Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Toughest job- Being Mum!

I was asking my daughter, an accomplished photographer in my limited opinion, to take a photo of me, since I was in my brocaded Indian finery, all dressed up to go to a Diwali dinner and dance. She was looking increasingly exasperated, as I consecutively rejected the results of her efforts, with words such as- "My double chin is showing" "I look too broad at the waist" "why don't you go further down the room and take it" "The light is not right" "My smile doesn't reach my eyes."

My children like many others I am sure, are sick of my obsession with the Facebook, the only social media I seem to be addicted to. Its funny how I seem to live my life, thinking about what I can post on facebook. Sadly my attempt at baking a cake today, has not had a photogenic enough result or else it would have been on facebook for everybody to see!

Kids are into instant messaging and for us all to be on two screens at any given moment is the norm.
The only parenting I seem to be doing is battling this onslaught of screens in our life.

My nani used to tell us how my masi's (mum's sister's) parents would pace up and down, outside the room where masi would be getting hit while being tutored by her granddad. But masi's parents would not dare to go into the room, confront their father/father in law and rescue their only daughter from him! It was just not done. The old man would hit her everyday and the parents watched helplessly.

This scenario is completely unheard of today. I get upset even if somebody decides to raise their voice to my child. My in laws would after much thought comment on my childrearing but never do anything like scold or hit my children.

I do at certain points of time, when repeated asking, ordering, threatening does not bring desired results, do feel like hitting someone, but all I end up doing is something akin to hitting my head on a wall!

The train of communication is usually- "Can you switch off the TV?" This then becomes- "Do it, just now", which then used to go on to things like "I am going to withdraw my consent for your school trip" or "no sleepovers for you" or "you can stay at home for the new year"

But over time and as I have graduated to becoming a mum of two teenage children, I realise that it is a pointless, tiring and losing battle of wits!

I read elaborate psychological analyses on parenting styles. You can be a helicopter parent- someone who is constantly fluttering over them, micromanaging their schedules, deciding what is best for them, helping them in school projects, organising their parties....

On the other hand you can be a laid back Consultant parent, someone who is there when the kid decides he or she needs advice, help or a bail out!

You can be Authoritarian (I pay your bills, hence you do as I say and not as I do) or Permissive (you are the apple of my eye, you can do as you like, I trust you!)

You can be Instinctive and let your children be free range (read wild), like chicken roaming the farm, feeding on insects!

I can't say which parent I am! Needless to say, I do think in that moment- "I am right, this is what needs to be done"

My daughter once accused me of being an "Indian" parent- believe me, they are a class of their own, probably only beaten by the "Chinese" I have a Chinese colleague at work and we like sharing notes, its interesting. So if I ask- does your son practice? He will say with a shrug of his shoulders- "He has to", while I look at him with amazement and wonder! I have newfound admiration for a man who can make his child do what he wants!

Coming back to my daughter's view on Indian parents, she said- "If I ask you anything, you say google it, find out, look at the globe, look up the dictionary,

Yet....without any input from your side, unlike other parents who actually help with revision, you will expect top grades, that's how you Indian parents are- Results! you are only interested in results!"

I felt a bit guilty for two days after she said that, and tried my best to help only to be told- "Mum, you can't suddenly change, leave me alone, I can do this"

However, I have realised I adapt, I change, I innovate....I am authoritarian one day, permissive the next, instinctive with one child, helicopter with another yet I constantly feel I am fighting a losing battle, I don't know if I can do better!

For all new parents or parents yet to enter the kingdom of  Heavenish hell- Welcome to the commandments of parenting which are impossible to follow!

"You have to be strict" "You will only encourage rebellion" "This will spoil them" "This will make them dependant" "You have to respect their individuality" "They have to know the boundaries"

Damned if you do, damned if you don't! Basically they just grow up inspite of you, not because of you!


Saturday, 19 April 2014

Rituals- Reassuring and comforting

Carrying out routine tasks like cleaning, cooking and tidying can be, not just relaxing, but therapeutic. However, more importantly there are rituals which one gets used to, routine things which become a source of reassurance and comfort.

Everybody has memories of such rituals which evoke nostalgia.

I remember the awe and wonder, with which we marvelled at the tape recorder, when it arrived in our house in the 70s. All of our voices were recorded and played back to us. One of the things I remember listening to on the tape recorder, was my grandmother (nani) chatting to her brother from the village. It was a long conversation about the crops, the trees, the relatives, the friends and the neighbours interspersed with events, conversations and people from the past..

Nani, as we knew her, at the time, was a bustling busy woman, feeding us pancakes, ghee parathas, puris, phirni, halwa, nimki, thekua....etc. We always saw her going from one chore to the next and if she was sitting down, she was usually cleaning a leafy vegetable like spinach or coriander or cleaning rice or pulses before the age of polythene packed clean grains; or she would want to oil my hair (she could not see the vanity behind flying dishevelled hair) or oil massage the child's leg closest to her, one she could get her restless hands on.

