Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Subtle, Confusing, Bewildering Art of Parenting

Everything is not black and white in parenting - that's the thing.

Of course I could be talking about anything at all in life, and not just about raising kids.

There are broad Do's and Don't do's but there is still such a grey area within the realm of Do's:

Where do we draw the line between letting him have his way and keeping him from losing his way?

Between ruining the the child and spoiling the child?

Between neglecting him and pampering him?

Between protecting him and letting him make mistakes?

Between concealing the tragedies of life from him and letting him face the world?

Where is the damn line?

How far do we provide the training wheels? When do we throw him into the water and say, "Swim!" ?

At what point do we say "Do whatever makes you happy!" and at what point do we say "Stop being a baby and do as you're told!"

How do we decide between "He is too young to know what's best for him" and "He should be allowed to do what he likes"?

Am I showering enough love so that he can open up to me when he needs? Am I ignoring him enough so that he learns to be strong inside without depending too much on me?

The answer is, We don't know. We never know.

As parents, pretending to have every answer right in our hands, we have absolutely no clue.

When they grow up, we begin to see signs (I suppose). If only I had cautioned him in time, we think, regretfully. Or, Thank God I thought of compelling him to do that. Or worse, God, what have I done???

To add to our misery, the old woman you despise says, You don't know anything about being a parent. Get as far away from her as possible.

So what do we do? With a million doubts clouding our minds, we take each day as it comes. We rely on our instinct. We fall back on lessons learned while we were growing up, and most importantly, from how we have seen our child grow.  Sometimes we ask others who might know. Their answer may not be the right one for us, but it may open our eyes to options.

Consciously or unconsciously we look ahead, weigh possible choices and take a step forward. Sometimes we get only a split second to make a decision, sometimes we are given days.

We make mistakes, tons of them, sometimes grave ones, sometimes minor. Then we try to retrace our steps or to find our way back to the highway on which we assumed we had been travelling.

And when mistakes do happen, we bang our heads against the wall. Is that going to affect my child?, we ask ourselves over and over. I have tried to fix it, but have I fixed it properly? Will that do? What is my child going to learn from this? 

The bottom line is, no one knows what is right and wrong. We only have opinions. Oh, yes, that we have truckloads of. Which we try to unload on others, but that is another story.

There is black and white in parenting, but that is a small region. It is important to remember that. The greys are all over the place.

And it's the greys that keep us awake at night.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

To fit in or to stand out – that’s the question

The hum of conversation greets me as I enter.
They are gathered in twos, threes, seated, standing, leaning against the wall, casually, comfortably, listening, discussing, deliberating about absolutely nothing important.
Some of them look up. I wave to some, nod, say ‘Hi’ to others, and ignore the rest. Bits and pieces of chatter reach me as I pass.
The children squeal as they call out to each other. A couple of girls dart past in their roller skates, almost colliding against an adult and dodging him just in time. Two little boys accuse each other of cheating and run to their mothers, crying. A third one displays a chocolate to his buddy and claims, “I have this new chocolate. You don’t have this chocolate.”
I place myself near a group that looks friendly. A few smiles and words are exchanged.
They’re conversing in a language I understand, a language I speak. I say the right things. I exclaim at the right places, insert a word or a nod at the right gaps, and roll my eyes or laugh at the right time. I sense no awkwardness.
But everything feels alien. I don’t fit in.
I know it; I have always known it.
Sometimes you try; sometimes you don’t.
The uneasiness grows. The chatter continues. I envy the participants. How easily they flow. How effortlessly they blend. How smoothly they connect. How comfortably they interact. I am the outsider, whether they are aware of it or not. Whether I admit it or not.
I detach myself from the group. I would return, but the disconnectedness would never go away. It would always cloud my being, except at very rare, very unexpected moments when the sun bursts forth, for a brief, miraculous interlude.
I am disappointed. I have tried, again, and failed. But I would venture out again, and again, until the mist thins or I surrender. Or a tunnel opens up to swallow me.
I walk back to the place where I know I am welcome, where I am among friends, where I am myself, where I do not have to pretend, where I do not have to meet expectations.
They wait, unmoving, expectant, as they have been for years. They don’t say a word, they don’t greet me, they don’t smile. But I know I am home. I relax.
I choose one at random, flip the pages, and lose myself in conversations I comprehend, in a world I traverse alone, with people I adore, in a place where I fit in. No awkwardness, no desire to please.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

I see you.

I see you.
A light in the crowd,
A picture of calm
Amidst the pandemonium,
As the world erupts
Like a marketplace.

I hear you.
Though no word is uttered
And the air between
fills with cacophony
Of everything that has
ever stood in our way.

I feel you.
I think I do.
A synchronisation of ideas;
A reverberation of thoughts;
A bizarre awareness
Of your invisible presence.

If ever our paths
Happen to cross again-
We could pick up where we left off
As though the ocean
We'd believed between us
Had never been.