The city of dreams, Mumbai, is the most densely populated city in the country. The pressure on resources is immense – with never enough for everybody. Once upon a time, there used to be four beautiful rivers around the city – namely, Dahisar, Poisar, Oshiwara and Mithi. Today, they are testament to the high levels of pollution caused by urbanization. Resembling drains, these rivers are clogged with waste from the city. On the banks of the Dahisar river inside the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, are Adivasi communities fighting to hold on to their lives which are heavily dependent on natural resources in and around the forests – the river being one of the most important resources. Mumbai based photographer Aslam Saiyad speaks to us about his work – Mumbai River Photo Project, that tells the stories of these rivers, through the lives of the Adivasi communities and their children.
1. Can you tell us a little about how you started this project, and your motivation behind it?
I began to spend time on weekends in the national park, getting to know the communities, and thought of doing a photo project based on the rivers. The focus of my project was not just the river but the communities around it. Many of the communities here are phasing out. I remember going for an event where one of the banners at the venue read: ‘If our language dies out, with that we will also die out.’ So I wanted to tell stories of the river through the communities that live around it. I worked for about eight months clicking pictures around the Dahisar river and exhibited them in March 2017 under the name “Discovering the Forgotten Rivers Of Bombay” along the river banks, and streets of Dahisar Gaothan.
2. Your work on documenting the lives of diverse communities – namely Warli, Agri and Koli communities living within the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) brings forward the rights and entitlement issues surrounding the lives of Adivasi communities and their children. Please illustrate how being from a tribal community affects their childhoods.
While documenting the work of an organization called River March (whose goal is to rejuvenate Mumbai’s rivers), I came across Adivasi communities who lived inside SGNP. I noticed some children standing in school uniforms a few kilometers into the park. They were getting ready to walk to their school, seven kilometers away! This surprised me because children living in one of the world’s richest municipalities didn’t have access to a vehicle that could take them to school.
Additionally, the adults of the Padas (Hamlets) work in nearby housing societies as domestic help or housekeeping staff, leaving children to stay home alone. This puts the responsibility on the older siblings to take care of their younger siblings until their parents return home. Often, the most loyal stray dogs also hang around the padas, keeping an eye on the children.
The SGNP is actually the result of a long-drawn process of land acquisition, which began in 1950. These acquisitions often took place in a random and chaotic manner, sometimes without even any official registration.
The rapid expansion of the SGNP in 1967 effectively forced Adivasi residents to be included within its new boundaries, putting them in a position of passive encroachers. The tribal communities lived there, but with very few rights. They are not permitted to hunt, fish, raise animals, farm, or cut wood; depending on the local land status, they are also not permitted to build permanent constructions. They are not entitled to power and water connections, or any other utilities.
Considered as trespassers on their own land, the tribal communities have started finding alternative survival strategies. They are forced to find sources of income from outside the forest. Children are the worst sufferers in conditions like these, which have a direct impact on them. They have to finish all their school work before sunset. Electricity is restricted to them due to the “fortress conservation” attitude of the government. These children meet their urban counterparts every day in schools, and get the first taste of discrimination there.
3. Adivasi children living within the park live a dichotomous existence. While they dress up in school uniforms and attend regular schools outside the park, they have no transportation services to reach schools. What are some other dilemmas they face as a result of being part of both these worlds? How does their association with the word ‘adivasi’ affect their daily life?
The school going children have become modern. Many of them now have smart phones. The children usually don’t like to go to the forest to collect firewood and other forest product. They feel it that it is sign of backwardness. The older children irrespective of their gender go to collect water. They don’t celebrate their festivals with Warli traditions. There has been a trend of urbanization of festivals. They now celebrate Dahi handi and Ganesh festivals. Many families in padas put up small fruits stalls as there are thousands of tourists visiting SGNP all year round. It is mostly the children who run these stalls. Adivasi boys mostly stop education after school due various reasons . They start working at an early age. Boys get married when they are around twenty, and girls when they are around eighteen.
4. The health of a forest is closely linked with the survival of the communities residing within it. How has urbanization and pollution impacted the lives of Adivasi communities and their children?
Inside the park, the river is drastically different from how it is outside SGNP. It is beautiful, and the water is clear. Children bathe and the play inside the rivers, and tribal communities have built their lives along the banks. Outside, it resembles a sewer into which encroaching human settlements, dhobi ghats and tabelas dump their waste. Dahisar river flows out and meets the Manori creek which carries out all the plastic, debris, cow dung and urban waste. This directly effects the marine life of the coastal Mumbai. Agricultural communities traditionally were dependent on fishing in creeks, but now there are no fish available in the creek. Many of them have deserted their traditional occupations for the same reason.
This encroachment, urbanization and resulting pollution has had a direct impact on the quality of lives the children from the communities lead. The issues I pointed out have a direct impact on the quality of food they eat, water they drink, the sanitation facilities and the air they breathe.
5. Having been born and brought up in Mumbai, how do you think the lives of children outside the park differ from the lives of children within the park?
The world outside is completely different. Children in the city get water from taps, that’s the only source they see. There is complete disconnect from natural water bodies like wells and rivers. On the contrary, the children from the padas help families collect water from the river, well and tube wells irrespective of their gender. They are very close to nature and they understand the importance of their natural habitat. They know their lessons on river pollution well. In the city all the waste is thrown into rivers which they finally called as nullah.
In urban slums the ladies collect water and not the men. In the Adivasi communities, I see very less gender discrimination. It is not unusual to see teenage boys fetching water along with the girls.
Children in cities, live in houses measured according to square feet. Everything is restricted – a ten-year-old boy has to be escorted if he wants to buy a chocolate. In the padas the space is not bound by measurements of square feet. They learn to swim in rivers, they eat wild fruits, and are very confident about facing challenges. With proper education and support, they will excel in their lives.
6. When you think about the time you spent with the Adivasi community at SGNP, does the memory of any child stand out? Can you tell us about him/her?
Dinesh Himai is one of the few Adivasi children who have done their graduation. He is quite happy that he lives in the forest. He loves nature and wants to protect it. He also educates his friends on why forests should be conserved and why it is important for their survival. Dinesh Himai has learnt Warli painting and is one of the very children in SGNP who know this art. He now trains other children as well. He has also travelled to many places in India as a Warli painter to showcase his work.
Dinesh always talks to me of this one memory he will never forget – One day, a film crew came into the jungle, and ruined his favourite study place. The foliage of the tree was chopped off as per the requirement of the film. It was under that tree that he studied for the three years of his graduation.
I am guilty. Of hitting my child and getting angry at him. Guilty of breaking the law, breaking the promise I made to myself and guilty of letting him feel that violence is ok. Because it is not. It never is. I am not writing this to absolve myself of my guilt but just to get the message across to as many people as I can that it may have happened with you, and you may have 100 reasons to justify it but it is never Ok.
