm and let life happen. Take a deep breath and focus on the simple things. Keep in mind that we are alive and breathing. Remember that we are enough.
My first brush with loss was when I was 16 and in the 10th grade in school. When you are young, life is like a playground where you chance upon people whom you know you will never see or talk to again. You also meet those rare people whom you at first sight know that they are meant to be in your life forever. My first ever serious relationship was with one such person who did not know that forever was not in his cards. Neither did I. 11 months into our relationship, God took him from us and that was a defining moment for me. The grief started to speak, and I remember wondering if I could have prepared myself better all those years by equipping myself with all the emotions death gives rise to. But how can you possibly prepare yourself for something you didn't know would happen? I remember asking myself that often in the days following the passing of a person who had been such an integral part of my life. The concept of death and loss seemed completely new to me and at 16, I was still an impressionable teenager who was still learning the ways of the world. After experiencing something like this, I was left with a soul-crushing impression that attachment was to be feared and not embraced. Growing up my parents encouraged me to be independent and taught me everything I needed to survive in the cut-throat world, but I don't remember conversations on dealing with loss taking place. Now 20 years, subsequent relationships, a wonderful husband and 2 children later, the views of attachment have finally been reversed. I have realised that talking to our children when they are young about death is crucial. I would never wish for them to fear getting into a relationship and forming attachments like I did for a long time.
When a person close to you loses a loved one, you mourn their loss with them. At a time like that you almost feel invincible and thank god for everyone and everything in your life. Deep down you pray that it never happens to you or anyone you love. As parents, our number one goal is to protect our children from any heart ache or challenges that they may face. When our parents were busy raising us, it would never have occurred to them to talk to bring up such a topic. Parenting seemed to be more straightforward and simple back then. Modern parenting however is geared towards awareness and raising our kids with every quality possible to survive real life. Life is designed in such a way that death and loss is a part of each person's journey. The most we can do is prepare our children from the time they are young by having age-appropriate conversations. It is human to avoid uncomfortable topics with our them and postpone talking to them with an easy justification that "they are anyway too young to understand." Children form their own impressions and judgements if we do not explain it to them ourselves. They have their peers to turn to. Death and loss is not a topic that we can leave open to interpretation with them so addressing this with them as early on as possible is key.
Last year, a homework assignment for my now 4.5 -year-old's class was to create a family tree. He had to stick pictures of his immediate family and talk about them. My husband lost his father when he was 18-years-old, so this particular assignment led to numerous questions from my son about his paternal grandfather, whom he had never met. He wanted to know where he had gone and why. Why was it that some people were still left here on earth while God took others earlier? We explained that being very sad and even for a long time is not bad; it is in fact normal when you lose someone you love. He started to worry that his parents would go to God soon as well, and this is where a great deal or reassurance is required. We had to reinforce again and again that he would always be taken care of and someone would always be there to love him. The conversation was delicate of course but only the truth was told. A few weekends ago, we watched The Lion King together for the first time. I was forced to turn it off half hour into the movie when Simba's father died. My son was upset that he had died and wanted him to come back. That was the moment for me to explain that death is permanent, a concept which children will take years to understand, but it is never too late to start.
There are so many easy ways to squash a conversation with children about death if questions arise. I have heard others say that a loved one has gone to sleep or gone out of town and they don't know when they will be back. While evading questions may seem like the logical thing to do, what expectations are we setting? Simply speaking, what happens when that person does not come back? We tend to forget that we are our children’s first teacher and our words matter. The truth matters. Talk to them about what they will feel and how they can deal with those emotions. Tell them that even though a person many not be physically present, they are still there in all the things around them.
The long - term benefits of having the death and loss conversation with our children when they are young are tremendous. It is okay to have doubts of our own and to say we don't know to questions they ask. Honesty is always appreciated by children and the more upfront we are about what we know and don't know, the better. This is a topic which cannot be spoken about once and tossed aside, rather it can be returned to again. It is important to remember that if we don't explain it to them, they will imagine and create a story of their own. What they imagine can set the foundation for what they believe and expect to experience later in their own lives. So, if you haven't already spent a few minutes talking about death with your child, do so soon. There is a difference between protecting and sheltering and sheltering them from what they will inevitably experience will only hinder them. Protect them by preparing them.
