Parenting Is Having An Opinion, Getting Involved And Trying To Better

I have written about LSRW, lockdown for children below 10 years, reopening of schools etc. I have no domain expertise to comment on any of these issues. Such topics are not usually on a parenting blog. However, I do write on these subjects. Why? For me, parenting is also about having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

Parenting is change

Parenting brings change to parent’s lives. The physical routine changes. The financial calculations change. The priorities change. Most of all, the freedom to do things change. Is that all about the change? There has to be more. Yes, parenting also changes the perspective of looking at the world around us.

Would these changes be limited to the four walls of the house? Would the change be limited to within the family? Then, it cannot be termed as a change. A change has to be universal/complete across all the spheres of life, for the entire being, to classify as a change. The changes brought forth by parenting fall in this realm.

The changes encompass all the aspects of the child’s upbringing. It covers the wide spectrum of subjects till the time child becomes an adult. Whatever is related to the child or whatever the child relates to, either way, is parenting for me and hence, a candidate for change. After all, parenting is growing up together. And, to grow is to change, to change consciously.

An adult cannot change unless s/he has a stake in the new game. To have a stake means to have a view, to have a belief, to stand up for. Once a person has an outlook, a person cannot remain indifferent any more; a person will get drawn in. It is for these reasons that I say parenting is having an opinion and getting involved.

Making the world a better place

A parent wants a future for the child that is better than theirs. Is this future limited to a certain status of academics/finance/social hierarchy etc? The future surely includes all these aspects and hopefully goes beyond, as well. The generations to come will live a more inter-connected life and cannot go on in a bubble/cocoon unaware of the world around them.

We have been polluting our planet and degrading our society as if there is no tomorrow. Climate change is a real existential threat and so is our hatred and extremism. The child of today will be able to live a life tomorrow only if the earth becomes habitable, society becomes tolerant, and mankind becomes kind and accommodative.

How is this going to happen? Leave aside happening, how is this going to even get started? Surely, not only by focusing solely on JEE/NEET but also by working together constructively on all the aspects that affect kids and their childhood. Of course, it goes much beyond and covers all aspects of our adult life on this planet.

This is my interpretation of making the world a better place for children to live and lead a life of purpose. Everybody will have their own version of a change for the better. Everybody’s methodology to achieve change will be different. However, one thing will remain constant for everyone. That is, having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

Well-intentioned as the only criterion

In this journey to trying to better nobody is a know-all. Everybody learns along the way, by trial and error, by moving back and forth. An only qualifying criterion is a person having an intention to bring about a positive change in the immediate surrounding and the world at large.

Of course, one need not be a parent to have the mind and heart in the right place. But again, it requires having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

You will not be taken kindly

This is the most difficult and tricky of all. You have formed an opinion, want to get involved and surprise, surprise, you will be snubbed. You collect all the details, apply your mind, come up with a plan and more often than not, the service/product provider would be unreachable for feedback/comments. And if you do get through, they will not take any interest; worse, you will be rebuked for taking the initiative.

Somehow the domain experts in child’s learning seem to think that the parents’ role is limited to paying the fees. Any active involvement further, other than volunteering, is strictly discouraged. The parents are made to believe that their child is in good hands and they have done their parenting duties by handing over the child to them.

This is the scenario that dissuades the parents to play an active role in the day-to-day upbringing and development of their child, apart from the payments and the logistics. This further gets accentuated by the society in denial. Seemingly, there is no need for change. Or, if a change is required at all, change at such a pace that it won’t make any difference to the status quo.

Come to think of it. There is actually no incentive for having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

The only one that will keep you going is a relentless desire to make tomorrow better than today. I could have learnt this lesson without parenting as well. Nonetheless, now that I have learnt, I have to keep going.

What are your views on having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better?

Girls Can Do

“Only boys can do it” is a pet phrase of my twin daughters’ playmates. And I get red hot angry whenever I hear this. A background: B +ve and O +ve are six-year-old twins. Their playmates are two nine-year-old boys. They are grounded due to COVID-19 lockdown, have nowhere else to go and end up at our home.

