Monthly Archives: September 2015

Live- Alive

Live- Alive

Most of my introspection begins with two questions; and this is one of them- ‘Am I living or am I alive?’ The answer comes differently and from different quarters. And this is a question that keeps popping up time and again. This time the answer came from the most unexpected person and in a very surprising way, subtly telling me a lot about my attitude and human perception. We recently visited my dad’s place for summer holidays. They have a handsome Labrador and the wonderful creature taught me a lot about life, living and being alive. I wondered why what was natural to that fellow turned out to be alien to me. And what always appeared to amaze or excite him, seemed common place and dull, mundane to me. My brother takes him for a walk everyday and he is the official dad to ‘Rex’, their bundle of joy. My sister – in – law dotes on the fellow and pampers him silly. He gets away with chocolates, cakes and even rosogulla! He has a fine sweet tooth and eats papaya with equal fervor and gusto. Between the two of them the dog is the prime and most important member of the family and one lucky dude, you might add.  I looked at his life closely for the first time this trip. Despite heavy rains my brother takes him on his walks and I would think a rainy day that fellow would protest, be dragged and very reluctant to step out. But on the contrary, the minute he heard my brother’s footstep on the stairs he would make a funny gurgling sound and wait for him at the foot of the steps. Instead, he becomes impatient if my brother is delayed and growls in a very endearing way, prodding my brother to make haste. It was all very new for me the first 3 days and I also accompanied them for the walks, and I noticed that all the three days it was the same path, the same time, the same distance and yet every day (much to my frustration) the dog maintained the same enthusiasm and zest. By the time it was the third day I did not want to go, I was already bored; it was raining and smelly outside and we would anyway take the same path. But Rexy was as excited as ever, as if it was the first day and he had never been out before!  What was so exciting for him in that mundane routine which held no charm for me on the third day itself? How come he was so alive and I was not even living? I was jealous of the damn dog. Where did he get the naïve enthusiasm from? Why he was not bored? He dragged my brother all the way and kind of waited for my brother to roll out the same comments, “Slow down Rexy!” “Not that way!” “No, no! No getting cosy with street dogs!!” This bit I could at least mentally explain to myself in a rational way; probably Rex could maintain the excitement in the anticipation that maybe my brother will take him on a new route, maybe a longer path, maybe he will encounter a new friend. This anticipation was my rational explanation as to why Rexy maintained the same excitement every day.  The worse and bigger revelation was the way Rex reacted every time my dad walked into the house. My dad would have just then patted him and gone down the road to get milk. The minute Rex heard my dad’s footsteps he would start wagging his tail vigorously and bark exultantly. He would jump over my dad, as if it had been ages since he had last seen my father. Barely 10 minutes would have lapsed, yet Rexy would be overjoyed and bouncing jubilantly and lick my father’s hand. My father also indulgently pats him every time. This happened almost five to seven times a day. This bit amazed me. I mean what it was with that dog! My dad had just left barely seven minutes and this fellow behaved as if a long lost friend had returned after a year’s voyage. How did he manage to maintain this; the loyalty for my brother, the love for my father and us? It was so unconditional, spontaneous and fresh always. My dad’s irritation did not bother him; my brother’s anger did not change his attitude to my brother. Apart, for walking him my brother had no time to devote all his attention on Rex and my dad also absent mindedly patted that fellow, going out or coming back home. None of us really gave him special time. None of us spent extra time with him, we did not go out of our way to keep him happy or be in his best books. My mum fed him, my sister in law bathed and looked after his hygiene, brother took him for walks and was the disciplinarian, and my dad absent mindedly patted him coming in and going out of the house. This was all. Rexy still managed to make each one feel special and unique. All of them thought they were special for Rexy. They probably gave 5% of their time and attention to Rexy and in return got 100% of Rexy’s love and more. My brother was unwell last week and Rexy would be glued to his side, day and night. He did not seem to mind being stuck at home, with no one to take him on his adventurous walks. Try as one might, none of us could drag him away from my brother’s side. Similarly, anyone amongst them was sad or worried the dog would be able to sense it before others could. He was more alive and living a very worthwhile life, savoring every moment. Enjoying every moment as it came; unconcerned about what happened in the past and equally oblivious of what the future had in store for him. And here I was, either simmering about a bad yesterday or carrying that baggage for a prolonged period. This spoiled most of my tomorrows and also kept me in a state of anticipation and tension perpetually. These bad yesterday’s did not allow me to live my good today’s nor did they allow me to anticipate and be excited about a good future. It was as if I was barely managing to live and was never alive. I was afraid to die and I did not know what it was to be alive either. Neither good events could excite me nor the mundane did .I had forgotten to enjoy the small regular pleasure in my stupid search for a grand big excitement in future. And this dog was doing a fabulous job spontaneously, living its life to the fullest. It was alive every moment and immortalizing himself in our lives. He showed me how to be alive, not just live.  