Appreciation is a dying art form. I truly believe this. Growing up, we have a tremendous number of influences in our lives – parents, grandparents, siblings, aunt, uncles, cousins, friends, nannies and so on. The list of people who spark some sort of light in our lives and leave a mark is sometimes quite winding. Once we embark upon adulthood, we look back at the lessons we learned and whom they were taught by. We realize that we don’t really appreciate or express our gratitude enough to those people. We then close our eyes and mutter a silent “thank you” to those wise people who we 20 years later realize made an impact on us. Aside from my parents and siblings, some of the people who played a very significant role in shaping my personality and who I am today, are my teachers.
There are so many ‘aha’ moments that creep up on you once you become a mother yourself. I have certainly had many of those recently. Witnessing my 4-year-old son grow at rapid speed and with an even more rapidly developing dynamic personality, a large part of which I owe to his teachers, makes me eternally grateful to them. Till I became a mother and my son started school, I had always underestimated the intensity of influence of a teacher in a child’s life. It took me a long time to understand that teachers were not put on earth to simply walk into a classroom, write on the board, teach and leave. Especially not the ones I had interacted with at my son’s school and who he has been, and still is, lucky enough to have. They are more than just ‘TEACH’ers. The definition of a teacher itself has evolved over the years and according to me, they are our children’s guardians when we are not around. They assume the role of protector during the large chunks of time children spend at school.
There is a reason parents spend sleepless nights trying to select a school for their children. Of course, they want a good education. After all, which parent doesn’t want that? But the meaning of ‘education’ is not as cut and dry as it used to be several decades ago. Education does not only entail ensuring that our children know all the letters in the Alphabet or that they know all the different colors in the Rainbow. It does not mean that if your child knows how to read by the age of 4, he/she is set for life. Parents search for, visit, review, re-visit, and take months to narrow down schools for their children based on multiple factors including the teaching style. By this, I don’t mean the way they teach Math and English, but the way the teachers interact, engage and bond with students. Teachers now have the gigantic responsibility of churning out individuals with a clear view of the world, the strength and personality to engage in it and the ability to survive in it. This starts from the time children are in pre-school which is when a teacher’s job is the hardest.
One of the biggest assets that any school can have are teachers who are able to form attachments on many levels with young children. The most crucial element for any young child to thrive in school is a nurturing environment filled with happiness and love from those around them. The ability to listen and comfort is one of the most admirable qualities in teachers and requires immense patience, especially with the young ones. Parents are no longer the only primary influencers and sole teachers so children at a very young age need to be slowly immersed into a school environment where the teachers become their pseudo-mothers. When my son bounces out of school with a big smile on his face and stories to tell, I know that his teachers among others, have had a big part to play in it. When he comes strolling out at the end of a school day, just to go running back in a second later to say bye for the tenth time to his teachers, I know I can sleep well at night. The warmth and affection that children experience can turn their day around and this is what encourages them to look forward to school the next day. Learning is not feared but welcomed.
Good teachers help our children become good human beings. It is as simple as that. What our children learn from their teachers will stay with them in some form for the rest of their lives. They motivate and inspire. They provide strength and comfort. They nurture the wonder, curiosity and creativity. They love and protect. They are role models for our children, the same way we are. Teachers are vital to the success of everything our children do, and I have learned to value every one of them who is present in our children’s lives. Teachers hold hands, open minds and touch hearts. So, learn to appreciate them every step of the way and take every chance you get to say thank you. The same way our children need encouragement and appreciation to develop into the best people, so do teachers.
“Teachers change the world one child at a time”
One of my best friends sent me the below quote on Mother’s Day last month.
“Having a mother is complicated and fraught. Not having a mother is complicated and fraught. Being a mother is complicated and fraught. Not being a mother is complicated and fraught. Sending love to you today, whatever your relationship with motherhood.”
