The parenting journey!

10 Nov 2009
Posted by Kiran

I have never been good with Kids. If I am to be honest, I have always viewed them as a nuisance that had to be tolerated. To a certain extent, babies and young kids intimidate me. Their behavior and emotions are a puzzle to me - things I just couldn't get my head around. I never could understand why young children insisted on bawling at the top of their lungs in a crowded bus or plane, in the dead of the night, making life hell not only for themselves and their parents, but also for everybody else around.

Kids, for me, have always been people to be kept at one arms length if not more.

Before my daughter Savi, came into my life, the only kid that I willingly allowed close to me, and did not necessarily consider a nuisance, was my nephew. He was, and still is, very close to me. I consider him an integral part of my family. For some strange reason, I willingly put up with him peeing on my lap or demanding that I play with him even when all I wanted to do was crash into bed or watch my favorite TV show.

I was then blessed with a beautiful daughter. I did not become a father the same day she was born though. I might have biologically fathered her, but when she was born I was not really her "Dad". I was just another face hovering around. To begin with, she did not trust me and on my part, I wasn't sure how to handle her. Infact, she preferred to be with her mother or grandparents rather than me. To really become her father, her dad, I had a lot of learning to do.

Two years have gone by since then and it has been a learning process. Savi is the teacher and I, the student. She demands attention and I attend to her; she gets hurt, I tend to her and comfort her; she is curious, I teach her; she misbehaves, I discipline her. In the process, I am learning to be a father.

Now Savi considers me her Dad. I am proud to say that I have managed to earn the second place in her life - the first is still her mom and I don't blame her for that.

The past two years of bringing up Savi have been an absolute roller coaster ride! We have had some very anxious moments and some where we were delirious with joy! My wife is a great mother. Gifted with extreme patience, parenting seems to come naturally to her. She never tires of tending to, cooking for or teaching Savi. Her life is all about our daughter. I just try to back her up as best as I can. Both of us can spend endless hours diiscussing on how best to expose Savi to the world while at the same time protecting her from it.

Parenting can be very stressful. Parenting is a fine balancing act between over-protection and carelessness. My wife and I started off as extremely paranoid parents and it showed in our behavior. All pediatricians that we have visited must know us very well. But in our paranoia, we ended up over-protecting Savi all the time. We unconsciously were discouraging her from exploring her boundaries. We would do things for her rather than letting her do them for herself. The first year of her life was all about shielding her from whatever harm may come her way. The result shocked me. Savi was turning into a scared, diffident and needy little girl, unsure of herself in any new surroundings. She clung on to her Mom everywhere she went.

Another aspect of her personality development was linked to the lack of space and friends. When we first arrived in London, she was a baby and a single bed apartment seemed more than sufficient for the three of us. But as she grew into a toddler, it was very evident to me that she did not have enough space. As for friends she did have quite a few of them, but none of them stayed in the neighborhood. So she didn't have easy access to them unless the parents decided to meet up.

This affected her personality development even more.

Fortunately for us and for Savi, we realized our folly. We moved to newer and bigger apartment. That gave her space and the neighborhood was full of kids her age - friends!! We also started controlling our paranoia and let her explore the world around her. Being the paranoid parents we were, there was at least one of us behind her every step of the way keeping a watchful eye on her activities. But the over-protection was gone. We had started appreciating the need for her to get hurt and to learn from those experiences. Letting her go and do her thing isn't easy, but we know we have to do it. The transformation in her should be seen to be believed. The diffident, scared little girl is now growing up to becoming aggressive, confident and fairly independent.

Sources of anxiety can come at you when you least expect it. Not long ago, my wife decided to take Savi on a visit to Godstone Farm. We believed that the farm would provide her an opportunity to interact closely with animals. We thought it would be a good learning experience and an enjoyable day for a two-year-old like her. We were right; she had a great time and also was able to use that experience to recognize and associate with animals she saw later on the Tele.

It was only 3 weeks later that we learnt that there had been a massive outbreak of the E.coli bacterium at the farm and Savi could potentially have been exposed to the O157 strain of E.coli! We were horrified! To add to our miseries, Savi was running a fever and wasn't her usual bubbly self. When presented with such information, the human mind can be a fantasy engine; both my wife and I ended up worried sick about Savi's health.

Savi is fine and the E.coli nightmare did not affect us. We were fortunate but some other kids who had visited the farm at the same time weren't as lucky. They had to endure a lot more pain and even hospitalization.

It got us thinking that if things are to go wrong, there are a thousand ways that they can. Parents cannot predict and then protect their child from every aspect of life.

Given the myriad situations that we faced with Savi every day, my wife and I are always on the lookout for ways and means to do the right thing as parents. We never lose the opportunity to discuss kids with fellow parents – our own parents and elders, my sister, some of our friends – we learn from all of them. Our parents are always ready with suggestions and ideas to everyday problems. My sister is a ready source of ideas and knowledge – I can turn to her whenever I feel unsure of anything. We are fortunate to have some good friends who also provide very useful insights.

And then, there is the Internet! One of my friends recently tweeted a very interesting article about the necessity of talking to your child. There are thousands of such parenting-related articles out there on the Internet just waiting for you to find them.

But all these sources of information and ideas can lead to another problem. You have information flowing to you from so many quarters that you don’t really know whom to trust and whom not to.

Times change, new know-how develops, so even-though what our elders suggest can easily be considered "tried and tested", there could be newer and better ways to handle situations. Friends’ methods may not necessarily be the right way, or may only suit the personalities of their children and not yours. The Internet is as much a source of quackery as it is of really useful information.

So the real problem for today’s parents is what information to use and what to discard. This is the age where information is no longer hard to come by. This the age of information-overload!

Parenting is an art; something each of us has to learn and develop. Some of us will be do a great job; others will just manage.

But the most essential aspect of parenting is to watch your child develop. If something isn’t turning out right, there is mostly going to be a reason for it – something that you will most probably be able to identify if you watch carefully. That strategy has worked for my wife and me till date. We are ardent observers of Savi and monitor her progress very closely. We discuss her future as well as her past very carefully.

Are we successful parents? It is too early to be even asking that question. Only time will tell. But it is a journey that we are very excited about. We are bound to have our pitfalls and make a whole load of mistakes. But we will learn from them. Hopefully, Savi will forgive us our follies – after all we are beginners!