Therefore the unhurried pace of the unwinding, relaxing and happy conversation about everything which nani, a child bride, had left behind in the village, was indicative that it was a ritual, she obviously looked forward to. It was something which made her feel connected. The memory of the conversation which somebody had recorded makes me wonder how much we took her for granted and how little we knew of her dreams, her wishes....

Similarly I always remember my parents' morning tea ritual. They woke up early. Their attire and their early morning chores differed depending on where we were. Mummy graduated from sari to  salwar kameez, while  Papa stopped wearing pyjama kurta and graduated to t-shirts and trousers when we moved to Delhi. Both were avid gardeners and hence either we had a big garden, which needed tending to, with some help or just some potted plants. We always seemed to have a dog or two dogs who needed to be walked (for some time we had an unmanageable three)

But they had at least two if not four cups of tea in the morning, while juggling the gardening and dog walking. Initially our live in help, with ever increasing words of protest and reluctance, would obligingly continue to make additional cups of tea but soon a truce was reached.

For a long time, tea was made and kept in a flask and then mum and dad kept pouring it and drinking it. My mother an otherwise Type A personality with routines, to do lists and watches which had to be correct to the second...synchronized with the radio and later the television; strangely, did not find the early morning tea ritual, something which she would class as a waste of her time, something she would want to do without. It was a comforting and reassuring thing that we all saw until Papa passed away....morning spent in each others company drinking numerous cups of tea.

Having just read about the devastation which wars and weapons cause in Khaled Hosseini's "A Thousand Splendid Suns" I realise how comforting a simple ritual like having a cup of tea with someone can be.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Thought management formula!

I chanced upon this interesting classification of the thoughts we think, the vibrations of positive and negative energy we generate.
So the GREEN box consists of positive thoughts. These are positive thoughts about ourselves and positive thoughts about others. Thoughts which reinforce ourselves to be peaceful powerful loving beings, who send out similar vibrations to other souls.

When faced with failure or at other times when we are drowning  in self pity and believing ourselves to be powerless, it becomes difficult to summon up even one positive thought about oneself. "I did my best under the circumstances" is the least we should be able to think!

On the other hand when faced with injustice, dishonesty or betrayal, it is nearly impossible to think anything positive for the people, who one believes are responsible for destroying one's faith in the goodness of mankind. The landlady who did not return the deposit, the undermining senior colleague and so many more....

If you believe that thoughts are actually the "transmitted energy of the soul" and that they are responsible for creating your destiny, you will no doubt realise that the  mind should be a green box full of good positive thoughts. Thoughts are also incompressible, so the brain can only think one at a time. Hence if you are thinking positive ones, there is likelihood that there will be less space for the amber and red, hopefully.

Lots of people would classify the negative thoughts as RED rather than AMBER. But I think I am less likely to have downright negative thoughts like- "May you rot in Hell"....for a sustained period of time. Maybe because I don't believe in Hell and maybe because I believe in the cycle of Karma or the universal rule of "good begets good" and vice versa.....Don't know.  Usually I find reasons for people's behaviour. "The house wasn't getting sold, she was short of money, her husband was off for stress etc etc.." or "He/She must have a miserable personal life to feel victorious after putting me down" etc etc.

 However, the MOST (hence RED) thoughts I think during the day are "WASTEFUL", regrets about the past, fears about the future...."I wish I had or hadn't..." "What if this/that was to happen..."

For instance I was communicating with my son on his mobile during a school trip and suddenly there was no reply to my texts for 24 hours. Even though I had heard from other sources that the boys were safe....My mind was a flurry of uncontrolled thoughts. While earlier I believed his phone must have run out of charge, when a whole day and night had gone by... I started to ponder- His mobile is stolen, poor boy....first school trip...what an awful experience....he had clicked so many photos....all lost...wonder if he is crying....he will be in a bad mood for the rest of the trip. I even imagined him looking lost and longingly at all his mates clicking photos and playing games!

I am sure all of us are familiar with this spiral of clearly, totally and utterly wasteful thoughts! Turns out it was on "airplane mode", my son's mobile that is...and don't ask me anything else because even I don't know and I don't care.

Guess the safe bet are mundane thoughts- "Need to go to the supermarket" "Have to put in the cheque for the coach fees" "Have to book the guitar lesson...........

But the mind makes very quick and stealthy escapes to the "what ifs" and "wish I had beens"

So the remedy is SOS!!!!

S for STOP....Just stop thinking negative and wasteful thoughts

O For OBSERVE......Just be the observer and see how tired, unenthusiastic and unenergetic the negative and wasteful thoughts make you feel!

S for SWITCH, STEER, SWERVE.............Replace these thoughts with positive ones. I am answerable only to myself. My honesty, respect for others and compassion are what make me who I am...

Worry, regret, criticism and fear should be quickly replaced with constructive positive thoughts which in turn will create a positive destiny! Or so we would like to believe! It is definitely better for health, sleep and well being in the short term, even if we don't believe in the long term view that Thoughts create destiny!