What earth-shattering tasks would lead to boys saying “only boys can do it”? Scaling walls, climbing gates, driving a bicycle without support wheels, running down to the dead-end of the road etc. Even a try at playing cricket or an internal gossip between the two boys that they don’t want the girls to over-hear can lead to the girls being told: “only boys can do it”.

Suffice it to say that whatever the boys feel that only their tribe can do, the twin girls are equally adept at doing, if not more. But, even then, the common retort continues. The boys find newer avenues to mouth their conviction. This has led to so many unanswered questions for me and my wife about the upbringing of our daughters and the society surrounding us.

No idea how, where and why does “only boys can do it” comes from

We have tried to reason out with the boys on what makes them say their slogan. They keep repeating their adage in reply. There is no logic/explanation given for their notion. There is no corrective action either in their opinion when the girls do exactly what they proclaimed that they cannot. They evade the discussion, best come up with some fancy proposition to further their claim.

My wife and I understand that nine-year-old boys can only be a symptom. The genesis of this theory has to be elsewhere, that only their parents might know. It might be a coincidence that both the boys have no sisters, they come from sons-only families. That, of course, does not give them any right to have their “only boys can do it” concept. Or, does it even matter?

I am not a sociologist to hazard a guess about the current societal norms, theory and practice. We do not have a TV/OTT connection at home, so we are protected from the barrage of pre-historic era soaps and the mud-slinging media. As a working professional, I never bothered what was going on apart from the rat-race I was in. I have no memory of my life before the job.

I am clueless about what could lead to the nine-year-old boys having and holding on to their boys-only machismo?

No idea how to say “Girls Can Do”

Being a hands-on father has led me to develop some basic level understanding of gender stereotypes prevalent in our social structure. But, I am not an activist of any type. I am not into gender-neutral parenting or any of the feminist ideas. Yes, my daughters do not wear pink. Apart from that and my being a stay-at-home father, I have no further role in advocating women’s rights.

I want to speak to the parents of the two boys about the pre-conceived notions of their sons. But, I am afraid to do that. I do not know how to broach the topic with them. I am anxious that they might take it as an offence to their child/pointing a finger at them and it might lead to a squabble. I do not have the courage to do that.

More so, it is not just about the two sets of parents. They are not an island of exception, rather they are the norm. I know that they are just a part of the society that we are – unequal, biased and having blatant differential world-view for women and men. But for being a father to two daughters, I would not have even had a second thought on hearing “only boys can do it”, which today is making me lose my night’s sleep. I too wore the male-dominant shoe and it is hurting me, now.

I want to shout at the top of my voice – “Girls Can Do”, but I am clueless on whom to address, how to speak, what should be the articulation etc.

I want my girls to fly

I do not want any comparison with boys for my girls. I do not want to say that girls can do better than boys, I do not want to say that girls can do everything. Rather, I just want to say that let the girls do whatever they want to do. When they grow up tomorrow, I do not want them to hear “only man can do it”. I do not want my daughters to feel inadequate/inferior in any manner. That’s just about it.

I know I might be told that the situation is changing slowly, that there is gradual improvement. Nowadays, girls are getting equal opportunities. Yes, there are winds of positive change. But when one considers the generations of women sacrificed at the altar of manhood, the transformation is too slow to have any meaningful impact on the future of each of India’s daughters.

I know that this is only a rant of an ineffective parent. India is not going to change, India does not change. I and my daughters will have to fall in line with “only boys can do it”. After all, India is no country to raise daughters.

What is your belief on “Girls Can Do”?

To Teach A Child To Ride A Bicycle, 5 Things Parents Should Know

Our twin daughters, O +ve and B +ve learnt to ride a bicycle. Basis of my first-hand experience as a parent, this is what I have to say on how to teach a child to ride a bicycle.

According to me, the process of teaching a child to ride a bicycle is as much about the parent as it is about the child. It is the parent’s approach and his/her application that determines how bicycle learning will pan out for the child. There are things that a parent should know/learn and be conscious of, before embarking on the bicycling escapade with the child.

Parenting Is Growing Up Together, and to teach a child to ride a bicycle is no different.

The Ground Work

The advice on when the child should learn to cycle is omnipresent. There will always be a child in the family/neighbourhood, you will be told, who has learnt to cycle when s/he was younger to your child. A parent might be made to feel that sooner is the better. Please remember, there are no bragging rights attached to when a child learns to cycle.