A statement people usually make is “If I had to do it again I would not change a thing”. That is something I cannot say about myself. Given a chance I would like to delete forever the times I lost control and hit my child. And yet “losing control” are words that seem to take away the responsibility from the perpetrator. We don’t hit when we lose control. We hit when we want to exert our control. It is power play plain and simple. I always thought I would be different. When I hear of parents using belts, slippers, and worse I feel outrage and relief that at least I am not one of those people. But that is not good enough. Still makes me a hypocrite.
Why is it that we seek so much control? Our frustration, our disappointment and our inability to stand up for what we need and deserve in our own lives make us displace all our shortcomings on the one person in our life who has literally no one to turn to and nowhere else to go. The child.
Trust me I know how it feels when an entitled brat throws a tantrum, or a snooty teen pulls a long face at a meal you have slaved over. After a particularly trying day with your boss, the last thing you want is a bored “whatever” from the apple of your eye. Children will do all of this to push our limits. They will do worse. They will lie to us and hide from us and mock us by doing the very same things they have been warned against. They will be rude and temperamental and as parents, we have all had moments when we wished we could give our children away. It’s not because they are little monsters. It’s because that’s how they grow and that’s how they learn and let’s be frank it’s what we all did.
Discipline is needed. Obedience too. However, fear as a disciplining technique has a very short shelf life and a very long afterlife of resentment. Never think you are hitting your child for their own good. You are only perpetuating a cycle of violence. Violence that we inherited that we are now passing on. It must end. It has to.
I have not been a good role model to my son. What I have been is honest. I am a work in progress. And at 39 years there is still too much work left and very little progress as far as being the ideal person is concerned. The only thing I have been able to do it is sincerely apologise and be on my best behaviour, hoping just hoping that time will heal it all.
Illustration: Rebecca Hendin via Buzzfeed
“Feminism” What a misunderstood word it is. Over the years, people including women have asked me “You are not one of those feminist-types na?” I am. I am one of those. I am going to bring my feminist germs into your clean patriarchal thinking where everything has it’s defined place and a woman’s opinions have no place. Nowadays there is an even more abusive name for women like me. We are called “FemiNazis”. Yes that’s who we are. We want to exterminate the male gender just like Hitler tried to exterminate the Jews. Imagine what will happen if women like me reproduce? What if I give birth to a brood of independent thinking little brats who dare to have their own opinion? Well I just have one independent thinker and it’s a continuous struggle to raise him as a feminist. Feminism is not exactly a protein powder that I can stir into his daily glass of milk.
I recently read an article on ‘How Feminist mothers can Raise Feminist Sons’. The first suggestion was to start early. We have to inoculate our children at a young age against gender stereotypes. This is where it gets tricky. Children look at each other as peers and equals. What girls ought to do and what boys ought to do is something we adults teach them. In our attempt to raise ‘good sons’ we unconsciously reinforce patriarchy by teaching them to “help her, she is a girl”, “don’t fight with her she is a girl”, “be a gentleman” and so on which widens an already existing divide and subtly influences them to think less of women. My son is actually the only boy in his class and when relating an argument, he had with a girl he asked “Will you take her side because she is a girl?”. Good question. Gender bias can work both ways. Which is why if I have to raise my son as a feminist, I have to free feminism from the trappings of gender. Feminism is about power balance. “Respect women” and “Don’t hit girls” should be replaced with “Respect people” and “Don’t hit anybody”. For why do we behave disrespectfully or hit anyone? Only because we perceive ourselves as more powerful.
Gloria Steinem the famous American activist and feminist said “While we have the courage to raise our daughters like our sons we have rarely had the courage to raise our sons like our daughters.” Maybe we should just raise our children as children. Children who understand that being different is okay but being treated differently is not. Choices of colours, clothes and careers; choices of thoughts, words and deeds should all be set free. Language should be set free. Free…until the words ‘like a boy’ or ‘like a girl’ cannot be interpreted negatively.
The synonym to feminism is equality. Equity is needed for equality. Systemic injustices have been done over the years as one gender has had the advantage and those injustices must be set right by positive action and better opportunities for girls but not because they are girls but because they are our children. Let’s celebrate our differences because different can still be equal.
In the slums of Dahisar, a melting pot of cultures and people, religion and languages, aspirations and hopes live Aditya & Nandini Pandey. For 11 years now, Adityaji has been working as a construction worker on projects across Mumbai, while his wife Nandiniji, a homemaker, loves ardently her role in raising their children. Hailing from Uttar Pradesh, they try to hold on to values learnt miles away from their life back at home, while adapting to the urban rhythm to raise their boys in the maximum city.
The second largest slum settlement in the financial capital of India wreaks of poverty, addictions, poor sanitation and healthcare, little access to basic services and safe spaces. Despite these realities, these set of parents don’t flinch even once in standing their ground, refusing to compromise on how they will raise their children. While they understand the positives and negatives of living in this community, they remain committed to giving their children the freedom to be and grow wings of their own.
What emerges in this conversation is their firm conviction in raising boys who have a good value system, knowing well that no matter how difficult circumstances might be, a stable foundation will help them come out stronger.
How many children do you have?
“Humare do bache hain. Adarsh aur Anurag,” they say with a sense of pride, almost liking the sound of each name said out loudly. Adarsh is our older son…he is 13 years old. Anurag is 11 now. They both study at St.Francis School. The best in the locality,” adds Adityaji.
What is the most important thing for you as a parent, for your child?
“Aaj ke zamane main agar education ko 100 mein se 90 diya jaye toh who bhi kam lagta hain. We were sure we wanted to send them to an English medium school and we did that. But when we came here we wanted admission for our older son in the 2nd grade and for the younger one in the 1st grade. But they didn’t give us admission as we wanted, instead, they put both our boys in the 1st grade. Abhi dono saath mein padhte hain. But that’s the rule here, either you get admission in the 1st or in the 5th, beech main aisay admission nahi dete hain.
“Aur ek baat … humne private school dhoondha hain bachchon ke liye…kyukni woh government school se behtar hain…wahan pe caring zyada hoti hain. Hum school se bahut khush hain,” adds Adityaji.
In your community what problems do you face? How do you handle it with your children?
“Ha yaha pe toh sab hota hain – drugs, alcohol, maar peeth aur ched chaad. Aur bachche jaante bhi hain. Yeh mamla simple si baat hain…agar maa baap yeah sab baate chupakar rakhte hain, toh bachche bhi chupkar hi yeh sab karenge. Hum kissi baat pe parda nahi rakhte/dalte hain, khulkar bata dete hain.”
Toh yeh sab baate kaun karta hain?
Adityaji points to his wife … “Yeh adhik baatein unki maa hi karti hain. Main toh kaam per bahar rehta hoon. Lekin agar Nandini mujhe kahe toh main woh baatein dobara daurata hoon.”
How was your childhood different from your child’s?
“Tees saal pehle ki duniya hi alag thi, toh sumjho humara bachpan bhi alag tha,” says Adityaji.
Nandiniji adds, “Pehle hum khule asman ke neeche kuud-kuud ke khel sakte the, aaj bachche ghar ke andar khelte hain, kaid ho gaye hain kamre main. Our children are like prisoners, bound within the four walls of our homes, with no safe places to play.”
