Indians stop being nosy please! #indianparenting


This post is a vent to a very recent (early morning today) incident I had to face with another Indian parent at school. And I stress Indian for a reason. Today was a drop in session at school. During such sessions, parents are invited to visit their child’s class and have a look at their work while the class work is in progress. Usually, you get to see their books, what their current topic is and the writing/math work they do.

Now the usual ethics and attitude that the firang people follow is that they are only concerned with their child’s progress. They won’t ask you nosy/irritating questions about your or any other’s child. Unless of course there is some altercation going on between the kids. Now, my son was the only Indian/Asian kid in his class of 30 until another Indian boy joined in last year. So today this boy’s mother came along for the drop in session too. All parents were at their kid’s desk going through their books. This lady, after looking at her son’s books, came over towards me where I was standing and watching S do his work. Ignoring me, she sits down next to him and asks him whether she can look at his book. I was SO SO appalled!

First of all why the hell does she want to look at my son’s books? Second of all, when am standing right there (an adult AND the kid’s mother) why doesn’t she ask me whether she can look at his book?? And last, why in the world do want to see and THEN of course compare your child’s work with mine?

I am so frustrated and exhausted with this typical Indian mentality of parents comparing their kid with other kids. It is always about competition. What classes your kid goes to? What clubs he has joined. Then they send their kids to the same classes and start comparing grades. I remember in school, while my dad was busy scolding me for the wrong answers in the paper, other parents were busy comparing papers and arguing with the teacher about “giving more marks to this child and that and not giving marks to their kid even if he had written the same answer”. What rubbish!

In a class of 30 kids, what are you going to achieve by comparing notebooks? To think in terms of success. To think in terms of comparison. And I have experienced this mentality only in Indian parents. As soon as this boy joined school, all his mother asked me was if I had enrolled S in a zillion classes, does he know how to read and write in his mother tongue.

This is the first time I have experienced this nonsense and I am glad that the other 28 kids are not Indians. The exasperation I tell you! All these conversations irritate me and intimidate me. I don’t give a shit whether my son is the best in his class or in the school. I am happy he has friends, he can talk confidently and is generally a bubbly easy going boy and I know when and how and more importantly in which areas to push him for this own betterment.

I hope she is feeling better about herself! after comparing her kid with ONE other Indian kid.

How do you make such parents keep their noses in their own  business??

-A frustrated mom

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!

An experience in compassion


Yesterday husband, kiddo and I went out with my parents. It’s their last couple of days here and we just wanted to go around the city. We first went to the farmer’s market near the castle. After visiting the stalls and buying a few things here and there, we settled down to chit-chat with a cup of coffee.

A few minutes later, a young girl came up with her accordion box and started playing. On the inside of her box it was written, “Playing back student loan”. She played for some time smiling and nodding at the tourists and people passing by. No one played much attention to her though some people smiled back.

Girl playing accordion to pay back student loan

Then came a woman with her little daughter. She stopped in front of this girl. For a couple of minutes she explained something to her daughter in soft words often pointing at the girl with the accordion. She then took out a few quid and asked her daughter to put them into the box.

I was so much arrested with this scene. That moment epitomised for me the very essence of compassion and empathy. I am sure after that conversation the little girl will be able to experience and feel for others who are having a hard time. She will be able to imagine what it would be like to be in that person’s shoes.

I know my son is too small to have understood what all this was about and I am sure there are others ways in which I could teach him compassion. This incident was another lesson in compassion and I was thrilled to experience it especially after just having read Zephyr’s post about it.

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.

TGIF


…and my home is spotlessly clean. Ever wondered how the imminent arrival of a guest works wonders for home cleaning? That is what this weekend is about. Kiddo isn’t doing much to drag me away from the laptop and run behind him. The nice quiet content little baby that he is, I think he is the wonder kid which all moms pray for. And lucky me, I got him. Ok, god, please don’t jinx it now that I have declared it out loud. I know he is just too small to create havoc but I have heard and read tales of other kids that send shivers down my spine. Come to think of it, kiddo has never given me any trouble even before he was born. I was one of those blessed few who had little trouble during pregnancy. His routine was also much less troublesome. Anyhow, I must write another post on it, I digress.

