Remember those days when you were elated at every single word (even if was Noooooo 🙂 ) coming out of your lil one and you couldn’t wait for them to grow up and start communicating their needs, wants, their thoughts, not to mention that you wanted to finally be free of the sheer physical work it took to raise a toddler. You were also eager to watch him through various developmental phases, and took pride in his first dance, first song and many more firsts.
Fast forward 10 years….you see the same boy, still little in your eyes, with a frown on his face and shouting, “Amma, you keep quiet,” or “I am not doing what you asked me to” or the best (DRUMROLL please), whaaat amma? complete with an eye roll 🙂 You can’t help but wonder….”Is the scowl going to be his permanent feature”? “What am I doing wrong?” and most importantly “How long is this going to last?” You are still looking for the small boy who used to come to you for every single thing, who used to share his day with you, cuddle up with you, give you countless hugs and kisses. You are surprised and shocked, when all of a sudden his attitude ranges from being annoyed, to being restless, sometimes downright disrespectful and loving, caring and smiling the next. You know pretty well you can’t chalk it up to PMS :p and you think it is due to hunger, being overtired and a 100 different reasons until you finally realize that you child is going through yet another development phase – the pre-teen or the tween phase (between 9-12).
One moment, they are arguing with you for everything, right from what to eat, what to wear, what to do esp. wrt. chores and open up about how their day was and ……the list is endless and the next minute they become so considerate and nice, hug you, talk to you, you begin to see glimpses of their lil’ old self and WHAM!BAM, they morph into another different person entirely in the next minute! All this in a matter of 10 minutes.
Then it hits you – Your child is going through a lot of emotional, physical changes, not to mention en-route to becoming an independent and self-assured adult, albeit a young one 🙂
Not to mention, you have to deal with not one tween but another 8 yr old who is taking his cues from his older brother and is already thinking of himself as a BIG boy. When Vidyuth hits his teens, Vishruth will be in his tweens (and I bet you can guess that I am so NOT looking forward to it 🙂 ). I am finding myself constantly thinking of ways to relate to them, to make them open up to me and most importantly “just be there.”
One of my close friends, Girija always says that as your kids grow older, parenting morphs from ‘physical‘ to ‘emotional’ and it is extremely taxing and tiring, not to mention trying 🙂 and all you can do is go through with the motions while being there.
I am not an expert or anything, in fact I am far from it but dealing with this on a daily basis, has taught (and am still learning)me a couple of things:
- There is no “How-To” manual: During my new-mommy stage, I used to wish that my babies came with a manual so that I could differentiate between a “i-am-gassy-cry,” “change-my-diaper-cry,” “i-am-hungry-cry,” “just-hold-me-cry” or the “i-am-expanding-my-lungs-cry.” How did I then find out what they wanted? Through a lot of trial and error and sometimes by trusting my intuition. I have realized that it is the same with tweens, I just have to deal with one situation at a time, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, sometimes, they react in different ways for the same situation (I remember the days when they declared that they LOVE carrots to absolutely hating them the next day). Trust your intuition and most of the time, it is correct.
- It is okay to have boundaries: In my house, I have some boundaries about not spending too much time in front of the TV or playing on the iPad or Wii. Boundaries also apply to food (I will try my best to accomodate your preferences, but if I am unable to, please respect the effort that has gone into putting that food on the table and eat with w/o complaining), to chores (you don’t have to like it but we all have to contribute our share into running the family, even if it is putting clothes away) and to behavior (you can talk back, express your opinion but make sure that you are not condescending or plain mean). Basically, its about figuring out what are the hard rules – being considerate and honest, distinguish between right and wrong, no bullying and the soft rules – about putting away shoes (and socks), relaxing bedtimes, tv times etc.
- Respect is a two-way thing: Time and again, I have told my boys that I am a person too and I am like the backstage staff – people who work tirelessly to make a play successful but they are not in the foreground. Sometimes I have to explain to them that I do a lot of work in the background to plan meals, that are healthy yet junky meals :), work with them to complete their schoolwork, find bursts of time so that they are able to participate in what they want to, run a household, and also take care of my professional (somewhat successful) and personal (not successful at all) interests. I have told them that it hurts a lot when they scream at me or say mean things. On the same note, I have also apologized when I know that I have treated them in an unfair way or when there is an intense argument.
