With so much discussion about parenting going on, I thought I should contribute my tuppence worth to it too. So sharing an old post of the L&M and Brats kind from the archives with some ‘valuable’ tips on parenting.
“Pick your clothes up or…” I screamed at the top of my voice.
The older boy gave a lazy look with one eye (the other was hidden behind his overgrown hair) and gave a lopsided grin. That meant yes, in teen parlance, by the way. If he had frowned, it was a no. I drank a glass of water and flopped on the sofa.
Then my eye fell on the younger one sitting in front of the TV, carefully watching it, as if it was about to explode. I had already told him twice to shut the thing off . Now, I walked slowly behind him and snatched the remote from his unsuspecting hand.
“Oh mom! If you wanted the remote, you could have asked me like a civilized person instead of pouncing on me like that!”
“Oh yeah?” I must have looked like a dangerous maniac, so he backed off hastily, going to his table.
It was a normal weekday in our household and all was well with the world.
But then I went to the bookshop that evening and things were never the same again.
‘Take a look at these ma’am. This title has sold over a million copies.’ The young sales clerk accosted me in the aisle holding up a couple of books. Thrust into my face, I had no choice but to look at them. ‘How to raise confident children, the right way,’ said one; the other one proclaimed, ‘Get to know your teenager.’ (I am unable to remember the exact titles for reasons I have given later in the post, but they were something to this effect).The scene of the morning flitted across my mind. Maybe I could do with a little expert help….
And so the next morning…..
“Beta, will you please make your bed and clear up your desk?” I asked timidly. The concerned older one tossed back his mane and gave me a suspicious look with both eyes — he needed both to look at this new mom of his. I gave him a bright smile. “Do it later. No hurry,” I added as I left the room. When I sneaked a look through the corner of my eyes I saw his mouth hanging open. A large mosquito had just completed a survey of the insides before flying out.
I felt good. No more yelling, (it hurts their self esteem) no more threatening (it intimidates them). Determined to follow the dictum of the books, I valiantly went through the day. That I felt like someone else is another matter altogether.
“What’s with you mom? Are you okay?” asked the younger one, concerned.
“Of course! What could possibly be wrong?” I chirped sunnily.
I kept peering into the book for more insights into teen rearing. I was becoming a nervous wreck wondering if I was spending quality time with them; if I was feeding them too much junk food; if I was giving them ‘support’; if I was showing enough concern; if I was showing too much concern…Suddenly I felt as if I had two left hands with all thumbs, two left legs and no mind at all….
“Are you reading some X-rated stuff or what?” asked the L&M when he saw me furtively glance through the book every now and then.
That was not all. I began joining in on the discussions at work — about bringing up children. “I give them space. Lots of it…” said one. “One should leave the kids alone to make their own decisions,” said another. “Give them respect,” said yet another. The more I heard these remarks, the more unsure I became of myself.
I gave so much space to the boys it spooked them. “Mom, where are you these days? It doesn’t feel like home when you don’t yell, ‘Don’t throw your shoes in the living room!’ the moment I walk in the door,”’ said my first-born giving me a hug.
“There is no fun changing channels when you don’t scream at me to stop,” complained the younger fellow, tossing away the remote dejectedly.
“You forgot to wake me up and I got late today,” accused the first born the following day.
“But I had set the alarm for you! Haven’t you always told me to let you get up on your own?” I stammered, thinking of chapter 3, page 2 of the teen-training book.
“I hate the alarm. I am so used to your voice that it feels strange to wake up to that jangling noise.”
“But didn’t you always complain that I should quit shouting?” I was baffled.
“Okay, so I made a mistake,” he said and went into the bathroom.
I shook my head wonderingly gazing at the closed door. Would I ever learn anything?
Still I persisted with my anxious efforts, consulted more books, and talked to more mothers of teenagers to compare notes. I began realising that I knew nothing whatever of teen-rearing. I had been screwing up their lives all along.
“You mean, you never talk to them about their studies? That must be terrible for them. I am sure they feel neglected enough to be become under-achievers,” said one horrified woman.
“But my boys have always been near the top of the class!” I said. She gave me a pitying look before edging away from me.
“Don’t tell me that you don’t even monitor the number of hours they study every day?” asked another matron. I shook my head miserably.
“I study enough number of hours, okay?” yelled the older one, when I discreetly put the question the next day to him.
“Don’t keep peering into my copy. It makes me nervous,” said the younger one.
The next day I tried something else. “Oh, so you have started learning calculus! Isn’t that tough?”
“Oh, mom! Will you quit being a pain?” the older one asked and the look that accompanied the words told me that it was not the most intelligent of remarks. I sighed. It sure was tough trying to rear teens the right way.
I swear I kept trying my best till one day…
“I knew I would not be able to score marks, the way you were hanging around and acting so weird. Will you please get off my case? You were so distracting that I couldn’t concentrate at all,” complained the older one, upset at having scored less marks than usual.
Ditto with the younger one. I felt miserable. I had finally gone and done the very thing the books and the women at work were warning me about — I had failed my children.
That evening I threw away the books along with the old newspapers. (Now you know why I can’t give you the titles of the books!)
“You kid! Pick up your litter this instant!” I yelled at my first born the moment he threw his bag and shoes in the living room the next afternoon. “And while you are about it, clean your room and make the bed…you will not leave home till you complete…”
“…and you! Touch the remote and I will hang you by your earlobes!” I warned the younger one in a sinister tone.
The reaction was most unexpected. Far from being upset at being threatened in such tones, they were thrilled to bits!
“Hey, mom is back! Did you hear? Our mom is back well and sound!”
They were both dancing around me, happy as two yelping puppies. It felt great to be ‘back’ too!
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