Do parents “babysit” their own kids?


I stared at my mobile phone screen.

What did he just write? Did I read it wrong?

Baby sitting kid @home. Said a relative on Whatsapp.

The father of the child. His own kid. It would have been normal if he was talking about someone else’s kid. I wanted to shout, “You are not babysitting. You are looking after your own son.”

It always bugs me when people call a father looking after his kids babysitting. A father looking after his kids is called being a DAD. Parents are supposed to take care of their kids at all times. And that means dads too, not just mums.

A dear friend of mine told me a couple of months back that she had somehow “convinced” her husband to babysit their kids so that she can get some me-time. We had quite a long discussion after, which resulted into her saying that her husband thinks it’s not his job to look after the kids. Sigh!

I don’t get such parents. It angers me no end. Babysitting is when you hire someone to look after your kids. When parents or fathers look after their kids it’s parenting!!! How does the term “babysit” even come into the equation?

The underlying sentiment bugs me. It makes me angry. When these fathers – these parents say they are babysitting their own child, in essence they mean to convey that looking after their own offspring is not their responsibility. It is a chore for them, a job.

Parenting is such a blessing when done as a team. Most fathers don’t get the opportunity to be a hands on parent but when they do get their share of it, it should be a sought after appreciation, not a chore.

No doubt there is a special bond between a child and mother. But there is a very strong bond between a father and his child too. It may not be that obvious or that strong but it is very real. It exists. It needs to be nurtured and developed with love and care. And the onus lies only with the parents.

Parental anxiety – should you force your child to do things?


Imagine this: I am working in the kitchen and kiddo is playing with his puzzles. I get a call on Skype from my parents and I see that they are eager and excited to talk to my son. But kiddo doesn’t rush to the laptop. Perhaps he is engrossed in his game. Or maybe he needs some time to warm up to them but for whatever reason, he won’t budge nor raise his head so that they can take a look at him. He is just not feeling it. Repeat this scenario with his other set or grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, great grandma, in short, everyone.

And I can’t help but feel it. Can he not just wave at them? or at least say a quick hello? Feeling the pressure and not wanting the situation to get any more awkward, I tell him to come and say hello, show them some random toy, tell them what you did today, just anything. But as soon as I say those words, I feel guilty for making him perform an act just to satisfy other’s desires. He has told me quite a few times that he does not want to talk and has refused to come into the room. At other times, he is over excited and eager to talk to them and cannot contain himself. But in situations like these you can’t help but feel a bit awkward, guilty for your kid’s sake and even a bit pressurised, can you? I know kids can’t be expected to make small talk and I have absolutely no idea how to change this situation without the risk of manipulating him into talking.

Another incident: A couple of weeks back, we had been to Gambado, which is a soft play centre. There we met a colleague of Saint’s and his family. His son is about the same age as kiddo. His parents kept nudging and telling the little boy to play with kiddo. Now I had never had to deal with the situation where I have to tell kiddo to share and play with others. He does it on his own. Being an only child, I find it amazing that he has the will to share his toys with others. But I know that yelling, scolding or even repeatedly telling your child to share something with another or play with someone is not going to make them do it. It has to come from instinct, compassion and generosity. In the playgroup I have seen kiddo waiting out patiently for his turn to play with a toy and after sometime when the playworker tells him nicely that another boy also wants to play with the said toy, kiddo has promptly let go of it. Kids do listen, nice and easy.

And then there are other similar issues of my misguided anxiety – whether he is eating enough, if he is cold and should I make him put just one more jacket. After all, mothers know best? You do however know that things are going to get bad if they just are. He will catch the cold if it’s meant to be and that is not because of the jacket, wet hair or being barefoot.

I know I have to let him be. All I can do is facilitate his activities or offer him a choice and not push him into doing something he is not ready to do but hell, it is hard especially when all I need him to do is just talk and respond.

I am not being paranoid today, just a bundle of nerves with all these questions. Any ideas? advice? suggestions? All welcome!

Mummy kehti hai bada naam karega…


My son just finished his second colouring book. He has shown patience to complete a whole a page before jumping on to the next, ability to keep the colours within the lines and has torn only 2 of the 15 pages – a vast improvement from the previous one which is lying in shreds somewhere in the dark recesses of and beneath the sofa.

When you are young life is so beautiful around you. Everyone appreciates you, motivates you and makes you think that you can achieve almost anything if you put your mind to it. You feel anything and everything is possible for you. You just need to walk out of the door of your house and there’s a whole world of possibilities out there for you to grab.

Such are the thoughts that I get when I look at my son.

Possibilities. Adventures. Opportunities. Bright future.

Life is very beautiful for him right now he can turn it any which way he prefers.

