Parenting.. from a work in progress

Recently somebody asked me, ‘what did you do that your kids are so open with you’? That got me thinking. My quick answer was to be honest with them. As it is children put parents on a pedestal, so it is important for them to know that we are normal people with real emotions like them, we cry, we are angry, we are happy, we are sad. So here goes from a work in progress –

Respect – use every opportunity to show them and tell them about respecting everyone around is the most important (according to me) trait, any human should possess. When my children had issues with their grandparents, I told them, you may not like what they are doing and that is ok, but you cannot disrespect them. When they spoke lightly about a Janitor, it was an opportunity to explain, that people do different jobs to earn a living. A Janitor is doing their job, and no job is big or small, a job is a job done to earn money. It cannot be done overnight, it is keeping our eyes wide open to an opportunity where we can show and tell about respecting others. Also teaching them that respect does not mean you agree to everything another person says. It is respecting their opinion, and respecting your own as well.

Food – Not letting them waste food is another important thing we can teach them. Doesn’t mean punishing them and forcing them to shove everything on their plate into their mouths. Encouraging them to take smaller portions and refill if you need to. If they are trying something, give them one spoon, let them taste it. If they don’t like it, do not force them. They are an individual and you need to respect their likes and dislikes. My younger one barely ate vegetables when he was young. Changing this was a herculean task, but started by giving him one spoon of vegetables every meal, and being consistent with that, helped turn the situation around. Even today I offer one spoon of a new curry to taste. Wasting food is never an option.

Menstruation – As they turn around 11, provide them with sex education at home. Teach them what menstruation is, not on a youtube video, but sit them down and explain to them how a woman’s body works. And then normalize menstruation at home. When I am on my period, my children know. If I am cramping, I am on the couch the entire day. I tell them, I am on my period, and it hurts. They offer to bring me Tylenol, or ask if there is anything I need. When I go to the store and have to buy pads, like everything else, they move the packet from the cart to billing or self check out. Menstruation is something women go through as part of their life, and doesn’t matter if you have a daughter or son or whatever gender they identify with, it is important that it is a normal occurrence. My mother did not explain to me what menstruation was, or what was happening to my body. It was a hush hush conversation, something I wasn’t allowed to talk about with male folk. It was something to hide, which through my knowledge of the world, have learnt that it should not be.

Gender identity – Let me be honest, I was not open to genders other than male and female until a few years ago. When the world started adding letter to LGB…, it was an eye opener. Took me some reading and understanding that it is how an individual feels and it is ok. There is nothing I can do about it. Can anyone change that I feel female? No! One thing that this evolving world is teaching me is to adapt. And there is no other way to it. Adapt to what is happening around you. Every individual has a right to make their choices, irrespective of age. When a two year old refuses to drink milk, you have to accept it.

Mental Health – I understood the importance of mental health and therapy after being in therapy for 6-8 months. The change it was making to my general wellbeing was immense. As parents, it is not only our responsibility to mend wounds on their body, but equally or more important to tend to their soul. The basic question is, is your child happy. Not jumping with joy, but is their general demeanor contentment. Everything may not be perfect and probably it will never be, but they can be happy about where they are in the moment. If that is not happening, talk to them, understand what they are going through. You cannot fix everything, you have to understand that as a parent, although popular belief is parents can fix everything, that is not at all true. Get help, provide them the resources to nurture a healthy mind.

Porn and Sex – This is very important, explaining the difference between porn and being intimate with another human. Porn is a recorded video of people directed by a person. Physical intimacy is something deeper and real sex is not porn. It is essential to tell young adults who are going to have sex for the first time, to not expect porn. It is question everyone should ask their partners, how addicted to porn are they? Talking openly about sex with your children, will open doors for them to come to you when they have a question or are in a problem. Normalize birth control, use of contraceptives, and definitely normalize sex. It is not this sacred, biiiiig thing that is taboo or secretive or whatever my generation was taught. It is a natural thing.

Body – I learnt this the hard way. Because I always felt inadequate about my height, weight and skin color, I thought for the quite some time that my children had to look perfect. What is perfect you ask? Fair, tall, not overweight. Until I realized a few years ago, its ok. I cannot push them to the gym, or for physical activity. They need to want to go too. Color, height, weight, are parameters that can change any time. Maybe not height, after you’ve crossed your growing years, but weight is the most ridiculous number one can track. What is important is that your children are healthy, they are eating right, sleeping right and happy.

