Thank You Salesman!

Thank You Salesman!

I recently went shopping to pick some dresses for my daughter. She was not with me, so I looked at a dress and buzzed her to check with her, if she liked it or she preferred some other color. This was taking sometime and the salesman got a little vexed (I think) with the delay. He had to wait on one customer for long and that may be taxing his commission (my thinking yet again!) He watched this sequence between my daughter and me for 3-4 rounds and blurted, “Beti apki hai! Usse kya pooch ke khareedna! Jo marji pehnayiye!” (She is your daughter! Why need you ask her opinion? She should wear whatever you buy for her!) I was a little taken aback by his tone and the way he made that statement. I did not call my daughter again. Whatever I had already chosen, I hurriedly selected and made a rushed exit!

This small interlude took me back a few years. We were having a discussion on the role of parents or parenting and someone had given this description: “The boon given by God to play God!” I remember being very surprised and totally in disagreement with that description. How could parents be elevated to the status of God? Especially the present generation parents; most of the middle class income group has both the parents working and the time spent with the children is negligible and devoid of any influence on the progeny. So, do the parents really get to play God for their children in this day and generation too?

The statement this salesperson made brought back the whole episode back and my introspection commenced yet again.  Everything that happens with me leads me to this one activity, introspection! (One ‘chewing the cud’ kind of person I am)

What kind of a parent am I? The exasperated air with which the salesperson gave his dictate definitely made me conclude that he considered himself to be God for his children! But, where was I? With my repeated calls to my daughter I had managed to irk him and my daughter too. She was happily watching some favorite show and my calls were an irritating interference for her. She was polite the first two times and after that she barely looked at the dress. Honestly, the salesman lost his cool before her; another call and I am sure she would have said, “Ma! Stop disturbing me! All are beautiful! Buy anyone of them!”

So, where was I? Taking her opinion and picking a dress of her choice seemed ‘stupid’ to the salesman. I was asking my daughter so that she could have a dress of her choice or liking and I did not dump something on her head forcibly. Children these are very choosy and like to wear clothes of their choice. Bearing that in mind; like a ‘good’’ broad minded’ parent I was giving her the freedom of choice!  Both boomeranged badly, leaving me to wonder about my stance. I definitely disliked the God status, so I had consciously stayed away from ‘trappings’ of that esteemed post.

Asking for my daughter’s opinion for every dress; that too when she was not remotely interested and would have been happy with anything I chose for her; I felt like I was more of a ‘guilty’ ‘over-compensating’ kind of a parent. Was I seeking her opinion because I was not confident about my choice? No! Whatever I have purchased in the past she has never complained. So, what had changed? Introspection time again.

My time with my daughter had changed!  We had a very busy schedule in the past; yet we (my son-daughter and I) managed exclusive ‘together time’ always! Now, we have shifted to a new country and it is just the two of us here, no work and loads of free time. Yet, we barely seemed to spend any time together. We both have an independent time table which has no together time in it!

This being a new place, school, friends, language, culture and everything else was a fresh start for her. Similarly, the place was new for me too. She got busy with her new friends at school, at home and whatever free time she got she was busy chatting and ‘connecting’ with her friends from India. I got busy ‘connecting’ with my friends back home and …. nothing! I was perpetually on the ‘wats app’ ‘connecting’ and getting most disconnected with all else around me! We would have continued this disconnected – connection pattern for longer if I had not made this short shopping expedition I think!

I was asking my daughter for her choice because as I stood looking at those dresses it hit me that I did know what clothes she had! I was clueless about what she needed! Whether she needed or not also I was unsure! What was happening in her life? She always seemed busy. School was good, at home she was seemed more than happy to be on her own with her I pad or phone or laptop. These were her constant companions.

Where were I ‘together’ times? In that busy schedule, back home, I had managed to keep abreast of everything that was happening in her life. Here, we had so much free time, yet we never seemed to do anything together. Introspection done it was time to act now; make the corrections before I really feel guilty and over compensate to assuage my guilt!

We made a timetable, a together timetable. We go walking together, if that is not possible for any reasons then I meet her halfway on her way back home from school and we ‘talk’. We have lunch together and ‘catch-up’ (she used to eat lunch watching some show on her I pad, and I used to continue ‘connecting’L).Now, I consciously stay away from my phone second half of the day, once she is back from school.