- Take a time-out: Sometimes, it is better to take a step back and just keep quiet. Its better than all the hysterics and the shouting matches 🙂 More often than not, this time-out or calm time for the both of us gives us a chance to soothe our high-running emotions and approach the situation with a logical state of mind… after-all isn’t 20-20 hindsight always better 🙂
- It’s okay to be the Parent: There are times when I find that I have to be the parent and not the friend. And guess what, its perfectly alright. Kids look for a role-model to emulate and to take guidance from. How I react/act in a particular situation will go a long way in helping them. I just have to remember that I am just steering them gently in the right direction and not thrusting my views on them.
- Always Be there: We all have heard about peer pressure and we were confident that our child will not be influenced by it. But the truth is far from it. Peer pressure becomes greater than ever and as a parents, all I have to do is to keep “Being there and letting them know that I am always there for them and will always love them no matter what they do.” There are times when I am not happy with a friend’s behavior or how it is influencing the group but if I try to push against something (maybe, not mingling with that person), it will actually backfire. So I do try to review and revise my approaches, talking techniques and try to understand (even when I don’t) and try to not be impulsive. Of course there are times when I fail and miserably at that but like everything, this is also a work-in-progress.
- Schedule “me and you” time: One of the things Vidyuth and I have enjoyed is spending some time by ourselves (I have started doing that with Vishruth recently), it can be a grocery run, a mom-and-son date nite or just a walk around the block. Sometimes it will just be a quiet walk but sometimes it will be walk where a lot of information is thrown at you. They set the pace and the tone. All I do is ask Qs that will move the conversation along. Just find that connect and keep it 🙂
- Remember that your dreams are not theirs: I love to listen to Vidyuth when he plays the keyboard or to Vishruth when he sings or when both of them do something. All I want them to do is enjoy what they are doing and not feel that it is a chore. So while my dream might have been to be a stage artist or a pilot, i remind myself constantly that it is my dream and not theirs necessarily. Just let them be!
- Involve them: When I go shopping, I ask Vidyuth and Vishruth for their opinions on the dress I should buy or if the accessories that I have worn match the dress and guess what, they are spot-on with their observations. It might be small for you but for them it is a HUGE thing to feel heard and to know that their opinions are valued.
- Finally, it is okay to put yourself before them (even if it is once in a while): Yeah, yeah, I have heard all about how being a parent means putting your kids before you but let me tell you it gets very tiring after a while ‘cos you feel grouchy and down when you are not taking care of yourself. I always finished my dinner before I fed the kids when they were small as I felt I was better equipped, not to mention saner to deal with their fussiness and spit-ups with a full stomach 🙂 Sometimes, I allow them to watch TV more than what they are supposed to just to get 10 mins of shut eye or finish cooking or having that desperately needed cuppa joe w/o any disturbances, using the loo (i have lost count of the times I have been interrupted and its like my kids have an in-built sensor when their mom is in the washroom) or even just sit and stare into blank space.
All said and done, all these new experiences that seem to put you constantly on trial seems trivial when your child, no matter how old, smiles at you and comes to you cos they need you and know that you are making an effort to connect and understand them. And that’s all that matters and you know that you must have done something right!
Here’s to yet another developmental stage and Happy Parenting!
It’s not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself. ~Joyce Maynard
Here is this baby and he refuses to eat his solid food. (“Solid” in this case is a euphemism for “squishy.”) Are you a failure as a parent? Is he a failure as a baby? Is the pediatrician a failure as a pediatrician? Would the baby rather have a hot pastrami sandwich? This brings us to the primary rule of baby raising, which is the solution to this and all subsequent problems. This rule must be followed faithfully, and practiced regularly, and you should make it a habit to repeat it to yourself ten times a day. It is the _Golden Rule_ of raising babies. LIE. Lie to your mother, lie to your sisters and aunts, and above all, lie to all the other mothers you meet on the street. When a newer mother than you asks for your help. tell her you never had the least trouble. Your baby just loved his mashed bananas on the first try.
Elinor Goulding Smith, The Complete Book of Absolutely Perfect Baby and Child Care (1957)