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.