Thursday, July 26, 2007

When the second child comes calling

The arrival of the first child in the family is a very great moment that the whole family rejoices in. For the couple it is the culmination of their love and the anticipation of bringing in a new life, experiencing motherhood and fatherhood and all the excitement and anxiety that goes along with this special moment.

Once the baby is born the first time mother and father and if they live in an extended or joint family then one can realize how much of pampering and caring goes into bringing up the first born. We as mothers will be ultra careful, very, very protective and watchful with every little thing that they do. It is but natural for the first time mother.

Gradually the child gets very accustomed to this and feels that he or she has all the right to demand things from all his loved ones and to see that it gets fulfilled in the shortest possible time. He or she is literally the apple of everyone’s eye.

Now right from the beginning it has been my personal experience that having a big family with lots of sisters and brothers to play with is the most happiest part of growing up. We are four sisters and we all went through periods of joy of playing together, jealousy, fights, pains of growing up as well as helping each other out, rejoicing in each others achievements, feeling pain when my sister left to another place to study, not wanting to let my elder sister go away when she got married as we would miss the happy foursome that we were. Infact other children would always love to come and play at the four sister’s place as we were famously called.

So with this background I had the notion that when I would get married I would like to have a big family of my own. I wanted my children to go through the same experience of enjoying life with siblings as well as having no dearth of company and enjoying life. Considering today’s high cost of living and the amount of attention that each child needs to have my dream of raising a family of many children sized down to two though I would have been much happier with a large brood.

Since deciding on two I thought it would be great to have ideally one boy and one girl so that I could experience the joys of bringing up both, although I did not mind much with any possible combination, but I thought I would enjoy having girls as we were all girl family .Anyways as destined I have two wonderful boys now aged eleven and nine. It was my view that I would prefer a gap of two years as things will still be fresh in my memory of bringing up my first child and it would be ideal for the child to have someone closer to his age to play with.

Initially it was a little difficult looking after both of them but I am lucky that my in-laws stay with me and they are a great help even today.

We started involving my elder son from the time I was expecting. We would talk to him, show him pictures of his when he was a little baby and how he will have another baby to play with. So on the D day he was looking forward to having a baby brother or sister with whom he could play with.

Once the second child came home I was at my mom’s place and my first child was admitted to school around the same time. He adjusted very well in school and also to all the major changes that was taking place around him. He would cuddle the baby first thing when he came back from school, play for some time and enjoy talking to his baby brother.

As the baby grew a little and started demanding more attention from us that was the time that I felt I had to be careful not to let things affect my elder son. Since the second one was still small though very individualistic I would involve my elder son in all the things like helping me get the child’s clothes, letting him feed the baby with the bottle, carrying him, going to the park and playing. With this kind of giving them the importance of looking after the baby and boosting his pride of being a big brother helped to a large extent. Though all this looks easy it was not so sometimes because generally I am sure you would have noticed the second born have a strong mind of their own, more independent and we as mothers because of experience with the first born, or because of too many thing to do at that stage of time pay a lot less attention than compared to the way we indulge our first born. As a result the second born are more naughty, impish and know how to get things done with their natural charm.

Now the first born are more sensitive and need much more attention as this is the time that they feel the first signs of jealousy and what we term in child development as sibling rivalry. As a mother we have to have a lot of patience, understanding and maturity in handling both the children so that the psyche of the elder child is not affected and also see to it that he will not develop hatred towards his sibling.

Towards this end all the family members need to cooperate and understand towards being impartial, avoid taking sides and first and foremost I think it is a great mistake that one generally tends to do is telling the older child always that he must understand and be mature and that his brother is still small so he better behave. Come on, he is still small and going through a tough phase of adjusting. So I would try and equally scold both or most of the times reason it out with both of them.

Despite all this I could find my elder child going through the phase of throwing temper tantrums and feeling jealous of his younger brother and trying to be one up in every thing that the younger one would do. It was a difficult phase for me to try and juggle both of them and trying to do justice to both. Also there was an understanding between me and my husband as to where both of us had to draw a line, both of us agreeing to certain rules that we both had to abide because children are smart enough to take us for a jolly ride if they know that one parent is being lenient .Even if I was wrong in some thing I tell my husband to let me know later on in private if he did not agree on some thing that I would say but never ever in front of our children. So children also know that they cannot take advantage of this conflicting situation.

Now that they are growing up to be more mature I find that it was all worth the effort. I find that both of them miss each other if one is out for a long time. It gladdens my heart when my elder son tries and helps his younger brother if he has difficulties in his school work, my elder son learning to be bolder like his younger brother. I also see the worry on their face when one of them falls sick. It is nice to see them planning and plotting as to how they would like to capture the poke’mon on their game boy. Best is when they fight and when we try and sort it out both of them defending each other and leaving us gaping.

That is when I felt that the two will forever share a special bond through out their life and will cherish all the memories of their childhood later in life.

