And just like that, I seem to have logged in nearly five years of writing on parenting. Five years of being daunted by my own fears and insecurities, not knowing if I was doing the right thing as a parent, but often resigning myself to “this will do for now” and putting it out there. It’s like people who write about finding love and have no clue how to do it for themselves.
I used to write a relationship column many years ago and it felt way easier, because, in the end, all men and women fall into fixed matrices and it’s not very hard to extrapolate and theorize. With children, it’s trickier. So every time I get an email or a message asking me for advice, I stop to think how much do I really know, and I am queasy about what to say.
But I know this: I am okay if my child shows me the way.
I used to constantly write parenting scripts in my head. What will I say if Re asks me this or that, what will I do if he does this or that. But every other day he throws a googly I haven’t googled yet.
In the past few years, I have made many virtual friends, some of who I even met in real life. I made a few enemies, like the lady who wrote to me saying I had no business bringing a child into this world without buying a house first. Or the one who thought I was being self-indulgent when I wrote about stay-at-home-moms. Or Chetan Bhagat fans who got all riled up when I wrote this.
Six years of being a mother and I can’t say I know things better now, or that they have become easier (as friends constantly promise you). But there are the few things that I make a point to remind myself and perhaps they might work for you:
Here are my top seven:
- Talk to your children: In the time that you spend talking to each other, combing the internet for ‘parenting’ ideas, jumping on every ping of the Whatsapp mommy groups, talking to the teacher, the school, TALK to your child. I found most of my answers in Re’s words.
- Know that everyone is trying to wing it: Yes, even the one who wrote that book on parenting. Or the one who conducts workshops on how to talk to children. Or the one who hosts a talk show on parenting. Or that teacher at school who gave you tips on how to raise a child. Even your mother.
- Live like a child once in a while: Like children if we live life as units of micro time, dealing with one thing at a time, and moving on to the next pocket of time to fill, we would be happier parents. What messes us up is our five-year plans.
- Trust your instincts: When you have no time to talk to anyone else or scour the interwebs for solutions, talk to yourself. Listen. The answers are within; you just haven’t reached out to them.
- Write: I know it’s easy for me to say, but try and keep a journal of tough parenting times. Some day you may want to read what you were battling with. Life is always easier in the past tense.
- Grow something: Collaborate with your child on bringing something up – a plant, an animal, another child, if you have the mind and body for it. Every child is an amazing parent if given a chance.
- Ask and you will not receive: Talking to your children is not about you asking the questions and them giving the answers all the time. It is a conversation, it’s two-way, it’s open-ended. Re once told me I ask too many questions. I learned to tone it down that day onwards.
Parenting is live, 24/7. It’s like being in the Big Boss house without even being aware that there are cameras in your child’s head. That everything you say and do is being recorded. There is no editing, touch up or color correction. You can strategise how you will present yourself at a date or an interview and make an impression, but as a parent, you are there, in the moment, in all your naked vulnerable state, without makeup or filters. There is no auto-correct, and children pick up on everything. Even the things you don’t say. Life is what happens between Facebook posts.
(A version of this post appeared as my column in the Pune Mirror on 6th July, 2015)