 

Counsellor- Mother

Counsellor- Mother

Being an Adolescent Counselor and a behavioral therapist I always had this lazy, arrogant confidence that I knew it all! Any problem I would chance to encounter with my adolescent children (I definitely would not encounter any) I would come out with flying colors. I could not have been farther away from truth!

The only edge I probably had which could be attributed to my academic background was that I was a very aware mom as far as the psychology of the present generation was concerned. And in accordance, I had tried to raise my children; walking the fine balance of being a modern parent yet passing on all the traditional values with which I was raised.

My first born is a boy and so I was very hands on with all the boy television shows and the latest games that boys of that age played. We never grew up with Pokemon , Bayblade, Power Rangers etc; and to be honest I still find them very bizarre and way too exaggerated; but not only did I play all this with my son , I ended up buying their battle fields and card games and encouraged a collection too! We had a Bayblade battle at home! And the look on my husband’s face is not worth mentioning here! Other mothers would look at me very askance as to why I indulge in such stupidity, especially when I was a stay home mom. I spent every breathing moment with that fellow and yet I bought all these new fangled nonsense. Alongside, I used to sit with him and watch our epics; get him to read about our culture, history and even in Pokemon and Bayblade games the assimilation point or take away was always a value and some learning. The games may have a new name and a Japanese character but the values are always the same and universal. The one thing I refused to indulge in was guns or even the traditional Indian weapon Bow and Arrow. I bought him a beautiful, authentic bow and arrow when he turned 10 and was able to handle it responsibly. Apart for these few ground rules, I managed to be a very up to date mother.

 When I was totally in sync with the boy sports God decided to make me the caretaker of a beautiful girl, our second child. Now, the Pokemons and Bay blades were no good. She fancied bangles, the Indian tattoo or mehendi and her real life dolls were her brother and I. She loved play dough; used to sit and create for hours. Board games were reintroduced because of her. God answered my prayers and she never insisted on Barbies, the then outrage and most sought after toy by every girl ( I dread those skinny, skimpy, buxom, so called perfect figured, dumb looking things they sell in the name of beautiful Barbies). I need to thank my son though; she inadvertently did all that her brother did, and the brother never did fancy Barbie dollsJ. She tried Bayblade and Pokemon shows and collected cards till she did not develop interest in things of her kind, like play dough and board games. Mostly, my girl learnt a lot from her brother; he was her mentor tutor more than I could be. She was a voracious reader because he used to read and tell her stories. He swims well and she desperately tries to excel too. All that he does she aspires to do. Her interests where I participated were all on the creative side, namely singing, dancing and drawing.

So, as a counselor I don’t think I did much yet again. One child I raised trying to walk the fine line between indulgence and discipline. The other one got raised with me trying to find the balance between allowing her to find her true interests and she emulating her brother in every way. To cut the story short, though I did not have many hiccups as a mother I don’t think my counseling skills played a crucial role. The threesome got along like a house on fire and if I was a strict parent they did not seem to mind it much because they got away getting pampered by the dad or consoling each other.