My biggest lesson in parenting has been that my children are individuals. Seeing them, respecting them, giving them the space to grow and learn on their own, is the best thing I can do for them as a parent.

So thats my parenting hack, like I tell my children, its is the first time I am a mother to an 18 year old. I have never been a mother to a 19 year old, so when I get there, I will learn. I don’t know a lot of things and that is absolutely ok. A true work-in-progress mom!

Escalator

It is the first time I am experiencing waiting at the airport looking longingly at the escalators, at every face descending, trying to find a familiar face. Arrivals are always happy and this one was extremely extremely special. My son, let me say that again, my son was coming home after three months, first time since I left a piece of my heart miles away that August morning. It is the first time he has been away from home for 3 months. It is the first time he tried figuring out life on his own. It is the first time Kevin and I spent three months without him. It is the first time I was a mother waiting for my kid to come back home to me. There will be many more such occasions and that realization hit me as I stood there in anticipation. For a moment I was scared will I fail to recognize him? I laughed at myself. After what seemed like an eon, I saw that face, the smile. I pulled out my phone to capture the moment, he was telling something to an elderly lady next to him. Later he told me, she said, “she is filming you” and he responded, “yeah I haven’t been home in 3 months”. As he got off the escalator, I fell into his arms and cried. He let me cry. I was crying for all the losses while he was away. I was crying that I survived. I cried that my world was all right again.

As I waited there I remembered a rainy evening in KSRTC bus stand 27 years ago. As the red bus reached the bus depot and was turning to find its parking, I saw a familiar face, looking into each window of the bus, trying to find a familiar face, hoping, praying that her daughter made it safely to her arms. I was 17, I think, it was my debut solo bus trip from my mother’s home town to Bangalore. Earlier that morning, her brother had bought me the ticket, seated me on the bus and called my mother to tell her, that a piece of her heart was on her own in a public bus, making the 9 hour road trip. I remember the joy on my mother’s face when she saw me and asked me as soon as I got down, are you ok? I naive me thought “what could go wrong”.

As a piece of my heart made his debut solo flight, I asked “are you ok?”. He probably thought the same thing, what could go wrong.

Life has a funny way of coming full circle. I know this is the beginning of separation, like what my mother experienced, many moons ago. There will be many many more situations where him and his brother are away and I will wait at the bottom of the escalator searching for familiar faces. The duration of separation probably longer. As I said, it’s the first time I am experiencing this, so for now, let me savor this hug, just a little longer.. until it’s time for my baby bird to flap his wings and fly out again.

Chimes

It was just another day as Neena was at her desk, attending a work meeting. She was listening and mindlessly playing the 2248 game on her phone. She looked out of the window now and then. The white mailbox stood there alone looking at the empty road. A car would pass by once in a while. This was the best work office, by the window, with its wooden blinds rolled up every morning and rolled down at night.

She had missed to look out at the window for a few minutes, when the ring doorbell chimed on her phone. She looked out of the window and there was a white car parked outside her doorway. She opened the ring app and ran downstairs to open the door. As she opened the door, she could hear her heartbeat pounding. There he was, with his handsome smile.

‘Hey.. ‘, he said.

Neena was beaming from ear to ear, she knew she shouldn’t smile and hide her emotions. But she just couldn’t hold back. She had dreamt of this moment for many months now.

‘Can you talk?’

“Yea, come on on”, as he walked in, she closed the door.

🪡 Sew

Come heart
Let’s mourn
For him and the one before
And the one before that and the one before
In this long list of losses
Where do we find the light
Heart you lead the way
And I will follow
But wasn’t it you that got me here
And I still want to follow you
Leave now
Let me mourn my losses
Don’t come back
Not for a while
Go away and mend yourself
When you are all sewed up
I’ll be here washing away the tears
Until then let it rain
No rainbows
Darkness
Silence
Solitude.

This moment

“The way to suffer well and be happy is to stay in touch with what is actually going on; in doing so, you will gain liberating insights into the true nature of suffering and of joy.” No Mind No Lotus – Thich Nhat Hanh

I started reading the book No mind No Lotus at the recommendation of a friend. When I ordered the book I did not notice the words in the center of the front cover. When I opened the amazon package I saw it ‘the art of transforming suffering’. Interesting, was my first thought. I started reading the book and am only a few pages into it. This is a book I want to read slowly, savor the lines, because this is what I need to learn, the art of transforming suffering.