“Abhi kafi technical ho gaya hai sab. Sab mobile pe hota hain. 100 mein se 90 pratishat bachchon ke paas mobile hain, aur zyadatar seekh bhi mano mobile se hoti hain,” Adityaji says as he rolls his eyes.
Aapne Anurag aur Adarsh ko mobile diye hain?
“Nahi..! Woh humare mobile use karte hain, sirf school ke kaam ke liye. When they sit next to us, we give the mobile, not otherwise. Uske baad main backing khud check kar leta hoon, ki unhone mobile pe kya search kiya?”
Kis mudde par aapki takraar hoti hain?
“Baahar ka mahaul bahut kharab hain. Humari community mein kafi ashikshat log hain, unka culture alag hain, rehen sehan alag hain, koi log gali dete hain, toh koi nasha paani karte hain…toh hum bachchon ko aise bachchon se door rehne se bolte hain, isi baat pe woh chidte hain. Humme hatke chalna hain, toh hi humare bachche safe rahenge,” says Adityaji, quite fluent with his analogies.
“Humme acha nahi lagta hain, unko apne dosto se alag rakhe, par aur kya upay hain?” says Nandiniji.
Aap Mumbai shahar mein 11 saal se rah rahe hain. Aapko kya lagta hain, aapke bachchon ki parvarish kaha behtar hogi… Mumbai ya UP?
“Unka bhavishya toh yaha hi hain. Their future is here. Mumbai toh mahanagar hain..jab mahanagar ka hawa unko lagega tab buddhi adhik vikas hogi. Yaha pe UP, Bihar, Bangal, Punjab aur bahut jagaho se log aaye hain, toh unko all over ki jaankari milengi,isse badhiya kya ho sakta hain,” he adds.
What are your aspirations for your child?
“Hum chahte ki humare bachche pehle sishtachar aur sabhyata sikhien. Agar unmein dono gunn aa jate hain toh hum sukhi rahenge. Humara bachcha surakshit bhi rahe yahi humari ichcha hain.”
Is there a comparison between your children and the neighbours children? How do you deal with it?
“Mujhe lagta hain mere bachche sabse best hain!” smiles Nandini.
Adityaji takes a moment to reflect on the question and says… “Anya log hain jo care taking ke baare mein zyada jaante nahi hain. Hum dono ne saath nibha nibha ke humare khud ki seekh baddhai hain. Mere khayal se doosre bachchon se tulna karni hi nahi chahiye!”
What do you believe is your most important job as a parent?
“To inculcate values in our children, of love and respect for others. And to never lie,” adds Nandini.
What do you wish you could do to be a better parent?
“I wish I had more money, to give them anything they wanted,” says the father.
Are you happy with support that you receive from your partner in raising your children?
“Bilkul,” says the mother. “Hum dono koshish karte hain.”
“Paise ka intazam karna, pita ka kaam hota hain, ghar aur bachcho ka care karna, maa ka kaam hota hain. When we are not able to fulfill our roles, and take care of our children adequately, is when the fights begin. Which is why having clearcut roles is important.
Today, a lot of roles have changed. Often, fathers take care of children and mothers go out and work…what’s your opinion?
“Usme koi buraye nahi hain! Aaj ki duniya badal rahi hain. Agar do pahiye ki gadi chal rahi hain, toh dono pahiye mein hawa hona zaroori hain, toh agar aap housewife ho ya bahar kaam kar rahi ho, apni zimmedari ko samajhna hi hain, aur uss hisab se bachchon ko bada karna hain.”
“Hum dono ek doosre se sehmat hain,” adds Nadini, agreeing happily with her husband.
What are the difficulties you face as a parent in raising up your children?
“There are 2 things. One is money and the other is time. Paisa aur waqt! Meri yahi chah hain ki bachchon ke saath mera zyada waqt ho.” says Adityaji.
Have you ever felt that you need outside support in raising up your children?
“Never. I think my wife and I are doing an adequate job. No outsider can take our place. The unique drawbacks and positive of our children only we know, as their parents. You will be able to tell when you meet our kids.”
If you had a choice, what would you do differently in raising your children?
The mother laughs uncontrollably. “Kuch acha karna chahiye,” she says, not knowing how to articulate further. Her husband takes over. Today, I work outside and my wife takes of the home. If circumstances could change, and we both could go out and work and come back home to look after our children, I would love that. But living in Mumbai it is not possible, one of us needs to make money and the other needs to look after the children…but that is a wish for another lifetime.
Do you think your children are safe in this community?
“Bahar toh bachche bilkul surakshit nahin hain! Naahi ghar ke bahar, nahi maidan mein, nahi school mein. The father pipes in “School mein woh surakshit zaroor hain.” School mein Dhaka-dhuki hoti hain, lekin woh childrens matter hain.”
Aap dekho kitna news main aata hain,” says the mother, a little afraid of what goes on in school too.
“School bada instituation hain, usme hum kuch nahi bol sakte,” says the father, believing that he cannot question the school.
“Par humme toh tension rehta hain,” adds the mother.
Do your children also see the news about violence in schools?
“Haan, woh bhi dekhte hain. Main samjhati hoon agar tumko koi maarta hain, tum usko mat maaro…teacher ko bata do…jhagde mein mat pado!”
Adityaji, are other fathers in the neighbourhood get as involved with their children as you do?
“Nahi, main zyada dekhta hoon. Mere pita bhi itna involved hain.” I have learnt this from him.
Based on your learnings and difficulties in raising your children, what advice would give to people reading this interview?
“Sabse badi cheez hain ki har parents ko apne bache ki disha ki tarah aankhe ho… Isi liye har maa-baap ki zimmedari hain ki woh apne bachche ki disha samjhe, aur uspe jitna ho sake sahyog de aur use aage badhane ki koshish kare. Yeh, humari soch hain, har maa baap apne bachche ka ujjwal bhavishya hain.”
A special thank you to the CCDT team, that gave us an inroad into their community to meet these lovely parents.
Who is anyone to tell you how to raise your children? In conversation with Ameeta Shah Sanghvi, life coach and therapist who helps parents become therapists to their children. Whether it is going to school anxiety, dealing with divorce, sibling rivalry or anger issues, she prepares confused and caring parents to cope with a host of modern-day situations, creating their own handbooks for dealing with their children. Her mantra with her special course WiSH Parenting (Wisdom System of Holistic Parenting) is “Empower yourself, Empower your children!”
1) What are the current trends in parenting, in comparison to how children were raised 20 years ago?
Current trends in parenting are varied, reflective of many confusions and paradoxes. With the advent of “parenting” as a deliberately highlighted method of addressing larger children’s issues and a key area of research and study, this buzzword comes with a whole lot of set back and opportunity. From wanting to raise a perfect child that causes more stress and anxiety to children, over praising to boost a child’s confidence disallowing them to instil discipline amongst their children, over indulgence to ensure their children match the status of their peers or due to lack of time, spoiling them for choice, over protectiveness of their children curbing their abilities to learn and grow, exceedingly high expectations and unhealthy promotion of competition between children and their peers, to trying to fix the ever growing gap caused by technology and social media, are some of the unfavouring parenting trends that have emerged in the last 10 years.