In this last year he has learned so many new things and diverse activities that given the opportunity and infinite resources at his disposal, any activity of his can be considered as a serious career opportunity. This is another manifestation of our unachievable ambitions and dreams. Here are a few that are at the top of our minds:

Artist/Painter: The colouring book number 2. Just yesterday he coloured for an hour. Continuously. He was even humming to himself during that time. I agree he gets confused between light blue and dark blue and most often the clouds are red instead of grey but then he can always paint a modern art. Here are his masterpieces:

While we are talking about modern art, check out few of his samples. I mean do you really think he should give up on such talent?

Greeting card for Mother's Day
Painting at playgroup
Clouds and sky - another painting at playgroup

He loves to draw on his erasable slate. From son, moon – sorry moon crescent to smileys, fridge, mobile, Tom and Jerry. He can even draw himself and my ma ki nazar can make out an uncanny resemblance. Once he even drew a fat dad and a thin mum who oddly resembled a long thin broomstick. My son is very talented I tell you.

The Smiley
Headphones
   
Self Portrait

Travel and living: Not travelling in Mumbai and living in suburbs. That’s horrible. This is more like what they show on the Discovery channel. This one is also a secret ambition of my husband, an alternate career if you like. Since coming to Scotland, we have been on many trips – Amsterdam, London, highlands for short trips and many day outings and the son has enjoyed it. As long as he is outside the house he is happy. On weekends, when the kiddo wakes up and realises that Daddy is at home, he asks, ‘Where are we going today?’ He has his daddy’s genes. The husband can never stay at home for an entire day. He has to go out even if it is for grocery shopping or just to take a walk. The son is the same. The husband is enchanted with the Discovery channel and can watch it for hours specially the programmes in which  the host travels to exotic locations. You get the idea.

Modelling: This ambition is nurtured by the kiddo’s grandpa, my Father-in-law. Bachpan se, the kiddo’s looks have been compared to that of Ranbir Kapoor. I don’t know what the connection is. He doesn’t look like Ranbir and I for one had a crush on Rishi. Anyway, I have been told that my FIL had this ambition for one of his nephews as well who he thought looked like some good-looking actor at the time. The FIL’s further secret ambition is to be his Manager. No comments. Here’s our model for you:

The model in a stylish camera friendly pose

Chef: Cause, let’s face it cook is just mediocre. This again I believe has been the secret ambition of my hubby’s and since the kiddo shows some excitement about what’s cooking, we now have daydreams about his becoming a Chef. Not SRK in Duplicate, more like Jamie Oliver. Oh how my daughter-in-law would bless me!

Singer: ‘The wheels on the bus’ has close to 50 odd versions if not more. Did any of you know that? It’s been more than a year now and this is still the kiddo’s favourite song. It is played on Youtube throughout the day and when it’s not playing on Youtube, the kiddo is singing it. At the top of his voice. The best part? I have to do the actions for round and round, beep beep beep etc etc every time he sings it! He definitely has the sur and taal.

Dancer: He also has the laya. Apart from jumping around in circles and some other dance steps, he has perfected Dev Anand‘s walk! Dev Anand style walking he says. Now Dev Anand has been my first crush ever since I saw Paying Guest. Husband doesn’t like him, never did and makes fun of me every time I sit down and drool over his songs. The son doesn’t know who Dev Anand is – but he vaguely considers Ganesha to be Dev Anand – it’s the Dev in it, I think. The husband doesn’t want Dev Anand to be his dancing inspiration and idol and I am just happy that he picks up the beat for ‘beep beep beep from Wheels on the bus’ and can clap 3 times on it. Perhaps I should show the kiddo the song ‘Khoya khoya chaand‘. I haven’t yet told my husband that I sometimes secretly dream of enrolling the son for Kathak classes. 🙂

Acting: He sure can act and on cue. He knows when to throw tantrums, when to make that baby face that makes us go awwww.. and has perfected the tear faced look – when his eyes are filled with tears but not a single drop drops and his face looks dejected and saddened. What else do you need – dancing and singing along with acting! He is a boy wonder.

Writer/Composer: This child prodigy of mine has composed a song of three lines. I mean that’s something. And no, he poem is not like Rosesh’s. He has even composed a tune for it. I have already started nudging him to write a story because let’s accept it, most people like to read novels instead of poetry. At bed time though he does compose some short stories to tell us so I have hope.

Footballer: This is another one in his long list of passions. He loves to play football. In the house. He cannot bend it like Beckham as yet but he makes it up in speed and accuracy. He knows just how to kick the ball in the air and aim it at the ceiling lights without breaking a single bulb. That’s timing and accuracy. He can even aim it at the TV without breaking the glass. Seriously football it is for him!

Cricketer: He already has the timing, you know placing the ball and all. He doesn’t play cricket with the huge football. He likes the small tennis ball. My only disappointment is that he is a left handed batsmen, I would have liked him to be a right-handed batsman but then I guess that’s too much of expectation!