There are so many questions that are answered automatically when you have children of your own; especially the earth-shattering ones about why your mother did the things that she did when you were growing up, much to your bewilderment. When you are young, a mother-child relationship is defined by love and hate. The moments of your mother doing more wrong than right (according to you) were probably in abundance. I remember throwing numerous tantrums about the most materialistic things - when I couldn’t get dropped to school in the car I wanted, or when I wasn’t allowed to have a phone in my room at the tender age of 12. At that time did I rarely think that I was lucky enough to at least have a car to take me to school or that most children my age didn’t have phones in their rooms and for a reason. I remember taking my mother’s “NO” as a direct beating to my heart and she became my worst enemy for a few days. I can only imagine the little terror I must have been when I was younger! Common wisdom tells us to stop falling out with our mothers as we emerge from adolescence in one piece but that is rarely the case. The expectations and complications faced with our mothers evolve as we sail through life and this sometimes-unrealistic expectation of ‘perfect’ that we have of them, remains.
Not even a day goes by when I don’t question the behaviour of my children and try to understand why their actions around me and reactions to things I say or do are so different than with anyone else in the house. A simple “go for your bath” apparently warrants a “NO, you said I can have another 4 minutes” with a door being slammed in my face (even though it had been 15 minutes already). Two minutes later when the same request is made by my husband, I can hear the shower running immediately. I have come to terms with the fact that I will probably never be able to find a rational explanation for this phenomenon. What I have realised over the course of two children is that this is neither new or abnormal, but extremely natural for any child. The complications we have with our children are the same as those with our mothers. It has taken me 4 adult child-rearing years to comprehend, decipher and appreciate my mother.
Although Mother’s Day is over, the above quote is one that will stay with me forever. We all have our own battles with motherhood and as humans we are programmed to always want more. We look around and analyse the various distinct mother-child relationships we often see playing out in front of our eyes. It is in our DNA to want what other people have as the grass seems forever greener on the other side, but in reality may not be. However, in this constant want and need for something more, whatever that may be, we tend to overlook the most obvious – that we are plain lucky to have what we have, even in light of the various challenges that plague our relationships with our mothers. Motherhood is anything but easy any which way we look at it, either as mothers ourselves or as daughters. Complications always persist. It is a rule of life that children tend to be the hardest on their mothers and this is something that will remain true till the end of time. We automatically expect nothing but the best from our mothers however old we are. We assume that they have read our minds and should say exactly what we want to hear, with no room for error.
As we grow older, we learn to appreciate their numerous talents and strengths, alongside the many criticisms that as children we can’t help throwing at them. Mothers do not want to see their children make the same mistakes they made but we see it as manipulation so we fire back at them. It is a much-proven fact that even as an adult, no one can quite rile you up like your mother. As Agatha Christie said " A mother's love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path." This is something we do not really understand until we become mothers ourselves.
As each day passes and I watch my children grow in front of eyes, I thank god for my mother and for extending the privilege of motherhood to me. There are those amazing women who have lost their mothers and would give anything to spend just another minute with them. There are also those incredible and strong mothers who have lost their children, in and outside the womb and the pain of a mother losing her child is the worst pain of any kind. A mother-child relationship is probably the most complicated of all time and will always overflow with obstacles but at the end of the day, motherhood is defined by love.
This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of Provoke Lifestyle Magazine.
We call many things in life a ‘two-way street’. As humans, it is in our DNA to expect that if we give, we must in turn receive. The phrase ‘what’s in it for me?’ sometimes come out easier than hello; it depicts the human mind along with its varying complexities. So, this phrase is not only applied to relationships as it very often is, but also to any act of giving where something is expected in return. Very rarely do you find an act of giving going unaccompanied without some form of receiving, except where family and close friends are involved. Here is the difference between a selfish act of giving and a selfless act of giving which I like to call ‘kindness’.
Kindness means different things to different people but I think we can all agree that it is good for the soul. I have always believed that kindness starts with yourself. The true meaning of being kind to someone else is lost somewhere along the way when we are unable to first be kind to ourselves. In today’s cut throat world filled with competition and pressure from all sides, kindness rarely exists. As a mother, when I think about the kind of world I want my children to grow up in, I visualize a world where they are surrounded by love, happiness, empathy, equality and most importantly kindness. Everything else comes second.