New age parenting has given birth to single mothers and fathers, same sex parents, an unlimited number of parenting blogs and therapists, influencing culture and anthropology in more ways than one can imagine. Parents today are more open with their children than their own parents were with them, parents treat their children as humans with opinions and emotions, having a right to make choices, parents are more liberal and open minded, breaking away from gender barriers created by society, and becoming more accepting of different sexual orientations of children. Involvement of both parents in raising their children, without following a pattern of rules and norms of child rearing, creating a two-way channel of respect between parents and children, and accepting one’s children for who they are despite the roles designated by society, are some of the favourable parenting trends of late.
2) Why and how are parents struggling to raise their children? What are the problems parents deal with today, and why?
Parenting is not only instinctive but highly influenced by societal norms too. Society used to set rules and visible guidelines that made it very clear how children must be raised, and parents followed. The rapid changes in society have left parents confused and unable to figure out what is good and bad for their children.
Today, parental influence is not the ONLY influence that defines how a child grows into an adult, increasing and decreasing their significance at the same time. Working parents call for alternate forms of parenting, nannies and grandparents, creches and neighbours become primary caregivers. Social media, television, technology and peers are all competition for parents in influencing their children.
A barrage of influencers has left them confused, not knowing when to retain authority and when to be permissive…Be it for better performance at school, time limits on gadgets, pocket money or discipline.I generally have a range of reactions from parents. Some become “laissez faire” parents (do what you want and get off my back) and others becoming permissive and wanting to give their children all the choices they did not get, the “anything you want darling” syndrome. Sometimes setting very strict boundaries and other times setting no boundaries at all, parents become unable to cope, adopting pendulum parenting, leaving children confused too.
Constant distractions through social media has meant difficulty in focussing. It’s why mental health disorders of anxiety, rage and depression are on the rise. Parents are unprepared for these emotional crises. They use protect and control approaches that worsen things as children rebel against this benevolent dictatorship of parents.
A rise in divorces, separations and conflict between parents leaves children further vulnerable and confused. It defines their sense of relationships while they try to find ground between their parents opposing ideologies.
Whilst this paints a sad picture all is not lost. Children growing up with the freedom, confidence and respect are demonstrating higher levels of talent and innovation, many are less religious but more spiritual, others are compassionate and active citizens of society. All in all, empowered parents are able to raise empowered children, despite growing challenges.
3) How are social structures changing and how do they contribute to how children are raised today?
The change in social structures is rapid and visible in our daily lives. Social media has led to information overload, hyper connectivity and also disconnection between relationships. One can see generation gaps between siblings, increased consciousness of rights and entitlements, the rise of spirituality, broken families, living away from home, different constructs of marriage, redefining of gender roles, smaller support structures with nuclear families, a barrage of choices… and the list can go on.
All these affect the environment in which a child grows up, how they define their role at home, in school, with their peers, their view of themselves as boys and girls, their understanding of marriage and relationships, their use and misuse of technology and social media, their emotional intelligence and ability to deal with life’s challenges. While parents play a critical role in raising their children, a change in social structures and its subsequent effects on their children cannot always be monitored and controlled. Therefore reactive patterns like helicopters parents, tiger moms, free range parents and snow plough parents are emerging due to the pressure of changing times. Though what we need are empowered parenting communications.
4) What are the primary reasons that parents seek help today? What do they approach you for?
Parents seek help for their children (here by children I mean children, teenagers and adult children) for a host of reasons. From exam pressure, stress, mental health issues like depression, suicide, fears based on news reports, addictions to substance, online gaming, television, loss of motivation and ambition, anger, bullying at school, aggression, fights between parents and children, sexual identity confusion, children with hyper active sexual lives, lying and cheating, stealing, emotional stress due to divorce and issues at home are some of the reasons parents approach me for guidance.
5) Tell us about your approach – “parents as therapists” for their children. What triggered you to start this and why?
Many aspects triggered me to develop the ‘parents as therapist’ model to deal with new age children and their looming challenges. I work with both children and parents individually and collectively. Often the therapist could end up playing a messenger role between parents and children, but I refrain from doing that (included in my confidentiality clause), instead I choose variable interventions as the situation may require. They can be individual sessions of parents only or of children separately or joint sessions all to promote harmony between parents and their children.
Here are some of the reasons I created this model:
- It’s as much about the parents as it is about the children: Most parents feel over burdened with difficult children, taking on huge amounts of blame and guilt. Therefore, I work very closely with parents to engage them on first working on their self-esteem. This enables them to view problems as they are and not feel helpless while dealing with their children, while also acknowledging their own abilities.
- Restoring the parent-child bond: Often, children relate to their therapists and remain alienated from their parents. Even if the child recovers from the reason he came to the therapist, the family members might not recover, leaving long-term effects on their relationships/ the parents. It is also critical to establish the role of the family and parents in the life of the child which can be done by including them in this process.
- When parents create a conducive environment for the child: When parents use a problem solving approach instead of blame, looking for possibilities and being open to the idea of working with their children as opposed to against them, they are able to create favourable environments for children to thrive. When a child acts as a therapist at home, the environment in which the child faces issues becomes a new improved environment.
- Therapy at home: Often children are unhappy going for therapy, having to be forced, causing more stress. If parents take on the role of therapists, it can reduce the child and family’s burden considerably.
- Avoiding the ‘scapegoat effect’: When a child comes to a therapist it is with the feeling that there is something wrong with him/her and he needs fixing, working in the opposite direction from what the therapy aims to provide. A parent as a therapist can make that feeling completely disappear.
6) Share with us some case studies/ experiences
My work has been rich with experiences. Parents as therapists have worked to rebuild families and childhoods, empowering them to empower their children.
“After learning to be a therapist to my 7 year old child, I once overheard her helping her bench partner to deal with her fidgetiness using the tips that that I had shared with her. When she was an angry child, I would have told her not to be angry, putting her down further, but after the coaching, I used emotional validations, drawing out her story so she opened up to me about how she expressed her anger through scribbling secretly in her partner’s book. This openness I get from her allows me to influence her more deeply. Together, we brainstorm on coping ideas and find solutions for the things she feels irritated and angry about.”
“ Both my kids – 7 and 12 year old were showing extreme signs of anxiety. One almost developed an OCD pattern, requiring my attention all the time, and the other was going into a shell, becoming more introverted and always in a low mood. Their moods showed in their school results, upsetting my husband who is a high achiever, resulting in him being angry with them all the time. He would often blame me for not disciplining them and I was always stressed of him blowing up at me and the children. Since my husband was not open to therapy, it was difficult to get my children therapy, therefore, I decided to take it on and equip myself in order to better equip my children. With the coping tools I learnt, I was less stressed out and started using experiential ways to keep my husband calm since he didn’t like his authority being challenged. I also learnt therapeutic tools that enabled my children to process their hurt, pain and fear related to their father and explore their own coping mechanisms with him. They applied rapport and assertion tools to deal with their father directly. In 8-10 weeks I could see their anxiety disappear and my husband’s mood become more balanced.”