So we have a guest coming this weekend, tonight actually and even before hubby could complete this sentence, my mind was already listing the things that need to be done to make this mess of a place look like a warm welcoming home. We rushed to the nearest mall and got all kinds of fancy cleaning liquids and sponges and what not. I get to use a new spray on my kitchen board! Yayyy!

Sigh! That’s the height of excitement in my life folks.

I need a life.

Anyhow, four months into staying in UK and we have kind of adopted the culture. Dinner’s at 8 and light outs at 9:30. Damn! Reading this am sure MIL will miss a heartbeat. What? lights out at 9:30! Are you kidding me? That’s like the time we started warming up in front of the TVs with wine! Ok. end of digression.

Last night after the early dinner, I sponged and cleaned the kitchen to a glorious sparkle needless to say I was quite reluctant to cook today from fear of spoiling it again. But the stomach needs food! All the clothes have been magically fit into closets and the other remaining pieces of laundry are stuffed into our bedroom for drying. And voila! the house is clean.

I want one of those best housewife awards now!

Modesty? What is that?

The other woman


I have been meaning to write this post for quite some time now and this Ganpati festival gives me the perfect opportunity. Yes dear readers, I am one of those who have to deal with the other woman in their lives. Now before you go berserk, let me tell you that by the other woman, I mean my mother-in-law (MIL). There comes a time when a wife realises that she’s not the only woman in her husband’s life, he also has a mother.

What makes me think of her, you ask. Well just about everything. To start with, hubby has been in love with her since he was born and she is the focal point around which our household revolves. So what’s new? Isn’t that the case with every other family? But she is different.

If you look at her, you might notice only a thin person with a frail body who is perhaps subjected to malnutrition and arduous work. That’s true but with a twist. Her physical persona might give you the impression that she is fragile and weak but on the inside she is just as strong. It amazes me to see the amount of work that she can put into a single day. Not only does she cook a variety of dishes a day (in the morning as well as evening) but she also cooks them to perfection. She is a perfectionist. I have developed a taste to many a dishes all due to her delicious cooking. She has told me many a times that she doesn’t like to cook but that doesn’t stop her from going to the kitchen every morning. I guess I mimic most of her cooking methods and processes.

Now before a certain lady in Mira Road starts raising her eyebrows, let me assure you that you are my hallmark for cooking and almost all other things but my MIL comes so close to it that I cannot help but appreciate. Observing the MIL’s cooking is like watching Sachin Tendulkar bat. It appears to be very easy but when you actually try it yourself, it’s very difficult specially the puranpolis and kanavale. You got to see it to believe it. I haven’t seen her complain about cooking, well maybe just this time. 🙂

She has been a stay at home mom, a home-maker from the time hubby was a small child but her problem solving skills are amazing. She isn’t afraid to speak her mind. She is shrewd but wise. She has a solution to your every problem. She has a remarkably adroit memory and can so easily remember where things are kept around the house. She is quick as a wink, fast as a hurricane in the kitchen, serene and calm while performing her daily pooja. She may appear to be flustered and excitable when presented with a problem but underneath she is unperturbed. She believes in god with a passion but doesn’t compel others to follow suit. Her infectious laughter and approachable nature make her a very pleasing personality.

So why am I thinking so much about her today? It’s festive time in India and that too Ganpati. Here, so far away from the family I am missing the festive mood. The house looks like a bachelor’s pad – everything scattered. Back home, I know the house would be clean, the plants watered, the gods adorned with flowers and ornaments – all the MIL’s doing. Her idiosyncrasies about cleanliness and the poise that she exhibits during such times has a celestial charm to it.

That is what I am missing.