Kindness creates magic. It creates love. If there is one thing I want my children to be defined as, it is kind. It has a power like no other to make a difference to someone’s day. Whether it is your child helping an elderly person cross the road or even helping a friend with his/her class work, any small act of random or intentional act of kindness can go a long way in making a positive difference. It is rooted in empathy and plays a big role in encouraging children to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and practice acceptance.
The Kindness Project founded in Chennai by certified Expressive Art Therapy practitioner and mom to two girls Mahima Poddar, is a reassurance to us all that there is hope. The initiative targets the personal growth of people and children of all ages and aims to bring about social change by addressing kindness and empathy. Kindness Week which took place from February 19-24 was a project conceptualized and implemented by Mahima with a very crucial goal of triggering a revolution of kindness. She gathered various brands across Chennai to help bring some light into the lives of underprivileged kids. Some of the vendors from the city who were a part of this project were Sathyam Cinemas, Funky Monkeys, Spin Dance Studio, Combat Kinetics, Natural Enabled Salons and Paint-Me-Happy Pottery Studio. Leading schools in Chennai like Akshar Arbol and aLphabet who have adopted the Kindness Badge Program, put in their heart and soul as well and are now “kind campuses”. Children were responsible for handing out kindness badges to other children when they noticed random acts of kindness. They were also able to make a difference by donating old crayons to special needs kids. The beneficiaries of these crayons were ARVI Trust & Om Muruga School. Books for children up to Grade 5 were donated to Shabnam Resource Centre, an organization which focuses on children without educational opportunities by helping set up book shelves and skill development centres. The Kindness Stars campaign, another brainchild of Mahima’s as part of Kindness Week, shifted the focus from “doing kind acts and feeling good about yourself” alone to “observing kindness in others.” People were requested to comment with something kind that another person had done for them and tag them as a #KindnessStar. Writer’s Café participated by offering a scoop of ice cream to randomly picked #KindStars from amongst the comments. This was a way to encourage people to recognize and acknowledge kind acts by others.
With a vision to make kindness a part of daily life, Mahima very rightly says, “Children find kindness anywhere, in anyone and the littlest of things! So, let us encourage them to encourage the world to be kind”.
I always say that the best things in life are free, and kindness is one of them.
In a recent article of mine for a magazine I write a parenting column for, I talked about the importance of emotions and their regulation, in children. I have always been a firm believer in letting yourself experience emotions and bring to the fore-front whatever you are feeling. Suppressing a certain emotion instead of dealing with it only hinders growth and creates long-term psychological effects. This applies not only to adults but to children as well. One of the most common answers we receive from mothers when asked “what do you want the most for your child?” is “we want them to be happy.” The best sound for a parent is of their child laughing. Before I became a mother myself, when I heard someone else say this I remember thinking to myself that this is something I would want too. It is after all what every mother wants for their child. One of the many lessons I have learned after becoming a mother, is the misguided desire of wanting our children to be happy, can hamper their development.
My 3.8-year-old son who has a personality very much like his father, has a talent of making intense situations calm. If he realises that a certain situation is becoming too serious, he starts making jokes. I have always been in complete awe of this trait because not many adults themselves possess it. Even when expressing his dislike for something, he does so in a very humorous manner. A few weeks ago, in his usual style he expressed his dislike for a certain situation to another child by saying “I’m sad”. The other child in response replied that his mother had told him that it is not good to be sad and that he must always be happy. So, when my son came home, the first question to me as he walked in through the door before even removing his shoes was “mama, is it wrong to be sad?” Till that moment, this was not something that had ever occurred to me would arise as a topic of conversation with my preschooler, however the wheels started turning in my head. From the time he was a toddler, his school had introduced the children to the various emotions by acting out ‘happy face’, ‘sad face’ and so on. This was something I believed was an important part of personality development. However, on hearing his question, my responsibility just then was to explain to him that the key to being a happy child did not necessarily mean being happy 100% of the time.