The scene changed when my son entered his teenage and my daughter became an adolescent. My son was engrossed with studies and my daughter had way too much free time on her hands. And sensing their independence I got into a lot of work myself and we kind of had a settled pattern for a few months. I used to be out of the house mostly and they used to report the day’s schedule and things they did, missed and needed to improve upon. I was the superficial observer and playing more of a guest parent (this is on hindsight). They did fairly well and seemed to be sorted always, and the results were also static. They did not plummet and raise any panic, but improvement was never visible from semester to semester. So, during exam time the tension used to be palpable; that was when I remembered that improved results were in order! I wrote down reminders and ordered them to sit and study. I still refused to stay home and monitor for two reasons; one, I really had my hands full with many other things I could not call off; secondly, I had given them my full attention and care and it was time they should be able to manage themselves, they were mature independent and focused too. I, the super mommy, counselor had raised them like that and any issues that did occur they should manage or it should not be more than a minor adjustment problem.

Sadly, I did not make any changes, I could not give them any time, I did not have so much time any more. Apart for that, those two really learnt to live on their own. The older one had a close knit friend circle; spent most of his time on phone or with his friends. When I saw him he was with his books, studying and working hard. Except for the fact that his grades never improved and he always had some unique reason, I had no reason to complain or counter his reasoning. I did not know his studies nor was I in a position to teach him myself. So that always ended on a grumpy note, he saying he will do better next time and I was pacified because I has no reason to disbelieve him. He is a sober boy and you can’t find fault with him even now. Just that he is easy going, not so ambitious and most probably has a very different set of expectations from himself, as opposed to what I expect of him. It was unrealistic to expect an adolescent to live up to the expectations of a middle aged person. It seemed more like I was thrusting my unrealized dreams under his nose. He was under performing and I was over expecting, both were not in sync anymore.  

On the other hand, my daughter fared well in academics, she was in middle school and studies were easy. When I used to spend time with her we used to sing regularly and she also did her dance practice diligently. My absence resulted in both these extra – curricular activities getting neglected. She lost all interest in music. Even dance was a thing of convenience and she did not show real passion or zest in excelling in either. If I asked her she did sit and practice but she continuously grumbled, complained about having a sore throat, leg ache or simply made a grumpy face refusing to sing! She did not want to sing and she would not be forced into practicing against her will. It was tough to reason with her and she could be very stoic and determined in her ways. She was studying well; her brother was also studying all the time, so that was the comparison. Rest did not matter. And again I could do nothing. I repeatedly gave reminders, reprimanded, warned and warned for the last time. But that was all, I finally made peace with myself and let go.

Both my independent children were suddenly out of reach. They were good children and I cannot complain about anything. I sincerely feel if they failed in any way it was my fault. Growing up years is tricky. How can one expect a 17 year old to be more mature than his 17 years? And if the 10 year old is stubborn, the parents have to spend time and thaw the will with adult reasoning. All this takes time, and patience which the parents must give the child unconditionally. Whatever may be the upbringing, age comes with its own changes and challenges. Every child is different and has different challenges to encounter. No academics train us and referring to self-help books help only superficially. The rules and answers are both dependent on the child and parents. And the quality time the parents (not parent) give their children. The upbringing and family dictates the temperament of the child and the solutions also come from the parent and child association. Every parent is a counselor and just needs to be with the child in times of need. If it is a working parent even then to expect a counselor to resolve a problem serves nothing till the parent does not take active interest and participate. My academics did help me reason with the children. But being earnest about it and having the interest to bring a change were the key points. We all did a lot of introspection and made peace together. Trying single handed it was a blame game; relationship and situations only deteriorated. Counseling helps only if we know the problem and we are willing to bring a change. Else all certificates prove to be wall decorations alone. Good boost to the ego maybe but good for nothing in real life situations.

Let me end this with a few true lines on children by my favorite author, Khalil Gibran.