Now that I am a mom, there is always a part of me that keeps tugging to my shirt and asking questions. He never stops and so are the memory flashbacks of the time when I tugged along someone who now has silver grey hairs.
I was the favorite child of my parents and they made sure they told me so. I was an uncomplicated kid –no demands, no choices, no opinions – I had to be the favorite one. They always took all the decisions of my life – which dress to wear, which course to choose, which entrance tests to give, even how to wear my hair. When it came to applying for higher studies, I was told specifically that nothing outside the state would work out. I cringed but I thought that they loved me too much to let go. That’s how I was brought up and I never knew anything better. ‘This is how parents are supposed to be’. But the fact is that I was on remote control. So I never knew what it meant to take decisions and then follow them through.
I never questioned anything in my life until almost a decade ago. I blame the stint in hostel for that and I guess my parents too. Some events in my life brought along such a strong undercurrent that I hit the wall and that’s when I opened my eyes. I was so lopsided to even notice it. So when I decided to take the reins in my own hands, I was Alice in Wonderland – lost, confused, an escapist by thought. Years of conditioning just doesn’t vanish in a day. I struggled to find my footing but when I finally did, I latched on to it for my life. Lessons learnt the hard way. No wonder having a family mattered so much to me. But I promised myself that I was not going to be like any of my parents. No role models. In fact an urge to change the childhood that I remembered. I knew one thing – I had to do everything differently, well almost.
So today when I approach the whole philosophy of parenting, I struggle to maintain a balance between being authoritative and being loosened up parent. The tight rope walk often becomes way too tight for me. So I keep telling myself that I held him when he was baby, then I had to let go and just hold on to his hand when he became a toddler (the discomfort of carrying so much weight was the instigator and also he had to learn walking on his own). Now I have to let go of his hand and hold it just occasionally when he asks me to and then I have to be ready for the time when he will be completely on his own, making his own decisions and will be responsible for them too.
It is ironical that putting them on the floor to start walking comes so easily to us but when they really start finding their own footing, we want to control their every move.
It is like putting a leash on the horse who wants to explore the meadows on his own without any jockey. So what happens? Either the horse goes berserk or he chooses to resign to fate and be in the stable only to be brought out for jockey’s sojourn.
That’s why we have either rebels or muted meek souls. Now a third variety I have come to know of is of converts like me.
Do we realize how slowly and steadily the tables are turned on us and we don’t even notice? After initial few years, the stage is set to be friends with the children where we are entitled to put forth the opinions but cannot and should not force them to be followed without questions. This is not only important for us to be at peace but also for the children to grow into responsible teens and then emotionally secure adults.
But let me point out that it is not easy. When you have been responsible for taking care of every little thing of the child, passing on the control to that very little one is numbing especially in Indian society where a child always remain a child. And if you have been dominant all your life, it is a bed sore.
My parents taught me the biggest lesson- if a child has to become independent in thought, in action, in responsibility, it has to start early. I have started with simple choices like clothes, food, toys, which competitions to participate in and which friends to play with. The real test is when the choices reach the next level. I don’t mean total disregard for what our opinion as parents is but once the child realizes that his decisions are respected, he will start taking them responsibly too. The child just needs the confidence that he can take the decisions and it is alright to take a wrong decision as well.
I immediately step back when I see a faint streak of being my own mom popping out. Whether it is the controlling attitude, overpowering maternal instincts or urge to pull him from his hand instead of just saying “Don’t”, I step back. And I think the key to good parenting is to know when and where to step back and be at the rear rather than steering the child’s life all along.