One of the secrets I have learned in the journey of parenting is that it serves our children well to teach them how to tolerate being unhappy. Teaching them that being unhappy or sad is bad altogether results in creating fragile children and young adults who break easily. There are a range of emotions between being happy and sad that many of us tend to forget. Frustration, anger, disappointment, fear, failure and so on are all emotions that we wish our children will never experience. However, is that serving them well? My answer would be no. When I see my elder son cry, it takes incredible strength to not immediately say “stop crying” as I do not want him to get the impression that crying is unacceptable. It has taken repeated strict lectures to myself to now be able to say, “I know you are sad so cry, get it all out and then we can talk.” Helping our children master the skill of working through their emotions one step at a time is crucial. They also copy our behaviour so if they see their parents managing their emotions well, they will learn to do so as well. This builds inner strength and resilience in them.
Working through feelings is a great life skill. When your child is sad, denying that they are sad and saying they should be happy all the time won’t send their feelings away, but will only suppress them for that moment in time. An alternate method would be to engage in various activities addressing emotions like emotion flashcards, with them. Knowing their parents think that being sad is wrong, will result in them denying any negative emotions they are feeling rather than learning to regulate them. Very often, it is the parents’ inability to handle their child’s sadness that results in them trying to protect their child from any hurt; it is typical of how we parent today.
I strongly believe that one of the best gifts we can give our children is emotional management and not emotional protection. Navigating life and everything it throws at you, then becomes that much easier.
One of the biggest debates that go on inside a mother’s mind is where to draw the line between being a friend to her child and being a mother. The line between being a friend and mother can get very blurry and to the point of no return. Many think that children have friends for a reason and mothers aren’t meant to be one of them. It is extremely easy to lose sight of the teaching and guiding we are supposed to be doing as mothers, when we focus more on being a friend. I know I was one of those people who thought that, but before I became a mother myself. Now, I am the biggest advocate of trying to strike a balance between being a mother and friend to your child.
This is something that I feel is important as well as necessary. A relationship between a mother and child is the only relationship in the world that is selfless and represents pure love. Being a mother, can mean being that one person your child can talk about anything to and at the same time be the person who sets the rules, expectations, and boundaries for behaviour. It is not necessary for a mother to be defined as ‘cool’ because then you start to lose sight of what your role really is as a mother. When the friend aspect overshadows the mother, rules become a thing of the past with a lack of any sort of consistency to your child’s life leading to comfort and safety. Striking and maintaining that balance between being a mother and friend to your child is key. This can change the way your child approaches life and lives his/her life.
From the time my elder son could talk, I have always made it a point to practice kindness and honesty with him. I think kindness goes hand in hand with almost every other quality that we hope our children will possess. By honesty, I mean honesty with me. As he grows and even at this young age of 4, I am trying with all my might to ensure that he knows he can come with me to any problem big or small. When they are young, their big problems seem small to us but what they feel is what matters. I know it is asking for a lot but I want my both my sons to think of me as the first person they want to run to when they have a problem or something is disturbing them and they are unclear how to deal with it. Events around the world including India have had a traumatic effect on parents everywhere. The most recent Florida high school shooting has left not only America stunned but the rest of the world as well. This is one among the countless shootings that have taken place in the last few years. Sitting in India, we cannot put our hands up and say, “school shootings will never take place in India”. Whether that may be true or not, every country has its’ shocking events. The root cause of every violent event with a child or a teenager at the helm, boils down to how our children have been raised, the relationship with their mother and their morals and values. The violent behaviour stems from unexpressed feelings, insecurity and a lack of connection with family and friends.
Encouraging an open relationship with our children where they see us as part friend, gives us a direct line of sight into their life. It is crucial for us as mothers to know their ups and downs in school, arguments with friends, any attachments to peers and so on; and this even at a very young age. People say it is impossible to know what your children are always doing but that is a big problem right there and the line between being a friend and a mother becomes blurred. There are always ways to know who they are with, what they are doing and where they are going. There are always ways to know what their interests are, their fears, their worries. Practising transparency with them goes a long way. So, my point here – THERE ARE ALWAYS WAYS TO KNOW.
It is crucial for mothers to bridge the mother-child relationship with friendship. I have seen houses where mothers rule their households with firm discipline, strict rules and have the inability to create any form of friendship with their children. No third person can judge what takes place in another person’s home but often, children from those houses fall into bad situations as a result of facing difficult decisions alone without any guidance. I am not saying to disregard discipline, but it is surely a whole lot easier if it is done as a friend and mother. Friends have mutual respect. One of the many things we as mothers don’t realise is that if we want our children to respect us, we must show them respect. We are so quick to demand respect from them but then we are equally quick to dismiss many things they want to talk to us about.