“Our young and capable daughter was suffering from panic and depression while she was studying in junior college, due to which she was unable to attend class. She started over eating, and would turn extremely angry if we didn’t give into her demands. We sought help to deal with her. What we learnt first was to heal ourselves. When we understood different tools of communication to heal ourselves and how to deal with our daughter, we started using them. Over 6- 8 months we saw a shift in our daughter’s behaviour and mental state, without the need for medication. We strengthened our relationship with our daughter, helped her through it and keep working on ourselves to deal with other ups and downs that might come our way.”
Stuck in our gender stereotypes and societal dogma, have we ignored the urge of the man to be a parent and nurturer? Parenting trends and ideologies across the world have placed the role of mothers and fathers into pre-constructed boxes, pushing parents to work tirelessly to fit those roles. While single parent surrogacy, single motherhood are buzzwords in modern day parenting conversations in India, there are only a handful of stories of single fathers that have made it to the public domain.
Today, the imperative role of a father in his child’s life is gathering steam – #sharetheload, #myfatherillustrations, #selfiewithdaughter, highlighting that fathers are parents too, and at most times, good ones.
Single fathers are breaking taboos worldwide just like single mothers have been for a while now. Daniel Shwerin aka Daddy Solo is one such father. Raising his girl (9) and boy (6), Daniel shares how he works creatively to cope with the everyday challenges of single parenting.
Dealing With Guilt
Almost every parent feels a tug of guilt for everything they feel they’re not doing, and it’s even more the case with single parents. They feel guilty for not having enough time to spend with the kids. They feel guilty for not having enough money to give them the things they want. And the list goes on. The best way to combat these feelings is to focus on the things you do have and the things you are doing right and to realize it’s probably way more adequate than you realize. Did you know that recent studies show that the amount of time parents spend with their children doesn’t significantly affect a child’s well-being? Give yourself a break!
Making the Most of the Time You Do Have
Sometimes having less time to spend with your children makes you more mindful of the time you do have. And that’s not a bad thing. According to The Washington Post, quality time trumps quantity time in almost every situation. So, when you do have time to spend with your children, try to keep it separate from work time. Set aside an hour or two of your evening to have meals and conversations with them without taking phone calls or checking emails.
Dealing With Chaos
You suddenly find yourself juggling schedules, recitals, homework and meals all by yourself with no one to tag team. There are certainly people you can hire to help out with certain things, but if your budget has been suddenly cut in half, there may be less money for things like this. Instead, you may have to get creative in scheduling and be ruthless with unnecessary activities. Getting organized is key, but some other helpful tips for trimming a heavy schedule are:
- Set scheduling boundaries – For example, no activities after 6 pm. Single parent guilt sometimes gets the best of us so that we are trying to make everyone happy. But the truth is that some things just have to go, especially during an adjustment period. Does your daughter really need the 7 p.m. playdate, or does she get enough interaction at school?
- Keep a family calendar – A large dry erase board might work best so that everyone in your home can see what is scheduled. Teach your children to respect and prioritize important activities.
- Schedule weekly planning sessions – Take at least an hour on Sunday evenings for your whole family to talk about their scheduling needs for the week.
- Keep a solid routine for your children – As much as possible, establish a regular routine for your children. According to Child Development Info, a routine helps children feel more secure and “allows them to think and feel more independently.”
It’s easy to get caught up in guilt and anxiety over the things you feel you should be doing with and for your children, but you have to learn to let some of that go. The fact is if you have been concerned that you are not doing enough, that means you care enough to try. And just knowing that means you’re probably doing everything you can. Give yourself a break and take care of yourself, too. Your children will be in better hands if you’re in peak mental and physical health.
I’m sure you’re really efficient at managing home, a paying career, child rearing, and all the emotional, physical and intellectual energy that is demanded of it all. The thing is, I’m not. And I thought I’d make a few confessions today – since you’re a WM as well, perhaps some things will ring true for you.
My workplace is 9 hours a day, 5 days a week (on paper). It involves travel. Phone calls. Lots of emailing, report writing etc. Not bad, I always tell myself.
When my daughter was 3 years old, she’d say “I’m working” and frantically pretend to type on a large, old calculator that my father gave her. She has asked for the past several years when I’m traveling, where I’m going to, for what, for how long, by what means of transport, who will tie her hair for school, and most importantly, will I be checking in with her grandparents about the TV quota she’s allowed. You see, she’s figured out, that when I’m traveling, there are some perks for her.
There are days when this bothers me a great deal – I think I’ve taken the ‘innocence’ out of her life. But most days I marvel at how she grasps the patterns in her world, adjusts them against what she sees outside (TV, movies, friends) and arrives at a pattern of meaning that works for her.
Another ‘working woman’ I know really well is bringing up three children, almost entirely on her own. The older daughter, now 14, pitches in to help with the younger ones. I used to mourn the loss of her childhood, but when I spend time with her I see that this is her childhood. She studies, feeds the younger ones, and spends the evening in a space outside their home, playing with the others. Suddenly, when there are errands to be done, she’s all business – efficient and stern with vendors, ensuring the correct amount of change is returned to her. Then back with her friends, she’s the other side of 14…running, her dupatta flying, squealing with laughter when someone else slips.
As parents – particularly as mothers – we do an injustice to our children by feeling guilt. In that feeling is a nostalgia for clear roles, for perfect worlds, for cherubim. But our children are fighters, adapters, intelligent young people who are watching, responding and creating the world they live in. This is their reality – that their mothers aren’t available for house-care all the time, that sometimes they have to take care of themselves, that they learn to ask for support when they need it, that they cry and feel better after a while. Is this not childhood?
I tell myself nearly every day, that I won’t feel guilt. But that’s easier said than done. Yesterday I went out with colleagues post work for the first time in 3 months. Of course it would be that very evening that the spouse is delayed at work, the parents need to go out and there’s no one to take care of the 7 year-old for about 45 minutes. Several phone calls and explanations later, a contingency plan is in place and I get back to my beer and colleagues. But the guilt is there – like a solid stone that is only partly dissipated by the things I tell it – you need to do things on your own too, one evening out is necessary even for an old bore like you…
The thing is, my daughter understands. At some point I realise that she’s wondering why I’m behaving like the weeping mother in Amitabh Bacchan movies. Seeing through her eyes, I begin to wonder too, and promise myself that next time I will enjoy my drink and my evening out fully.
I wish the same for you – lots of fun doing what you feel passionately about, and less guilt for the things we are conditioned to believe we should be doing.
From the minute you are told that you are going to have a baby, you create that idea of ‘perfection’ in your heart and mind! And you live with this idea for the next nine months. Every hour, minute and second of those months only makes this image stronger. You look forward to the ‘happy family image’ that the society and media has created for you, where the child is excelling in everything and you as a couple in the background are basking in their achievements.
I, too had the same idea. I already had a son who was very bright, an understanding partner, a stable job and now I was pregnant the second time; I was ready to climb to the plateau of social achievers club. Everything was just the way I had pictured.
