365 days is a long time when you are a parent. It’s a long time anyway, but hell, when you are a parent, you can’t have much unaccounted-for time, like time when you pass out in the delirium of youth, time when you sleep through the alarm, or the child’s nocturnal pee break or hear him grinding his teeth, or moaning in the middle of sleep due to a bad dream or sometimes, even hear him talk or laugh and decode what he is saying.
They told me one year is all the sleep I would lose when I became a mother. It is now five going on six, and I haven’t slept straight eight hours on any given night. Except the few nights that I have been away and I am grateful for those. I have now come to accept that parenting is a journey that is as long as you want to be. I also know I have signed an open-ended contract, so I have no use-before date.
This year, I have, for the most part, been practically a single parent, as I decided to move to teach in a school and live on campus with Re. I realised if I didn’t do it, I would always wonder what stopped me and I didn’t want to be in that place. And it is not necessarily this stint that has taught me a few things, but here they are, in no particular order:
- Having children does not necessarily make you understand them better. Some really apathetic people have kids and it doesn’t seem to change anything.
- Not having children does not necessarily make you less aware of them. Most of the people I would implicitly trust Re with do not have kids.
- People are always happier when children fit in, when they “love” going to school or to activity class or playgroup. It just means less work for the parent.
- Parents have really short term memory when it comes to children – why they cry, how often they whine, why they have separation anxiety, and so on.
- It is always easy to over simplify another’s child. But there always seem to be layers of explanation for the simplest things when it comes to your own.
- Everything seems easier when you can speak about it in the past tense.
- It is rare for children to only be seen and not heard, unless you are really intimidating or there is something really wrong with what you are doing.
- We are all secretly gratified when our children take after us, even if it is something about us that we are trying really hard to fix.
- Whenever we see a really happy child, we get more deeply connected to our own void and realise it is our own doing.
- If each one of us was more in touch with the child within us, we would probably be happier adults.
- We often underestimate tears and overestimate bravery. Not crying is not being brave. If more adults could cry in the free spirit of children, we would be able to untie the knots within, perhaps be a little more happy or a little less bitter.
- In our over-emphasis of children saying and doing the right thing, displaying overt signs of politeness that often doesn’t have its roots anywhere, what we are actually doing is rendering our children into clones of ourselves.
- We often choose the wrong means to get our children to do the right thing.
- Sometimes all you need to do for a child is just be there.
- We all need to learn how to truly lose ourselves from children.
- Sometimes, it is important to break the rules to just know how meaningless it was to blindly follow them without questioning.
- It is important for a child to celebrate every scar, every wound. Every scar is a story, an accomplishment. What growing up does to us is make us hide our wounds and scars, pretend to be brave when we are not.
- Every day is a new world. You don’t need to wait for 31st December to bring in newness. The year is filled with pockets of newness every single day.
- It’s never too late to start over. If you weren’t happy with yesterday, try something different today. Or tomorrow. Or the day after.
- It is important to scream. And shout. And let it all out.
Happy new year all! It has been so lovely connecting with so many lovely people all over the world and I have learnt so much from you and your children.
(This post first appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on 29th December, 2014)