So let us at least try and have if not a big family at least one sibling with whom they can cherish the moments in life. So parents, those who are planning to have one more addition in the family go ahead and increase your brood (here I must say population experts will sue me for advocating this policy). At the same time it was too late for me when I realized that adopting a child could also have been an option as that way I would have got a big family that I wished for and at the same time given that child a chance and at the same time taking care of the population.

Well whatever it is I would certainly advocate the policy More the Merrier.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Parenting is an Art

We have heard parenting comes naturally to women. Right from childhood girls mostly, (I say mostly because there are exceptions to every rule) have this motherly instinct in them. So Motherhood followed by parenting comes quite naturally.

Earlier people used to live in joint families with lots of guidance provided to young mothers by the more experienced elders at home though we might not really agree with some of the methods that they used to bring up their children. Ideas were different with regard to discipline, habits, education and various other aspects of parenting.

Now present times demand different kind of parenting. This does not however mean that the basics of parenting has changed. We still want our children to inculcate good values, good habits, respect for elders so on and so forth, except that methods of doing that has changed. So yes Parenting has become an art which needs to be fine tuned according to the need of the hour.

There are certain things that I see around which is quite disturbing. Some mothers are so hyper about their children that they have to interfere in every thing that the child does, and I found that one of my neighbour used to even interfere in their play by dictating to other children in the group asking them to change the game rules so as to accommodate her child, or going to the extent of scolding and threatening children when her child was kept out of the game. This showed extreme insecurity on the part of the mother where she needed acceptance and confidence more than the child did. Infact left alone the child interacted better and the other children showed more sensitivity towards him than when the mother was around.

Another kind of parent that I also come across is a very, very lenient parent who is very proud of whatever her child does whether right or wrong. She very proudly announces to who ever is around of all the things that her child did, how good he is in all the different kinds of art, be it dancing, singing, studying etc The centre of her existence is the child. She does not mind going through any kind of hardship for her child’s sake. I knew of this parent who was not so well off buy expensive things for her child, seeing to it that her child travels in an auto and she herself traveling by bus or walk. This shows excessive attachment which finally would hit the mother hard if her child turned away from her.

Parenting is such a juggling act which requires every kind of skill that one has ever learnt in ones lifetime. We have to put on different hats at different times as the situation demands. We need to be their caretakers and look after them, we need to be their first teachers to teach them, we need to be nurses to look after them, we need to be their friend when they need to talk and play, we need to be their philosopher and guide to talk to them about life and its values, we also need to be good actors sometimes when the need arises. So it seems to be a very tough job and requires a lot of maturity and knowledge to handle our little ones. The balancing act can be very tough on certain days while other days it’s smooth sailing. That is one reason that as parents we need a lot of patience and abundant love.

Hat’s off to some parents who really are good at handling children. The children ooze so much of confidence and are so very balanced that you just can’t help but notice and immediately look out for their parents to see who they are and how did they ever bring up their children in such a good way.

I also hope that we have tried our best to bring up our children to be self sufficient, confident, and children whom we will feel proud about not necessarily as some one who does extremely well in life, or a very prominent personality. But I don’t think I would complain if along with this if they have a strong foundation, basic values and strong humanitarianism which if they display through out their life I would consider the whole effort worth all the time that we have spent in making “PARENTING” a success.

Celebrating motherhood

It was an incident that I cannot forget which was during the time when I was doing my Masters in Human Development. We had a paper on Exceptional Children and as part of the syllabus we had to visit different schools which caters to the educational needs and before that the basics of life that is required for them to go through their day to day routine.

So we went to this school for the Hearing and Speech impaired children. We were first told about how the organization was started and how they use different methods to teach these children and what future plans they had to realize the goals that they had set and so on.

Then it was the moment that we all had been waiting, that is to meet the children and to interact with them. We went to different sections and got to see how the teachers were interacting and at the same time we were observing the children.

That was when a little child caught my attention. He had a very mischievous glint in his eyes and had a very cute impish look on his face. He was the first to always respond to anything that was asked, and very active. He rapidly was using sign language and actions to communicate his thoughts. He sure was very intelligent. I found that his name was Rahul.

The teacher had an assistant teacher with her and I saw that she was very much interested and was very keen in giving them various activities and working along with the children in showing them the pictures and then asking the children to discuss about it. Infact more than the teacher I was quite struck with the way the assistant teacher was handling the group of children. She seemed to me to be one of those rare teachers who was meant to be one. All of us interacted and tried to talk to the children and the teacher and of course we all wanted to interact more with Rahul who turned out to be the Star of the day. Finally the sessions were over and we all left with solemn thoughts of how much we need to learn from other people’s life.

As we were walking towards the bus stop we were thrilled to see Rahul and the assistant teacher waiting at the bus stop! We struck a conversation with her and it was then that we got to know that they were Mother and Son!!!!! That was a very revealing moment for me to see how a mother decided to fight against all odds to see that her son should get the best of education for which the only way was to be empowered herself if she were to help her son.

That was sure an eye opener to me and at that moment the bus arrived and both Mother and Son boarded the bus hand in hand all the while talking and laughing.