Now, all that I wanted was a girl. A girl who’d achieve more than I could ever do, who’d climb on the corporate ladder without any guilt and would work and travel the world as and when she pleased, unlike me who had to sacrifice because of a conservative upbringing. I almost had a picture of her ‘dressed’ in a business suit giving some presentation in a Townhall!
Most of us, especially here in India are conditioned to have such dreams for our children, which I would realise later, are the biggest road blocks on the way of acceptance because they hurt the most. The reason I am writing this background is so I can share how ‘this uniform idea of a perfect life’ is a flawed one and that we as a society are never taught that ‘variable is the only invariable’ and that ‘love’ doesn’t depend on conditions. We become conditioned to the idea of a ‘perfect’ child whose perfection is mostly related to achievements. And we start believing that a parent can only be happy, if he has a ‘perfect’ child.
Which is why, when any parent gets the diagnosis of special needs for their child, it doesn’t just remain a condition to deal with, it becomes their identity as a whole family. The identity which baffles them because all they wanted was ‘normal’ and they get afraid because they’ve never had any awareness or exposure about these conditions and the truth is ‘what we don’t know’ scares us.
However, research suggests that once people come to terms with their new reality, and they learn to accept, the love blossoms and fear subsides, and this transformative process gets eased by ‘the community of parents,’ medical advancement and parental love. As Andrew Solomon wrote in his famous book ‘Far From The Tree’ writes, “The parental predisposition to love prevails in the most harrowing of circumstances. There is more imagination in the world than one might think.”
‘Disability is not predictive of the happiness of either the parent or the child,’ and it is this statement that made me conceptualise this short video. I wanted an active communication with the world. The world that still patronises our children and the world which believes that we as parents are faking the happiness. I could still find people surprised about a family being happy after knowing that they have someone with special needs to care for. A lot of my friends had said that they wouldn’t have been able to do what I am doing. Yes, I agree that the road to acceptance is bumpy and the struggles are plenty, but at the core it’s not the special needs you care for, it is your child! And that is what connects all the parents at the core.
Interestingly enough, I soon realised that all my friends irrespective of their children being typical or special needs had almost the same issues. After scratching the surface a little, it turned out that parenting at the core is same for both. None of them could stop caring for their children irrespective of their age or condition (At my age, I still have to call my mother once a day to tell her that I am still alive).
Our challenges, fears, insecurities are different, yet very similar. And it never ceased to amuse me that both these groups had thought of each others lives as either too easy or too difficult. But as per my research, I knew that apart from the therapies and medical interventions, both these groups go through almost similar emotions on their parenting journey. Both groups get tired, confused, doubt themselves; yet are grateful and feel that they have transformed completely after becoming parents.
I wanted to convey a message to the world. The message which was so close to my heart because I was talking to these parents day in and day out. I knew about these parents of children with special needs and what they go through, and I knew how strong they are. It was evident that they are truly happy caring for their children and that they don’t lead an unhappy life, at least not because of their child with special needs.
When I decided to do a social experiment where we could talk about parenting to both sets of parents and see if we can connect the dots and bring out the message loud and clear, I was extremely lucky to have spoken to Megha Ramaswamy, a wonderful human being and an award-winning director about my idea, and when it turned out that she too believed in the concept and the cause, I knew my video was in the right hands.
I was always convinced that any work when taken up with good intentions, would find supporters and here, I was talking to someone who was going to possibly transform this idea of a video into a beautiful reality. With the support of World Down Syndrome Federation of Tamilnadu, Dr. Rekha Ramachandran, my fellow parents (Aswathi- wouldn’t have been possible without you), my family, Priyanka and Rhehan from causeeffect and a few lovely people who opened their heart for this, we could make this dream into a reality.
This isn’t the idea anymore. This is a reality which is astonishing as well as heart warming. This is now a combined effort of everyone who has lost their sleep in the last 15 days and have worked like crazy to make it happen. I am so proud and emotional to share this video with you all today. It has been exhausting, but it has also been fulfilling to see the way it has turned out. and yes, I am extremely humbled to share this beautiful video with you all today. Enjoy and share as much as you can to spread the message of happiness. Please share the video with #lovewdsd16
Parenting never was a cakewalk. But if it is possible, the role of being a parent has become harder than ever in the current day context. Children today are born into a digital world, and into an era of social media. With the entire world at their fingertips, there are very few filters that will really keep them away from the information they have access to. Onset of early puberty, increasingly unpredictable behaviour, peer pressure, and exposure to and the possibility of violence against children are all very real fears parents today are grappling with.
So what are the dominant fears that parents today have in raising their children? And how do they deal with them? Here is how some parents responded to these questions.
“I have a son who is six years old, in the second grade. I feel like he is growing up way faster than he is meant to. There is a certain precociousness in children these days. I guess one of the reasons for this is the extreme amount of exposure they have today. Especially in terms of access to social media and various gadgets. There is a lot of stimulus for children to grow up faster than their years. My son knows that “fuck” is a bad word, but he has used it a few times to test us, feeling rebellious or to just prank us. One doesn’t use that language at home and he has in all likelihood picked it up from school. I also feel that the so called “elitist” schools have a flair for flamboyance, and children who go there feel a sense of entitlement which is not part of my household dynamics.” Mother of a Six-Year-Old Son.
“I have a fifteen-year-old daughter. In bringing her up, I have been realizing how differently I was brought up, and that those days are now gone. Today the world is becoming more open, with more options and choices than ever. Addiction to mobile phones and social media has increased tremendously. Children don’t think before sharing photographs of themselves on platforms like Snapchat, and get into trouble because of it. A major loss in childhood is evident in how they behave, how they dress. Puberty hits them way earlier than it is supposed to – when they are as young as ten-eleven years. It is important for parents to develop a sense of compassion while dealing with children these days. They need to understand the hormonal changes the child is going through which results in the rebellious attitude children have these days. If you stop them from doing something, they will do it even more. It is important to give them space. But it is also important to learn to identify threats children make to get what they want. Today it is necessary to have open conversations with your child about sexual attraction, problems with peers, and insecurities they may have, just like a friend.” Mother of a Fifteen-Year-Old Daughter.
“As a parent, I feel that children today are affected a lot by media. This affects their attention span and in a lot of cases leads to other disastrous issues. This is a big challenge for parents. Today, there is a lack of resilience and patience in children. The way the world has changed is a big reason for this. In our time we had to wait for a whole week before we could watch the next episode of our favourite TV show, today in the age of internet and live – streaming, children don’t have to. This is just a small example. Children today are not used to reality checks, but it is also true that there is too much of responsibility and pressure on them. And of course, safety is a big concern. My utmost priority is for my girls to be safe, wherever they are.” Mother of two daughters, fourteen and eighteen-years-old.
“In today’s age, social media and digital access are part and parcel of everyday life and one has no choice, but to embrace it. There are huge benefits from this technology, but clearly there are issues to be concerned about. As parents, we have tried to guide our children towards being safe in this online world, but we are dinosaurs in this ever-evolving universe, and our outdated knowledge is probably irrelevant to our tech-savvy kids. One tries to install net-nannies and other shields, but when one hears of 10-year-olds being able to hack into their neighbour’s wifi, one realizes that this is futile.
