Other People’s Children
I find all children equally fascinating – to watch, to talk to, to play with. Most of the times that is not, while they are in the midst of a tantrum or a stubborn sequence of nos and why’s and whines, or when my smartphone is being charged. Before becoming a parent myself, I was very besotted and amused with children.
All this was on borrowed time – kid from the neighbour over for a half hour so his Mom could finish making dinner or just sit and browse the TV in blissful peace. Or little ones of cousins and relatives who would be happy to find an enthusiastic young Aunt to pander to their requests. I would be equally happy with such interactions and they left me feeling warm and contented.
I tend to look upon kids as little people, with minds of their own. Not too sure if it is the right thing, because I have two very strong-willed little people at home, who always question my authority and look at me as an older friend, though calling me Mom. As my kids are growing old and going to school, other people’s children get highlighted again. As classmates, children of friends, cousins, playdates, nodding acquaintances in the swimming pool and park, even children of fellow bloggers I read about.
Now, since I have my arms free and mind only slightly so of the 100 per cent preoccupation of watching over every step and action I can also indulge in observing and learning from other children. My interest, lets me hasten to assure, is merely dispassionate and curious and insights alternately revealing and full of learning.
For instance, when I see the immaculately dressed classmate of my daughter, with colour-co-ordinated shoes and hair clips, I am reminded of my own daily morning scramble to find matching hair-bands and clips. They are something I stumble on unfailingly, but never ever present on their allocated space on the dresser, so we go all multi-hued at times. I am happy when I see my friend’s son choose a fruit over biscuits for an evening snack. The talk of healthy eating has clearly found a taker.
Sometimes when we have playdates, I ask them about activities they do after school and which of these is their favorite. This was a bit revealing to find that the kid enjoyed only swimming, amongst tennis, scouts and music he goes for. Ambitious parents, I wonder? The mother tells me he is a hyperactive child and needs to be occupied all times.
As the hosting parent, I admire the way they seem to accept my authority and then very sweetly suggest alternatives of games to play or declare kiwi is not their favourite fruit. I am totally in awe of those kids who get disturbed when mine spread all their toys around in a generous sharing gesture and beg that they keep away all the other toys before taking new ones. Their parents have done a great job surely!
When other parents tell me about how their child never sits still or is always distracted, and I find the same child listening intently to a story I am reading, I realise it could be because he is on non-home ground or he has been fore-warned to behave. Don’t I have my own tear-my-hair-out times with my kids?
Another thing I don’t do which I’ve seen sometimes people ask questions about their daily lives or what they do or eat, for example, which seems to be an invasion of privacy of sorts. My friend’s son told me that their father bought an i-pad for his mother for Valentines Day. My friend has always decried this day as non-celebratory and I’ve never asked her about it either.
When bloggers talk about the arts and crafts their children do or interests they’ve developed or books they read, or things they talk about, I see it as a manifestation of the curiosity and knowledge of the young ones, with a lot of work and efforts put in by the parents to nurture their curiosity and skills and encourage them.
I admire that. Engaged and involved parenting sees good results always. One thing I don’t let myself do is push my children into doing something just because the son of ‘X’ or daughter of ‘Y’ does it. Because I am not that tiger parent and do not believe in judging my children by others. Though I do use them as examples in motivation.
For all this niceness, I do realise that I am living in a rosy world. The first of the warning signs has come when my kids went to play and were dancing to PSY Gangam style, the word ‘sexy’ came up. The curious elder one asked me the meaning amidst giggles which I did not like or comprehend. She was already told it is used for girls!! I told her the usage of it is ‘impolite’ word, not appropriate for young children, in fact, a lot of adults take offense to this word.
This is perhaps my first run-in with the event of letting my kids play with other people’s children. The second has been hearing cases of ‘verliefd‘ (falling in love) in my daughter’s class – all of 6 years old. This too was shared with bashful giggles and I had to tell her that we all like our friends, which is why they are our friends but love is something we share for our family and express it to them. And now can we get back to our reading please? Or when children are mean for no particular reason. Why doesn’t so and so talk to me? I can’t answer that or make it right for them.
I can’t control the influence of other children on mine. In fact, I see it only going to go higher in days to come. I shudder at the thought of peer pressure and how difficult and consuming it can be. My only way of countering this is to be as open and non-judgemental as possible when my kids come and talk to me, question me and explain to them. I can only reinforce again and again the values we follow, the way we choose to live, and also explain our expectations from them. Make mine self-confident and strong enough that they can deal with this on their own terms.
How do you people deal with any such issues with other people’s children?
Vibha, aka Chatty Wren, is a full-time mother to two delightful little girls. She blogs at http://wrenwarbles.blogspot.com about her life with her little ones, ups and downs of living in a foreign country and anything else that catches her fancy.
values in children