Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My real job as a mother

All the fracas caused by Amy Chua's book and the resulting backlash and counter theories got me thinking about my children and how I raise them.

When Atreya was a young child growing up in Singapore, I didn't have the peace of mind, time, or resources to engage him in any structured activities after school. No soccer league, no martial arts for him. Once I enrolled him in an evening Wushu class in the community center (run by guys who only spoke in Chinese), but at the first sign of disinterest and disinclination, I allowed him to discontinue. He didn't have any video game that Singaporean kids his age were addicted to. The only thing I invested in was giving him my full attention, even if it was for a short period of time every day.

Every night, we would talk in bed about all kinds of things. One of our rituals was to tell each other about our high point and low point of the day. As per our rules, no one was allowed to say "nothing" or "same" as an answer. Each person was bound by rules to explain in more detail if the other party wanted to know more. This was not a serious boring activity as it might sound. We laughed more than we talked. I discovered his sense of humor during this ritual and it was the first step in us becoming companions. I  believe that its only because of these nightly sessions that he has grown up in touch with his feelings, unlike most young men of his age.

I was not the showering love types mother hen mom - too much going on in my head for that. Other than ensuring that there was enough food in the house, I didn't bother a lot about what he ate. The only time I attended to his school work was when he was in trouble, such as when he  got very low scores or when his teacher complained that he just didn't care. Often on weekends, we went to the zoo and night safari. RS once joked that after so many visits, the animals must surely recognize us by now. We also watched a lot of movies together. Once I remember watching two movies back to back, one together and one separately (his was a comic book type movie which I didn't want to see and mine was a serious drama that would bore him). I didn't much think of what messages I was sending him. I squeezed as much joy from life, shriveled lemon, as it offered us at that time and Atreya was part of this process as an equal.

A few days ago, he told me that unlike other kids of his age, he had no clue about the importance of studying and doing well in exams. He felt no pressure of any kind and was clueless about things other kids cared so much for, like streaming and PSLE. He just knew that mom worked hard and he should too if it makes her happy. Where I am concerned, being a mother to him was all about joy and happiness and I, too, never felt the pressure many parents feel about child rearing.

It was only much later, when he was a teenager, that I had funds to let him attend guitar classes or go for jamming sessions and snooker. His exposure to sports was limited to what was available in school and because he went to local neighborhood schools, he missed out on basketball, which would have been the natural game for someone of his build.

Whatever he missed out in sports and skills, he makes up in self esteem. Atta has a huge reserve of self esteem that is going strong despite some setbacks in his "love life". There is no substitute for self esteem- it's a key life skill. Also, he is a deep thinker and great communicator. Spiritual too. For all this, I am grateful for the hard knocks that life dealt us in the first few years of this century and to the light Atreya was born with.

As a parent to another child now, I am convinced that I know how to raise a happy child through my experience of raising Atreya. All Aloka needs to know is that she is truly important to me and is loved a lot by everyone in the family. Attention and shared joy is what will convince her of this. Nothing else really matters.

She is different from Atreya and will grow up to be a different person, but as long as she grows up loving herself, my job would be done.

1 comment:

  1. Love you all for loving each other. Keep expressing and love grows by leaps and bounds.
    ma and nani