Our approach, with our kids has been a combination of old-school methods along with discussions. So, while our girls do not have access to their own phones, while their access to a laptop is only when a parent is physically present, while net nannies are installed, we have tried to supplement it with conversations around being safe. Despite that, there have been foot-faults already where our kids have pushed or crossed the boundaries, and we believe that engaging them further in a discussion is the best (and perhaps the only) way to equip them to handle this. It is tougher when most other parents succumb to the demands of their kids, and peer pressure pays its toll. Time alone will tell how successful this approach will be, but frankly, we do not see another alternative.” Father of two eleven-year-old daughters.
“As a parent, I am constantly on the vigil, and keep myself informed – as far as possible. I read about potential dangers, track what’s going on. This paranoia may be because we have been victims ourselves or know someone who has been a victim of child abuse/ other dangers. There is no doubt that we are more conscious today – more than ever before. Social media is a looming presence, it’s a big issue as far as safety of our children is concerned. As parents, my husband and I have instilled a lot of trust in our daughter. She is constantly made aware of how the usage could harm her. To lead by example, we ourselves have stopped using social media the way we used to, and don’t post things on Facebook without giving the content serious thought, we know she is watching and learning from us. Who doesn’t want to be ‘cool’ – kids will use virtual games or dress up & pose a certain way – not even realizing who’s watching, what’s captured, where it is going – who can use it and god alone knows for what! As parents it is our duty to educate our child about the perils of being that kind of ‘cool’. And no doubt, they emulate the behaviour of parents. I do think the best way you can teach children is through leading by example and keep those gentle lines of communication open!” Mother of a twelve-year-old daughter.
“Personally, I don’t share the paranoia that several parents today have with regards to their children. I feel that parents today are overprotective and are not willing to take risks, they hover like “helicopters” over their children all the time. As a parent I let my child take her own risks and come back to me and tell me if she has gone wrong somewhere. Today parents have access to a lot of information which perhaps adds to the paranoia, and they think too much, and doubt their children too much. My focus is on raising an independent child, and investing in giving her the right value system. The best you can do is make them aware of the choices they have, explain the consequences and let them be.” Father of a twelve-year-old daughter and a four-year-old son.
*Names of the children have been changed to protect their identity
Last week I asked my 8-year-old son, Nihar, to list five qualities he thought a boy should have. “Strength, speed, good at driving, intelligence; good at football” he said, after some thought. But girls can have these too, I pointed out. “I know,” he replied, “I didn’t say only boys had them.” My relief grew an inch when he added, “Actually, I can’t think of any quality that only boys have and girls don’t. Or the other way around!”
I have twins, a boy and a girl. Nihar and Anaya. People usually presume Anaya is younger by a year because she is built small, like my grandmother. Nihar hovers a foot above her. At a vaccination clinic a doctor casually inquired if we were feeding the boy more! I nearly went for his neck.
When they are heading to the park, I tell Nihar to watch out for Anaya. On a school excursion, or a play date I ask him to keep an eye on her.
I say, it is because Anaya is the smaller child, I tend to worry more about her safety. I think, it is because Anaya is the ‘girl child’, I tend to worry more about her safety.
I’ve made Nihar the de facto guardian, Anaya, the defenceless ‘guardee’. Unconsciously signalling to one that ‘he’ protects; to the other that ‘she’ needs it. My sometimes-wise husband corrects me when I assign this lopsided duty, and tells them to both keep an eye on each other. He levels the field, when I was flagrantly tilting it.
How could I miss this! I’ve always had lofty notions about my feminism; I’d congratulate myself for having weeded out most (clearly I’d missed a few!) gender stereotypes from the household; for starting the children early on Fundamentals of Feminism when I’d point out to them the backwardness of separate Girl/ Boy sections in book/toy-stores, and gendered colour-coded clothing. How then did I continue to make this most cardinal of errors!
As a journalist I’ve written that ALL children, irrespective of sex, are at equal risk of sexual abuse, molestation and kidnapping. Why then was I more anxious for Anaya’s safety while taking Nihar’s for granted?
Had Nihar been the physically smaller twin, or even the younger child, would I have dispatched them to the playground with Anaya ‘in charge’? At age 8, I think not. I might have accompanied them.
We conflate size and age with agency — the older and bigger you are, the more capable of looking after yourself. We inadvertently conflate sex with agency too — boys can take care of themselves, and of girls. They ought to. Even the most modern mothers can fall into old habits.
I live in Gurgaon, a city where a parent’s worst fears and nightmares are kept alive and healthy by daily reports on all manners of depravity visited on children, particularly on girls. Although I live in a guarded residential complex, I worry when I send my kids outdoors unsupervised. But I don’t want to cloister them (well, not until they’re 15), so I send them to the nearby playground like they’re going into battle — armed to the teeth with cautions, placing my son in command.
Now while I don’t want my daughter to feel especially threatened or vulnerable, I don’t want my son to feel like his safety doesn’t matter. Or unfairly anchoring him with responsibility. I want them both to feel equally empowered — possessed of the agency to look after themselves and the other.
As with many first moves, this starts with language. I’m revising my script, telling the boy I expect of him what I would of the girl, and the other way around. I hope it will embolden Anaya and give her a greater sense of agency. And it will reassure Nihar that someone’s watching his back too.
Sifting through magazine covers is akin to a lesson from history class. The Time magazine vault through its years of cataloguing cover stories of parents raising their children, has culled out definitive parenting styles that have become trends world over. From tiger moms, to single fathers, over parenting to a child free life, millennial parents to grandmothers as parents, these magazine covers reflect parenting trends across generations. While new age mothers and fathers seek a variety of their parenting skills online, here’s a glimpse through some hard-bound parenting styles you might want to revisit instead.
1993, June 28: Fatherhood: The guilt, the joy, the fear, the fun that come with a changing role – becoming a father. Even as fathers are needed more than ever, a record number don’t stick around to raise their children. But why aren’t they up to their job?
1995, Dec 9 : Children having children: Parenthood in childhood was a result of increased sex amongst teenagers leading to unplanned pregnancies, corroding the lives of children at a young age, burdened with the responsibility of raising children.
1999, May 10: Growing up online: While children grew up in a world of computers and video games, parents worried about what they would find on the net. What could they do to help their children make the right choices?
2000, 25 December: What divorce does to kids : The damage from divorce on childhood is serious and lasting, but will unhappy parents staying together be the right solution?
2005, 25 February: What teachers hate about parents: Pushy dads, hovering moms, parents who don’t show up at all. Are kids paying the price of the power struggle between parents and teachers?
2006, 27 March: Are you pushing our kids too hard? : From school, tuitions, extracurriculars, to exams, are parents putting undue pressure on their children to survive in an increasingly competitive world?
2007, 16 April: Stressed out dads: Torn between work and family, fathers are shouldering more responsibility than ever before. Whats the modern superman to do to maintain a balance?
2009, 30 November: The case against over-parenting: Over-parenting was getting out of control. There was a need to restore balance and sanity to family life…exactly why both mom and dad needed to cut the strings.
