I went into parenting knowing absolutely nothing, soon after I turned 27. I was immensely happy to have a pretty little baby I could call mine and since he spent his first 2 months in a neonatal ICU, I had a bunch of professionals telling me every day about – ‘maintenance of the baby’s health’, so things just rolled on from there. Mind you – Google wasn’t ‘quite there’ yet.
Since I could not even hold him or cuddle him for about 60 days after his birth – I couldn’t have enough of him when I finally brought him home. My husband had exhausted all his leaves because of our extended time at the hospital and he had a couple of months official trip to make to the US. So, for another 6 months, I did nothing but just watch and take care of the baby.
Perhaps it was the ‘time alone’ that I got with the baby (like a lockdown – I could go out, yet I did not except for small walks around the house), I had a lot of time to watch, observe and learn from the little teacher in front of me. Later, I realised, at various junctures and many instances where I would least expect it, there were much more that would open my eyes. Through my child, I would get a fresh set of eyes to see the world.
Remember forever but forgive instantly: I honestly wish that my misgivings and mistakes would be forgotten! It was a shock the first time my son recollected an incident where I lost my temper when he was only 6 years. He has a shoebox of memory images in his brain, and he would, when asked, detail it with such perfection. Children – they are born perfectionists in recording – be it images, sounds, words, or mannerisms. There were a couple of lessons for me here. It made me realise that my interactions will have to be like a picture-perfect Instagram grid – any awkward selfies will stick out for him to scroll back on any day. It also made me realise that if I’m to learn and carry the message of any of my own experiences, it is important that I remember it. I should forgive but to forget would mean that the lesson that came with it is lost. I’m also in awe of his ability to forgive me so easily and naturally. So, while my son still remembers the instances of my ‘anger’ when he was 6 years old and while I might have fought with him just after dinner the previous night – he always comes down for a hug every morning or after school every day!
Do your bit for others: I always had a concern that he didn’t perform well in his academics. I attributed it to my inability to ‘teach’ anybody anything. So, I was a bit apprehensive when his class teacher called me to talk about him and I almost ‘teared up’ when he said that Hrehaan is the most kind boy around. He jumps at the opportunity to help anyone around him. He opens the gates and doors for people who are 200ft away (I’m wondering how to tell him that it might annoy some!). As soon as he reaches home from school, he would voluntarily ask me if I wanted tea. Not a regular ‘boil in the kettle’ tea – but a proper Indian chai where he crushes and adds ginger, cardamom and sugar. He is 12!
Work for your happiness: The last couple of years were not exactly easy on him. Moving to a new country, to a new school, not having friends – it was taxing for him. The lockdown meant that his only chances of friends are I and my husband. While we both very seriously engaged ourselves in whatever work we had during the weekdays – it was very cute to watch him build certain routines into our daily lives which brought him ‘company’ and happiness. Every. Single. Day, he would ask for a game of chess even if it meant that he failed at the game. He hates workouts but when I suggested we do it together, he calls me every day and pushes through the 30 mins ordeal just for the joy of doing something together. He’s moving into secondary school but didn’t get admission to where his friends are going. I said I’m sorry and he replied “I already asked around who are going to the college you have found for me and I’m friends with them so I won’t be lonely 😊.”
Open mind for negotiation: When we do have our arguments – it is dealt with as a negotiation amidst any emotion in the house. He agrees to what we claim is unacceptable but remembers what we offer as acceptable. “2 hours of screen time cannot happen – maybe 1 hour.” “You can go twice a week to your friend’s place – not every day.” He has a watch, and he is on time to ask for his end of the bargain – but for every argument, he comes with a very open mind for negotiation. I’ve felt humbled for endless arguments of my own where I had argued beyond the point of any gains whatsoever other than just proving myself right!
Gratitude: This certainly is a muscle I need to grow, and I have learnt this from him. When he was 3 or 4, we might have asked him to say thank you to everyone. However, growing up, he sometimes says thank you for the smallest of things. If he wanted water from the kitchen and one of us passed it on, if we agreed to play his favourite series, if we cooked his favourite food – he never fails to say, ‘Thank You.’ Inspired by him, I ask him to write a ‘gratitude journal’ and once or twice take a peek … he would have thanked to have met his friends from school and played with them!
I believe all children teach us a world of things. The agenda of life is simple for children – smile, play, eat and explore the world while being silly every now and then. That certainly sounds like a recipe for a happy life – if only I would stop to learn.