I now know what she is happening in her life. She plays cricket! Has learnt to play foot –ball and is getting better at hand ball. She is a good runner and is teaching her friends some ‘Indian –games’. She gets hurt way too often to be bothered about such silly scrapes and wounds now! She teaches Hindi to her classmates and has learnt a few Irish-Gaelic and Spanish phrases. She writes ‘fantasy thrillers’ (that is her area of expertise she claims!). I suddenly realized I have an ‘all rounder’ extraordinary daughter! She can just about do anything she sets her mind to.

These 2 hours of together time has changed many things for us. She and I share many things and enjoy each other’s company. That salesman did me a big favor. I never wanted to play God, but I don’t want to feel guilty and over compensate either! I hope to be her best friend and if possible help her feel successful, accomplished and competent in anything she chooses to do.

So, thanks to the salesman, parenting tips for you allJ. Spend time with your children. Connecting with the world at the cost of disconnecting with your dearest and nearest is …. I don’t have the right epithets.

Game of Life

Game of Life

As kids, the most popular game at home was Snakes and Ladders. Most of the games used to be for two players or four; Chinese checkers was the only game for 6 people. Snakes and Ladders could be played by any number; we simply improvised with the chess pieces if the players exceeded four. Apart for this, the other reason why we played snakes and ladders was that we were always more than one inching our way to the top, neck to neck, and the others used to be way below, praying that a snake bite us and we slip down to join them! It was more a play of human emotions all the time and it was weird and different to see friends become enemies, pray for their loss and be happy when a third person won, instead of the contending winners. As we grew up, studies took precedence, most of the school friends went different ways and in our busy lifestyle Snakes and ladders was lost and forgotten.

Things took a different turn after my second one, our darling daughter came along. Contrary to her brother, she loves board games of all kinds and she insists that the whole family sit and play! And to our dismay she was not an avid television fan either. Even if we did put her in front of the idiot box, she would barely sit for 10 minutes, even her favourite shows, she wanted one of us to sit and watch with her and she would be explaining the story!! None of us could endure the story of Thomas the Engine, or Oswald or Cee-Bee Bees on a consistent level. Very soon we were taking turns sitting with her and gradually we all started dreading our turn! So a new game almost every week became the new escape route for us, and that is how snakes and Ladders got reintroduced into my life.

She and I used to play for hours and she would be happy winning always, and since I was her only opponent I used to allow her to win, it made her happy and I had a chance to sneak in a few other quick chores, multi-tasking was a feasible option for me only if she won! She used to play with her brother and dad at times and both of them also quickly devised a way to let her win. They soon escaped seeking umbrage of repeated loss or that they were no match against her expertise. She grew up never being able to accept defeat and also overconfident that this was her winning game, she was victorious always.

My daughter’s sand castle crumbled when she began playing with her granny. My mother in law is a very ‘play it fair’ always, kind of a person. She plays to win, be it her grandchild or anyone else, and unlike us she was their putting her life into the game. This became a kind of a tug of war for my daughter and a deja’vu scenario for me. The first time my daughter lost she took it sportingly and hid her shock well in front of her granny; she came and cried her heart out to me saying, “Granny cheats!! She is not a good person, she does not know that in snakes and Ladders I am the only winner, she won I don’t know how!”…it was a stream of epithets and wails, engulfed by abysmal sadness due to her first ever defeat! This instance set me thinking, and I knew I could not approach my mother – in-law and ask her to lose! After all it was a child, her favourite grandchild she was playing against. And even if I did convince and coax my mother in law, what after that? How is my daughter ever going to learn to accept defeat? Is she ever going to learn to lose or will she grow up with the illusion that winning is her birth right?

Somewhere along the line I had made a mistake; in my lethargy and escapist attitude I had passed on something which my daughter may have to suffer with for the rest of her life! I was unable to really pacify my little one that day, just hugged her and kept thinking what my next course of action should be. She obviously did not go back to playing snakes and ladders with her granny, not in that trip, and in a way I was glad. It gave me a respite and time to think.

We sat down to play after a short hiatus and this time I was conscious about many things, my alertness, honesty in playing the game, win or lose accept both with equanimity, her spirit and attitude to the game! Marshalling my defences and strengths we proceeded; and at every step I started talking to her, if a snake bite her she immediately looked at me askance that would I overlook like I used to, and it broke my heart not to. But I was smilingly firm and gave her a new story for every ladder and every snake! A ladder came when she was honest, able to compete, play fair, not feel jealous, and think that this is a game and every game is to learn, enjoy, win some, and lose some too! She lost to granny and she did not like it, and similarly I lose every time I will also feel sad and may never play with anyone again! And a snake bite was when she was getting angry, ready to cry because I was winning, she wanting an extra turn so she could win or even she teasing me if she was on 98 somewhere and I was miserably stuck at some stupid 10 or so, a snake if she could not cheer my previous win and so on and so forth.