In the few pages I have read, I realize the zen Buddhist teacher wants us to realize how important it is to live in the moment. I am anxious to unfurl the rest of his wisdom in the book. A few weeks ago my mind was clouded, I was stressed, I was depressed. If I was reading something, it flew past me. I could not register a single word. There was a dense fog clouding my mind, with zero visibility. My therapist kept reminding me that I have been here before and the fog has cleared before. I did not, rather could not believe a word she said. It felt like forever. I was living with ghosts from the past in my head. I thought I needed a higher dose of my depression meds. The news of my son’s college admission did little to clear the fog. A few hours of happiness and I was back as an ass with the heavy load.

It is difficult to explain depression, it is not like fracturing a toe that one can see in an x-ray. It is not possible to see the moment, let alone live it. It is like a web of your past, your anxiousness of the future, woven so intricately, that you cannot seem to find the edge. The more you try to get out, the more you are entangled. With a bone fracture, you can get a cast to set it right. With depression, you can get meds, but you alone have to make small changes, take baby steps to come out of it. My baby step as pointed out by my therapist was to make a list of the things clogging my mind. Separate them out as those that I can control and those I cannot. It is an extremely simple thing to do, but put the serenity prayer into action.

Coming out of trauma is not a small ordeal. It takes time, you need to give yourself time. The longer you have been in trauma, the longer the road to rediscovering yourself. It takes effort, sometimes it feels like every ounce of you is at work. It is hard, extremely hard at times, but that small voice inside you somewhere, the superpower hidden beneath the layers, kicks your gut, pushing you, every moment, every day. There are different categorizations of people, but emotionally there are only two. The ones who have been abused and the ones who have not. It is that simple. The world shapes up based on this.

People who have not been abused have a strong sense of self. They know what they want, they know how they will react in a certain situation. Their highs and lows are closer to the normal. They don’t get too excited or too sad instantly because their center of emotional gravity is deep rooted.

The abused are the utterly confused strata of society. They have absolutely no fucking clue, of self worth. You cannot blame them, because their reality has been so masterly altered by the abusers that it’s all a haze. Their level of expectation of happiness is so low that anything small makes them euphoric. If they are lucky they go through years of therapy to find some normalcy. But do they ever become whole again? I wonder.. one’s life is so caught up in looking for red flags that they forget to experience the happiness laid right in front of their eyes. It’s always a question, “Can I trust this?”. It’s atrocious how our souls are battered, by another mere mortal. How someone could think that we are a toy to be pulled and pushed and reshaped the way they choose.

It is very difficult for a person who has not experienced abuse to understand. There is so much to unlearn and rediscover, not something that’s out there in the world, but yourself. A whole lifetime wasted on this unlearning and being able to trust again. I wonder how many years of therapy it will take to be whole again.

I write so much about trauma and abuse and healing and depression, I wonder if people who are reading this are bored. But then I feel the awareness is not there, and it is very sad. In this age and time where information is at our fingertips (overused phrase, I know), millions of people who don’t have the avenue to get out abusive relationships and get access to a good therapist who will help them move forward. Through therapy I have relived the suffering to be able to heal from it. At the other end of this reliving is joy, a release of the pain, my version of it, a person listening to it who has my emotional wellbeing in front and center.

If you are thinking, she is so broken, yes I am. And this is unashamedly, me. Healing is more difficult than the suffering. You are a constant work in progress to calm the waters, settle the waves down to reach that state of serenity where water is one with nature. People will come and throw a stone, because they don’t like anything still. There will be ripples, which will disrupt the stillness, but healing is knowing that the ripples will eventually die and the water will be still again. The stone deep inside cannot be moved, it will lie there and in the end we gather many stones, moving from stillness to ripples and back to stillness again..

🌈

it appeared as a vision
faint at first
when I blinked
there it was
bright and resplendent
it was soft
it was beautiful
I should have known
when the moisture settles
when the sun sets
it would disappear
leaving me in the dark
my eyes are numb
my mind is blank
i run the machines
because they should
but my dear one,
something died
deep inside..