Dad: “You have to let him go in the bus.”
Me: “He is not even 5 years old! Sending him all by himself in the bus? I am not sure!”
Dad: “If you are going to put on that impermeable cloak of fortification in parenting every single time…you will end up hampering his ability to understand his own way of discovering his real self! He is not a baby, after all!”
Hubby: “Dad is right! Let him learn the art of rumbling and tumbling on his own!”
Mother: “Believe me! He is going to enjoy his first step into the world out of his cocoon!”
As the three pairs of eyes gave me intense looks, the fourth pair of eyes joined in as they looked up to me in sheer excitement. My son, Arjun grins as he asks me, “Mom! Am I going to school in that big Army bus? Wow!”
I sighed as I looked up at three pairs of eyes giving me that look – “Come on!” And I sighed as I said aloud – “Let’s do it!” After all, why would I not give in to that sweet voice of my munchkin who hides every mischievous trick up his sleeve?
Until now, I was Arjun’s pick and drop means for his school. But this week, I was not going to be there standing at the gate of his school and expecting him to turn back and say – “Mom! Please leave! You are embarrassing me!” (Oh yeah! Arjun is four and a half now and he has said that many a time in the past!) Well, it was not easy for me.
Beginnings are tough. Much of them are unknown. And that precisely makes it all the more tougher to get past the beginnings. For me, this was a beginning that led me into an absolute paranoia the night before. I double checked Arjun’s bag. I checked for the nth time if everything was perfect.
My mother looked at me as if I had bumped my head somewhere. “Are you alright? He is just going to the fifth school in the almost fifth year of his life. Come on, learn the art of adapting from him!” Yes, there comes the bright streak of wisdom that cleared the disarray of mindless thoughts that had crowded my head. After all, my son is a fauji kid! He is going to adapt beautifully, be it a quaint little town or, a big burly city! And it also made me see the real problem that was in me. I was transitioning into an overprotective parent. No! That is not good!
As mothers, we tend to miss the thin line of difference that sets apart a protective parent from the over protective one. The line is thin as a hairline. It is not unusual to miss it! For instance, how many of us go berserk when we see our children get hurt or worse, pop something into their mouth in a moment of mischief or even worse, play around with doors and get hurt badly when they accidentally insert their fingers between the hinges. Arjun has done all of that. It has been a tough job for me keeping him on track, lest he harm himself.
Being an army wife, most of my days are spent playing the daddy part as well, despite him being Daddy’s boy in the truest sense. For him, hubby is the idol. Mommy me is a friend cum sibling. So, that makes parenting a lot tougher and interesting for me, especially when he picks up insects of every kind and treasures them in a container as souvenirs or gets thrilled on seeing monkeys and even loves to chase peacocks that visit our backyard! So, you get the drift of where my ‘impermeable cloak of fortification’ comes from.
Now, coming back to my point on the difference between a protective and an overprotective parent, there are a few things I have learned in my journey of parenting. It is not that I have followed textbook parenting. As far as my views go, there is not a textbook in the world that can tell you how you should raise your child. You just learn along the way, sometimes by making mistakes and then, learning from those mistakes and, sometimes by observing and learning from the others’. For me, there are three thumb rules that would make the journey of parenting a lot easier.
1. Let the child learn to take a fall and rise. Children are susceptible to getting hurt. For instance, your child is running in the park. He falls down and bruises his knee. As a mother, your first instinct is to rush towards him or her and check for the cuts. An overly scared mother might go overboard by scooping the child and rushing to the hospital for a TT shot. All of it depends on the degree of the bruise. But having said that, these are all the times when a mother needs to learn the art of overcoming the commotion that plays in her mind for her child’s well being.
I happened to remember an incident in our previous station. Hubby, son and I were out for an evening walk. Arjun was cycling around. Somewhere along the road, he lost his balance, fell down and bruised his knee. I ran towards him when hubby caught my hand and pulled me back. I was frantic and gave hubby a dirty look. However, what he said after, instantly calmed my jittery nerves. “Narayani, Let him take the fall! He has to learn to get up by himself. Help him this time and, you will be clipping his wings of self confidence!” I saw him crying for a few seconds. But when he saw that both of us weren’t approaching him, he picked up his cycle and started riding again! That day, as a mother I learned to nurture the faith in my child that, he is capable of taking care of himself without my help.
A second incident followed a few days later. We were attending a party when I saw my son being bullied by a boy who was just 6 months older. I was almost overwhelmed by the impulse to pull him out. And the moment I just had decided to take the first step, I saw Arjun punch back! Learning is always a painful process. That was our first of the many important learning about parenting. Keep calm and give your child the freedom and space to take a decision by himself.