Each child is unique and learns at her/his pace. The same principle applies to learn to cycle. There is no point in starting early, seeing a child struggling to cope with and losing interest in the activity. A parent should be realistic about the ability of her/his child, learning curve and accordingly, decide on the age to introduce cycling.

Our daughters learnt cycling when they were 6 years, the right age for them, we felt as parents. My wife and I are at peace when someone tells us that there are children who learnt to cycle when they were 4 years old. Good for them at that age, good for our daughters at 6.

We involved our daughters in buying their bicycles, took them to the shop, they sat on various models and chose the colour. We spoke to them when we were delaying the process till they turned 6. They were also told that their bicycles won’t have training wheels and they might as well fall.

The Child Will Fall

No child has learnt to walk without falling. And, no child shall learn to cycle without falling. We equipped our children with safety gear – helmet, knee guards and elbow guards. We told our daughters that despite our best efforts to hold their bicycle, they might fall. It is fine. They just need to dust off and be back to cycling.

This point is applicable more for the parents than the child. As parents, we tend to get paranoid when we see our children fall. Our fears and worries get the better of us. We panic and rush towards the child when s/he falls and in the process; the child learns fear from the parents and the society.

Yes, the training wheels will ensure that the child will not fall. The same training wheels will also ensure that the child will not experience an actual bicycling ride. Our daughters’ bicycles never had the training wheels. All of us were prepared for the imminent bruises and cuts. Surprise, surprise; a few falls, scratches, one bruise which required first aid and our girls were cycling.

Trust The Child

When a child is introduced to an age-appropriate activity, s/he will hardly take time to learn. It is just about hand-holding, conversing and giving confidence to the child. We have witnessed this time and again in our daughters, and cycling turned out to be no different.

We had realized that the training wheels cater to the insecurity of the parents. Children have no need as such for the add-on/paraphernalia. They have the innate ability to learn, take care of themselves along with and what’s more – enjoy the process.

We kept re-assuring our daughters that they can, kept telling them that we are right behind them, trusted them to fly and flew they did, in no time.

Parent Has To Put In The Hard Yards

Not having training wheels also meant that Shiva, my wife and I got much-needed running exercise. Too bad, it got over soon.

Leaving the bicycle from behind without telling the child is a strict no-no. If you feel the child is ready to cycle independently, ask if s/he feels that s/he is ready. Only if the child says yes, let go of the cycle. If the child is scared to take the leap of faith, speak to them about their fears and help them develop confidence. In the meanwhile, keep holding the cycle from behind.

When our girls drove away independently from our outstretched hands, it was a moment to cherish for a lifetime

It’s Ok If The Child Takes Time / Doesn’t Learn

We have twin daughters. As with everything that they have learnt at their individual pace, one learnt cycling before the other. It was a tough time for us to handle. The one who did was on cloud nine, the other was crestfallen.

It was a life-lesson for them and we took it as an opportunity to discuss that even for similar efforts, we get dissimilar results. Both the girls were trying equally, one of them learnt before the other. It doesn’t matter how soon you learn as long as you learn. Life is not just a race, much more than that. There is no value to learn to cycle in 45 minutes/7 days and the like.

We told them to enjoy the efforts, the process, the journey; and the destination of learning to cycle did arrive 2 days later for the other girl.

This taught us that if a child takes time, does not learn as expected, it is all right. May be, s/he will learn after some days, some weeks, some months, it does not matter. As long as, the parents and the child persevere, there will always be the next day. And yes, even if the child does not learn, that is fine too. After all, as an adult, I haven’t learnt many a thing and I cannot have double standards.

Balancing Not Pedalling

To teach a child to ride a bicycle is to get the priorities right. Remove the training wheels and get the child to learn balance. ┬áThe rest – braking, stopping, starting, turning etc will just be a matter of time.

This is how we taught our children to ride a bicycle. Alongside, all of us picked some life lessons too.

What are your thoughts to teach a child to ride a bicycle?