It took time, few very patient, long drawn, exceedingly intense games before it finally dawned to her that she had to learn to play, enjoy the game, win or lose a game; any game had a lesson and was fun if the lesson was learnt.

She plays all games with the same ease and grit now, to win always, but willing to roll  a quarter over to the winning side and congratulate the opponent too! Snakes and Ladders had arrived with a bang in my house, teaching my daughter and I a game of life!:)

Khalil Gibran on children

Khalil Gibran on children

Khalil Gibran is my favorite poet and philosopher; this is what he writes about children:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.

Your children are temporarily in your custody and you are their guardian and care taker. You have no ownership rights over them because they are owned by God and He has sent them to accomplish a goal or a purpose unique to them. Life called out for them and here they are, as your children in name and form but His children in verity. The animals and the birds seem to understand this philosophy much better than the intelligent human race. The lioness feeds the cub and simultaneously encourages the cub to fend for itself. The chicks are also urged to fly and gather twigs from a very young age. We humans keep missing this fine point somehow.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

He again says, they come from you; yes, you do give birth to them, yet they are from Him alone and not from you, which is what most parents mistakenly take claim for. The children stay with us as long as it is destined and not a single moment beyond that. They are with us but they do not belong to us; they are definitely not the personal property of parents.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

Again so true, did we, as children think like our parents? Did we not have different thoughts, dreams, aspirations and ambitions? Did we not wait for the day when we would be able to live ‘our’ life, the way we want to, without being told, what to do, what to eat, what to wear and a seamless stream of instructions? If that was generation gap then, should not the gap be more gaping and wider now? Times have changed very dramatically over the last 2 decades and with it a very tumultuous parent age has arrived. Love is scarce or showered as a return gift for something well done or withheld as punishment at times. The present day children are facing more insecure times, it is all the more important that we shower as much love as we can on them and give them the freedom of thought. Raise them such that they are free with discipline and love.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,

which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

Almost every child achieves much more than what their parents did. They belong to the tomorrow and have to learn from today, whereas we belong to a yesterday, trying to adjust to today for a better tomorrow. We are yet to get a grip over the way times have changed, whereas they are already of this generation. They are planning and dreaming of a tomorrow which we may never see. Is it fair to drag them backwards in time, to our times and force them to think our way, do our way, live our way? We can be like the lamp post guiding and throwing light on the path, we cannot walk that path though. They have to walk their own path and discover their destiny.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

I initially never agreed with this line, why should the parents be like the children? My parents always wanted me to emulate either one of them and that is exactly what I have done. So why should my son (I need to remember, he is HIS son, not mine) not emulate his Dad or me? Why should we not ask him to try and become like his father or mother? The next line has the answer though; because, life has never gone backwards and time does not wait or depend on a yesterday. It is today and then tomorrow. I woke up to the fact that if I expect my son to become like his father or me, I would be asking him to move backwards, live in a yesterday. As a parent I should be asking him to look at his tomorrow, move on the road ahead and achieve his dreams. Is it fair on my part to ask him to live my unaccomplished dreams and achievements?

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The parents are the bows from which the children of God as living arrows are set forth in search of their destiny.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

The archer or God has already marked the path over which the arrow, the child, will fly. God simply wants that the Bow, parents, also to bend, yield, string themselves just so much so that the arrow, child, can reach its destined goal. It is the strength of the bow and the flexibility of the string which allows the archer to set forth the arrow swift and far.

Let you bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies,

So He loves also the bow that is stable.

One without the other is incomplete and God loves both equally. He has assigned us the job of taking care of His children and entrusted us with the big responsibility of raising them happily and with joy. Bend yield listen to the child and nourish them with love and joy, God does send forth His children through you and is happy to see them ascend, but He also loves the stable hand of the parent which joyfully raises its offspring.

As a child counselor by profession I am forced to read this poem to every parent because they all invariably expect me, the counselor, to change the mindset of the child. They look me at me very expectantly as if I can wave a magic wand and their errant child will start obeying them or start behaving the way they expect the child to behave.