2. “Never ever baby talk with your child. Talk to your child as you would normally talk! And never complain about your child in front of him or her. The first paediatrician for Arjun was an old lady who was stern and matronly. All babies calmed under her presence for some reason. Arjun was no exception. But more so, it were the parents who actually feared her as she scrutinized the parenting methods. For instance, if you complain to her about the child saying, ‘Doc, my child is just not having food, I have tried all methods…he just doesn’t budge!”, she would snap back, “And you thought you are a parent?” She could never stand parents complaining about their children’s eating habits.
I remember what she advised us when we went to her for our son’s vaccination. Arjun too is a picky eater. All she told me was – “If the child is hungry, he will ask for it. Just like a baby cries when it needs milk. Hunger is best satiated and growth best happens when the body gets what it needs at the right time in the right amount.” At another time, she advised, “Never ever baby talk with your child. Talk him to him like an adult. Just don’t treat him like one! And never complain about your child in front of him or her. Even a child as small as a few months old picks up vibes in a manner you would not understand. Stay positive. But more importantly, be patient. If you cannot nurture patience as a parent, you are not fit to be one!”
Yes, she is that blunt which is why, many parents were not very comfortable with her. But I took her advice seriously as I could sense the genuine care she felt for the children she examined. A lot of what she said, made sense in the real world. Surprisingly, children respond well and in the right way, when the tone is normal and the instructions are clear. For instance, playing with the switchboard is dangerous. Or, touching a hot pan could blister the hand. However, if you dodge questions and give incorrect answers, curiosity will kill the cat! I still follow her advice.
3. Do not give in to your emotions when dealing with your child’s mischief. When Arjun was three, his naughtiness knew no bounds! He would regularly climb on the dining table and call me out loud – “See, I am going to jump!” The petrified mother in me would scream, holler, cajole and coax to get my tornado off the table! Hubby who had been watching this episode replay for quite some time, told me – “The next time this happens, call me. Don’t say a word.”
My son who had already won the challenge of making me tear at my own hair, was all pumped up to exhibit his antics in front of his dad. So, he called out to hubby and said, “See, I am going to jump!” And, hubby quickly replied without batting an eyelid, “Jump!” And, all of a sudden it struck me that Arjun never really jumped even though he almost made me believe he was going to! The minute hubby said that, it was Arjun’s turn to sport a confused expression. But then, hubby doesn’t love to get defeated by his miniature. And so, he gently said – “Jump, young man! No issues! If the floor breaks, I am ready to pay for the damages. But, you just jump!” Arjun did jump that day. But that was the last time he did that, not because he thought he would be hurt doing it (He learned the art of landing on the floor like a cat on its feet!) What stopped him from repeating that mischief was the manner in which the thrill in driving me insane with that question had fizzed out with hubby’s intervention!
I learned the most important lesson in parenting that day – A negation in conveying a message like – ‘Never Do this’ or ‘Never do that’ does not have the same impact on every child. Few listen. Many don’t. These days, I explain to Arjun about the benefits of good habits and the disadvantages of the bad ones without using the ‘Never’ part much. Surprisingly, when I provide him reasons for everything I teach, he transforms into the most attentive child I have ever known. With children, to put your point across, you must know how to reason with them first. It is an art and I am still getting there.
And, Arjun is studying in UKG now. He suddenly appears to me as a big boy. Sometimes, when I do the grocery shopping, he insists on carrying the heaviest bag of all. Sometimes, he also holds my hand while we cross the road (He dislikes it when I hold his hand). At times, he echoes my father’s words – That That thing, That that place!
There have also been times, when I would be low and he would come and sit with me and pat my back like a friend. And I look at him wondering, “Is this the boy who once put his nightwear in the commode and tried to flush it down because he wanted to use the flush for the first time?” He was two and a half when he did that! And, I was at my wit’s end. But all those moments of heartburn that he has given me and, each time he got hurt because of his mischief, has not only strengthened him but me too. His first bus ride is a testimony of the fact that I have let my baby eagle take his first tiny step in his pursuit of ‘flight to freedom’.
Narayani Karthik is an army wife who is a software engineer by profession. After a three year stint in the IT industry, she dabbled in content writing for a while before she embarked on the most beautiful journey of her life – Motherhood. After having been a Stay-At-Home-Mom for about three years, she took to teaching pre-primary children. This experience helped her gain an insight into toddlers’ behavior and psychology. Besides being a book lover, she loves to cook for her man in olive-green (Yes, she is a Proud Army Wife!) and loves to spend a lot of time with her hyper active son – Arjun. And then, in some free time that she manages from her busier than busy schedule, she loves to blog atSwimming In An Ocean Of Thoughts…..