 

Reopening Of Schools Is The Final Frontier In India’s COVID-19 Unlock

Minister of Education, Ramesh Pokhriyal, announced on 10th August 2020 that there shall be no zero academic year for Indian students. However, he did not divulge any detail/plan for the reopening of schools. The Central Government covered all the sectors in COVID-19 Unlock but did not make a single statement about the reopening of schools – how and when, the nitty-gritty details.

Finally, on 5th October 2020, almost 2 months after the Minister’s proclamation, Union Education Ministry issued guidelines about the reopening of schools. Given the high stakes of the learning and education for the nation’s future citizens, in the backdrop of COVID-19 pandemic, there were high expectations from the Government.

A parent would expect that the Government will take concrete steps in creating a safe and protected environment for the country’s children when they resume their physical schooling. A parent would expect that the guidelines will evoke trust and conviction about sending their wards to schools. In short, parents expected an assurance that their children shall receive the utmost care and caution.

So, what do the guidelines convey?

Only Exams Matter

As per the guidelines, students can attend schools only with the written consent of parents. This is brilliant, outright exceptional. With the COVID-19 cases at its peak, this is the same Government that pushed the students to give JEE and NEET entrance exams. The students protested, the parents objected but the Government would have none of it.

The Government made noises about the future of students at stake. The Supreme Court concurred. Why did the thought of “parental consent” not occur to the Government for these entrance exams? How are schools and exams different to warrant dissimilar treatment? How can the Government have different yard-sticks for similar contexts?

The Government might say that exams are one-off and schools are daily. So, does it imply that one-off exam/stress/travel/risk does not entail parental concern? Does it mean that parents do not bother/care for the well-being of their children when they go out to give exams?

In short, the Government considers itself empowered to take decisions on behalf of parents and students for entrance exams. However, when it comes to daily attendance in schools, it brings up the charade of “parental consent” being supreme.

Is this hypocrisy/incoherence or a simple fact that it is only the entrance exams that matter in the Indian educational system, the rest is optional. In this case, “parental consent” is not a guideline at all, it is a pretence. Irrespective of a student attending the school or not, s/he will be forced to give NEET and JEE, next year.

The Central Government Would Not Take Any Responsibility

For every Unlock measure, the Central Government has been the final authority. It decides, announces and ensures that everyone, including the opposition-led States follow the suit. However, when it has boiled down to the reopening of schools, surprise, surprise, it has left the final decision to the respective State Governments. It is a bit more than the sovereignty of exams that is driving the Central Government in its decision-making of reopening of schools.

This is the authoritarian Government of a one-man show. It does not trust any meaningful decision-making to even his Cabinet Ministers. It leaves no stone unturned to make everyone fall in line for its one size fits all approach. And, now suddenly, this control freak Government cedes control of the decision on reopening of schools. What’s going on?

Have you gone through the guidelines on the reopening of schools? None of them, repeat, none of them has any deliverable listed against the name of the Central Government. Apart from handing down far-fetched and absurd directives, it does not have any other tasks. No responsibility, no onus, no accountability.

The Central Government seems to have learnt from its utter failure of dealing with migrant workers’ plight during the lock-down. It has understood that it has no clue about the ground situation and it has no bandwidth to influence the outcome/solution of the problem. Better to stay away. This is showing up in the most unlikely field: reopening of schools.

If anything goes wrong, which it might as well, why to come in the firing line of parents? Why bear the brunt of the irate parents? Leave everything to the States and schools. In case of an outbreak, play the blame-game of not adhering to the guidelines, which are beyond anyone to follow.

Reopening of schools is the final frontier

In nutshell, all of us know that Indians will bear all the pain when it comes to their progeny. We live and die to better the prospects of our offspring. There is no wrath worse than that of the offended parent. So, better not deal with them for a problem that you cannot solve but can only theorize. Yes, the promise of a career of an engineer/doctor matter even more, so entrance tests are acceptable.

Nobody knows this better than Narendra Modi. Hence, reopening of schools is and shall remain the final frontier in India’s COVID-19 Unlock; no matter everything else has been unlocked.

Just that, this is neither going to help the future of Indian children in any manner by impacting their learning and education in a positive manner nor the state of the Indian economy.

Will anyone take the responsibility of educating India’s children, equitably and fairly, by owning up reopening of schools?