Seriously, why would you want to be an engineer, doctor, teacher or an IT professional when you have such brilliant talents and glamorous career options. Besides, those are just jobs and these are careers, mind you. That’s why I have excluded them.

So, you have any unfulfilled wishes that you want to intimidate your child with? 🙂

Of parents and parenting


It started with the son going to playgroup – my regular interaction with toddlers and their parents who came to the same playgroup. In my 2 year stay here, I have come across people who have only appreciated the kiddo and have always had a kind word to say about him, ‘oh, how lovely, oh how sweet’ ‘oh he’s such a big boy’ ‘oh how well does he sing’ and so on. I was always stunned and somewhat humbled by their genuineness. It never seemed that they were deliberately appreciating my boy. Why would they? What’s in it for them? And they were all foreigners, I mean UK citizens. In the playgroup however, I came across some Indian kids and their mums. It was almost 2 weeks before my son happily settled in the playgroup and until that then I had to be with him during the entire time.

During those days, I always got support and encouragement from these other mothers telling me not to worry about it and that their kids were the same and it is very common for them to cry when they stay away from their mothers for the first time. There was never any criticism or cross word. Then, when my son had settled in, many new kids came along and I found myself telling these new ladies that it would be alright and not to worry. It was then that I came across this Indian lady whose husband incidentally worked at the same office as my husband’s. Her son took about a week to settle in and she used to stay there the entire time as I used to.

Initially we talked a lot about the general stuff, how long have you been here, life in Edinburgh, weather and our kid’s. Then one day when I went to collect my son, she makes this statement in a condescending manner, ‘Your son doesn’t have any snacks during their break.’ My first reaction was, ‘What does it have to do with you?’ but instead I replied, ‘It’s all right, he has a heavy breakfast.’ A couple of days later, she tells me, ‘Your son is still playing with the bike (even though it is time to tidy up and sit down for story time)’. Again I replied, ‘It’s all right!’ Then one day I was late for dropping off my son at the playgroup and this lady meets me halfway and smiles snidely and says, ‘You are late today!’ I mean WTF?

I mean who the hell is she to patronize me in this manner? Why can’t she mind her own business? She is not the playgroup leader or an administrator to criticise or discuss my son’s habits or behaviour. I was so angry that I was about to blast her then and there to mind her own business. Instead, I had a long talk with my husband to blow off the steam. The calm being superior to me in terms of patience and wisdom told me calmly that most probably I won’t be seeing this lady in a couple of months’ time when the son starts going to nursery school and I would probably never see her again. What does it matter what a stranger says? I agreed and calmed down but it was still lingering in the back of my mind and every time I saw her. I wondered whether I should make some nasty comments about her son just to give her a taste of her own medicine but her son is sweet and am not the kind of person who does such low things.

It got me thinking however, why do parents criticize other children or other parents to prove their own superiority? Do they think so lowly of their own children? Were they themselves treated in such manner when they were kids? Is this the only way in which they can prove their child’s calibre? Why do they always have to compare their own kids with others? Do they realise how this affects their child’s self-esteem?  What is their benchmark for such comparison? I have often seen extremes of these comparisons, some parents feel their munchkins are so adorable that they find all other kids beneath their own kids and wouldn’t mind stating so in public. The other extreme is to complain about your own kids to anyone and everyone who would listen. But I digress.

There is a concept in psychology – performance goals and mastery. Performance goals seek to demonstrate ability to others. Mastery goals on the other hand, seek to improve and learn. Mastery learning (ML) means students should master each learning unit before proceeding to a more advanced learning task. In ML, teachers evaluate students with criterion-reference tests rather than norm-reference tests.

Rather than getting into the technicalities of it, this site provides a fantastic example of mastery and performance goals.

‘Paris Hilton and Meryl Streep – they’re both famous actors, but they seem to have extremely different approaches to acting.  While Paris Hilton’s goals seem to be concerned with obtaining attention and fame, Meryl Streep’s goals seem to be about mastering her craft.’

Hilton Students vs. Streep Students

Many students approach education like Paris Hilton approaches acting: caring more about how others react to their actions and demonstrating their abilities to others than they care about learning. More people need to approach education like Meryl Streep approaches acting: caring more about learning and mastering than whether they look awkward or how they compare to those around them.

What made me go into all this learning psychology?  I know it is a farfetched comparison but I think this learning attitude is very similar to our attitude in life. We are content when we think we are doing comparatively better than our peers/neighbours/friends. People are more focused on winning, looking good and doing better than others. There is nothing wrong in wanting to do better and achieve in the world. But when this is achieved by disapproving and censuring others it is not victory in the just sense. Instead of finding faults in others it is important to focus on your own goals and achievements.