So whatever age your children may be, being a mother and a friend is the best way to go. It is important to establish that you will always be a mother first and then a friend, but they are both not mutually exclusive. I have always believed that being a mother isn’t about doing what is easy, but about what is best for your child.
I remember being in complete awe of my niece’s school in Manhattan, New York. A few years ago, while I was visiting New York, she had asked me to accompany her to school on Special friend’s day which is a day for grandparents and other family members to visit and interact with the children during the class sessions. This was a time much before my elder son was even thought of so schools, teaching methods, learning styles etc. were not even remotely present in my mind-space, however I knew they were details that would arise soon. My visit to this private school was my first exposure to a very different kind of education than the one I had grown up with. Needless to say it was one of the most fascinating and enlightening experiences I have ever had. It was refreshing to able to string the words happy, fun and learning in the same sentence. I left the school with one thought – “When the time comes, I somehow need to try and give my children a similar educational experience.”
The very first thing I noticed as soon as I entered my niece’s classroom was the exceedingly stimulating environment. The class room was covered with the work done by the children and teachers were focused on finding exciting new ways to encourage thinking and learning. The level of interaction and engagement with the students was something I had never seen before and I was astounded by the speed with which the children were learning. Math integration was being done through games and problems solved collaboratively as well as independently. The children were encouraged to ask questions along with each thought they had being used as a learning opportunity. I noticed that the teaching method was targeted less towards the children memorizing and more towards application, where they were taught to develop the skills and self-discipline they will need for a life-time of learning. I wondered at that point whether there would ever be a similar style of education in India. Sure enough, a few years later I heard about the IB (International Baccalaureate) board and I had a replenished sense of hope that maybe I could after all provide a similar educational experience for my children.
My school years were the best years of my life. I was lucky enough to attend a school which focused on all round development. It was a school with a larger than life campus, a big field and playground area, clean classrooms, well-trained teachers in that board of education, exceptional extra-curricular activities and so on. The friends I made in school are still some of my best friends today. No complaints. The academic curriculum was a rigorous one and the school had a reputation for creating top level achievers with students getting into colleges of their choice in the blink of an eye. While for many of my fellow alums the memory of school now includes good grades, mine does not. At that time as my parents nor I knew any different, my school years flew by with above average grades. It wasn’t until much later when I started looking at options for schools for my elder son, did I realise that it wasn’t the lack of focused studying leading to average grades, but while the knowledge had been present, the application was absent. I realised that for many people memorising doesn’t automatically mean understanding and I had been one of those people. That was the problem right there.
So here is one of the main reasons I chose to expose my elder son to an IB board right from pre-school. It was not about my likes and dislikes for each board, but rather about what kind of an environment I believed my son would thrive in. It was about the International standards and style of education that I wanted him to have the opportunity to experience. In the beginning like most parents, IB was an alien system to me and I had a million questions. I was not comfortable with my son attending a school which followed a board I had zero knowledge about. However, as my husband and I both had really liked the pre-school that my son is in now, we made the decision to take a chance and wait and watch the preliminary effects of the IB board. In a very short period of time, we were astonished with the progress. This pushed me to dig deeper into the underlying aspects of the IB board.