2010, 19 July: The only child myth: Only children are supposed to be spoiled, selfish and lonely. Yet, on the rise, more parents were choosing against having multiple children, and happy with their choice.
2011, 21 January: The truth about tiger moms: The world questioned if tough, authoritarian parenting really was the answer?
2012, 21 March: Are you mom enough? : Attachment parenting has been on the rise almost redefining the modern relationship between mother and baby.
2013, 12 August: The child free life: When having it all means not having children, skipping parenting altogether and why people have opted for it.
2015, 25 October: Help! My parents are millennials: How the me, me, me, generation of parents are changing the way they raise kids
2017, 30 October: The Goddess Myth: With ideas of breastfeeding and natural birth co-relating to the vision of perfect motherhood, many mothers feel bad about themselves.
2018, 19 May: Ripped Apart: How immigration policies are splitting families apart, parents migrating across cities and countries to earn a livelihood, separating numerous children from their parents.
In Mumbai and all over the world, hundreds of parents set out to work each morning knowing their child is safe with that one person they trust, the Grandma. The proxy parent who has to stand in for all parenting duties until the clock strikes the bewitching hour. A lot of women including me swear by the supportive mother or mother-in-law.
So I reached out to three upstanding representatives of this species called ‘the grandmother’.
Homai Wadia has perfected intercontinental grand parenting. Grandmother to a 7-year-old girl in Mumbai and a one-and-half-year-old girl in London, she says things have distinctly changed now from when she spent time with her own grandparents. “The parents have the remote now”, she says. “Both sets of parents have a different set of rules and I go by what they want”. She says that parents today want to give their children a lot more choice even in little things like choosing their own clothes, or what they would like to eat. “There is great joy in being a grandparent and our lives revolve around the children during the day. However, as we spend a lot more time with them we cannot just spoil them, we have to discipline them as well”. Her favourite activity with both her granddaughters is to take them out and show them things. She recalls how her older grandchild saw a snail for the very first time on a walk. “Grandchildren can come to us sometimes with complaints about the parents” she adds, “but then it is important to tell them to not to complain so much and to understand the parent’s point of view as well”.
Geeta Bharadwaj grandmother to 3 agrees. She feels she has become more tolerant towards her children now that they have become parents because she knows parenting can be difficult. This does not stop her from disagreeing with her children about their parenting. “After all the focus changes when you become a grandmother. It is all about the happiness of the grandchild. Parents expect an outcome, a particular behaviour or some result from their children. Grandparents just want to see the kids happy. It is enjoyment without encumbrance” she says. “I know that the real decisions have to be taken by the parents. So I just focus on being friendly. It is important not to be too critical of our grandchildren or they will grow to resent us.” She has fond memories of storytelling sessions, painting, and cooking with her grandchildren. While she has enjoyed all the ages of her grandchildren she feels the teen years are difficult. “Gaining the trust of a teenager is not easy. Toddlers and children are easier to deal with.” She says.
Radhika Nuggehalli grandmother to a curious 5-year-old girl reflects this thought to some extent. “My granddaughter and I are buddies” she says. “In fact she calls me her best buddy. But she is growing up so fast. As she gets older I wonder if I will be able to relate to her questions and conversation. She will need her mother much more then.” She feels lucky that she gets to spend so much time with her granddaughter but she feels she needs to learn to be a little firm with her at times. “My heart melts when she asks for something but now I have started insisting on certain things too.” She adds. She enjoys doing things with her granddaughter the latest activity being playing chess. She is happy reliving her experiences as a mother and school teacher and being around children. She feels her husband is more indulgent as a grandfather than he was as a father and whenever he is called on to play with or care for their granddaughter he gives her hundred percent attention.
Her daughter says “we never had a conversation with either my parents or my in-laws about whether they would help raise our child. We just assumed they would and they pitched in. They put their life on hold and put her comfort and routine before anything else.” She is happy that her daughter can gel with both sets of grandparents.
Children find a great deal of comfort in routines and derive a sense of security from having grandparents as significant adults. In changing times, it is an uphill task. Grandchildren feel that grandparents can be unnecessarily inquisitive, and paranoid or panic in situations. It may be because of the sense of responsibility they have as stand-in parents. It is also no secret that children crave for the limited time they get with their own parents many of whom work long hours or travel extensively. In juggling schedules and not wanting to compromise on principles of parenting, tempers can fray and feelings can get hurt very easily. Both parents and grandparents say how it is important to just let go in these situations and think of the larger picture.
Like Cinderella’s carriage that turns into a pumpkin at midnight, grandparents take a backseat as soon as parents come home. However, there are very few people who do not have fond memories of times spent with grandma. Here’s to this formidable species.
Justice for me, and justice for you, and not justice just for the who’s who!
Each time there is a heinous crime, the media frenzy, dinner party talk and more often than not the whatsapp chatter – all just take off – they want justice, they want it now – everyone’s screaming castrate, drive over them, hang in public, lynch, shame. Does anyone realise all of this is just post facto, the crime done, we seek justice in retaliation – the perpetrator is given the highest order of punishment – but has anyone stopped to think – what will we achieve? More often than not what resonates “it will put the fear of GOD in anyone who now even thinks about infringing on ‘personal space’”. My question is, fear of GOD, for those who believe is good – and in our society mostly everyone is god-fearing – but how do you answer the question on where was god in the temple when one of these crimes was conducted multiple times… the individual either dead or alive will be remembered by the millions viewing for a couple of days, a year, 2 may be more – but the crime done, justice sought – we move on, until the next one, then the next public outrage.
I do want justice too and for me, justice is – this crime and its many versions never happen again – that for me is justice. It’s a big dream, a far horizon, which will go farther if we don’t stand up JUST NOW, and BE THE CHANGE. Why wait for anyone to step in and help us, we can do this all ourselves – Why can’t each “I” wake up this morning and say – I pledge to change my sphere of influence, be it my home, my place of work – just build basic respect for another human – start the change from my small unit of influence. Take a stand, start making it clear in our homes, that we will not stand for any form of disrespect to any person in any form – physical or mental. For the more fortunate, safety may already exists in our homes, how about checking with our domestic help – a factory worker – a patient in our clinic – our vegetable vendor – just pledge to help change the lives of 2 other people – ask them to question being disrespected, help them lift themselves up and drive the change for a safer ‘just now’ – bit by bit… lets all get safer… let’s atleast make an effort?
Just signing a petition is not enough to seek this change – waiting for some sweep stake governance wont help – why cant you imagine a world when you can let your children out to play happily in an ungated society, without someone keeping hawk eye vision, imagine your next street shopping expedition without having to keep your elbows out, your next visit to he mall – letting your children walk ahead of you instead of your clutching their hands lest someone infringe or take advantage of their personal space.
I am but a small drop in this ocean, and but each ‘I’ can fill the ocean, so please mommies, daddies, grannies, grandpas, aunts, uncles, friends and foes just wake up, start influencing your sphere, be the change we need. Don’t silently withdraw from the conversation saying – we want justice and then wait for the next crime to happen!
Photo Credit: Citizens for Justice and Peace