What each parent wants in a school differs. For me, the teaching method and learning style that the board utilized was at the top of the priority list because that is the sole factor that would determine the way my son would tackle life. This was followed by details about the school itself like safety, cleanliness, expansion plans and so on. It was very important to me that my child be taught in a way that would boost his imagination, creativity & curiosity. This is the definition of the IB board right there. From what I have seen, the IB board keeps up with present times. It creates a strong foundation by helping children build on not only their physical skills but also emotional, social and cognitive. It encourages children to understand who they are in relation to the world around them. Learner Profiles which are at the heart of the IB board puts the child at the centre and are attributes (Example- Risk-takers, Reflective, Knowledgeable, Inquirers etc.) which help children understand who they are. Teaching is done using age appropriate developmental activities. Rarely will you see a child being pushed to do something he/she is not ready for. The letters of the alphabet are carefully introduced using jolly phonics, an approach which motivates kids to want to learn more. Even before reaching the Lower Kindergarten level, children are familiar with most if not all the letters of the alphabet and how to write them. Numbers are taught using a child-centric approach. Some even start reading. Concepts are demonstrated and reviewed through various forms of arts & crafts. The assessment of whether a child has understood the concept is done through work books. Learning through play is encouraged. We often are under the impression that when a child is playing, he/she rarely learns anything concrete and of use. I have learned over time that exactly the opposite is true. As I always say, HOW they learn is far more important than WHAT they learn. What I love now more than the fact that my son can put letters together to create words and write them, is the way he applies what he was taught in school. For example, we will be passing by in the car and he will see the sign board of a shop with letters he recognises. While waiting at the traffic light, he starts to apply jolly phonics and puts the word together one letter at a time. No memorising, only recollection of the concept taught paired with his understanding.
While the decision to try out the IB board for my elder son was purely based on what I wanted for him, the decision for him to continue with this educational system was based on him. He is the type of child who needs to see, touch, feel and play to understand something. I saw that his imagination, creativity and curiosity was being nurtured every single day and this was an especially crucial factor for me, since a large part of the brain development happens during the first five years.
The IB board makes learning fun at the same time preparing our children for the real world. So, to all the parents out there who are searching for that one board of education which will be a good fit for your child, take time out to sit in the classrooms of an IB school. I promise you it will be well worth it. At least you know that the decision that you need to make eventually, will be an informed one.
Do you ever close your eyes, lean back in your chair and wonder what life would be like if you were not a mother and had chosen a different path in life? Do you sometimes silently listen to someone making brunch plans or trying to schedule a meeting without having to think twice about what time they need to be home to take their little ones to a class? I think it’s safe to assume that 9 out of 10 mothers have thought about this at one point or another. This is a common thought running through the mind of any new mother who is trying to come to terms with the fact that in terms of priority she now comes behind her child. It is even a passing thought in the minds of veteran mothers. How many times in frustration and anger have you wished that you were not responsible for anyone and could just pack your bags and go on a long holiday? Nostalgia takes over and you reminisce about the good old days when you could live a care-free life. I know I did many times during the first few gruelling months of motherhood but now when I think about what life would be like without my two boys who are my everything – my mind draws a blank.
This Children’s Day, I would like to dedicate my post to all our incredible children who have changed our lives and surround us with the purest form of love every single day!
Sometimes my elder son catches me staring at him and he asks me why. At that point, I am very often imagining a sliding doors situation. For those of you who don’t know what that means, ‘Sliding Doors’ is a movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow and the story line splits into two, presented as parallel universes in which different events take place. I keep comparing my life now as a mother with a life devoid of bedtime stories or a little person clutching my hand trying to stand for the first time or a wide-eyed 6-month-old eating solid food for the first time, and the life I end up imagining is a very dull and uneventful one.
Not everyone is meant to be a mother or even wants to be one for that matter. Each person’s hopes and dreams are different and for many women, becoming a mother is not one of them. We all make certain decisions in life which affect the path we take and which determine our future. To survive life in general, evolution is important regardless of which path we end up taking. I think like me, every woman who is a mother has evolved in many ways that they never thought they would. Most of the changes in me can be attributed to my children who teach me something new every day and help me be a better version of myself. Now, four years and two children later, when I close my eyes and lean back in my chair, I cannot envision life without:
Each moment has taught me a lesson along the way. I have learned that there is joy in being an adult, from them. I have learned to slow down and play, from them. I have learned unconditional love, from them. Motherhood is far more difficult than anyone ever anticipates but what keeps us chugging along with perseverance, are the smiling faces of our little ones that we see every morning.
We are brought face to face with true love each day.
Hi! I'm Antara and I was once a 'let's get the party started, consume a bottle of Rose Champagne on the weekend' kind of girl. Now at 33 and a mom of a teddy bear looking 2 year old boy (with another little bundle on the way), I am still that 'let's get the party started, consume a bottle of Rose Champagne on the weekend kind of girl.'