Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Involved Parent

If you think this is an article applauding eager, assiduous parents who go above and beyond their role of a guide/guardian, you couldn't be more wrong. So buckle up, this one is going to be a bumpy ride for those you can see themselves in the front seats.

We have read all about the tiger mom and the panda dad but there is a type somewhere right in between. This is the type of parent who doesn't push as much as she interferes.

And although I see an increasing number of ‘involved’ parents around these days, I will talk about the one I know the best, me.

It is a school holiday and we are having a couple of my daughter’s friends over to play. You would think eight year olds had a pretty fair idea of what they wanted to do with their time, but apparently I do not think so. Half an hour before the friends are scheduled to arrive, I ‘request’ my daughter to pick a few games and set them aside so she and her friends can choose. My first question was “do you know what you girls want to play today?” to which she replies; “not really”, hence the suggestion. Isn't it just awesome when you have a planner at home who not only sets up play dates but navigates the kids through them too? So what if they are a little old for it, extra attention never hurt anybody.

A few minutes into the play and I hear loud noises arguing about taking turns. I rush upstairs all prepared to avert possible disasters. You see at this age they are not asking for my help like a three year old would but neither are they shutting the door on me like teenagers, so I squeeze right in, playing my part in smoothing out their differences, feeling proud and useful.  Proud that they still listen to me and useful because I left cooking dinner downstairs to rush to their aid. I also hung around in the nearby laundry room folding clothes, just in case…I was needed again.

While things seemed to go as planned for a while, it didn't look like they were sticking to any one game for long. In an hour, I counted that they switched between four different games and though they didn't need my interruption every time, I did manage to intervene twice. By the third time it looked like they were just about ready to hand me over the games to play by myself. Well, atleast it all ended well with the girls just chatting and doing nothing in particular.

And let me assure you, it doesn't stop at play. The involvement extends to all areas in vicinity and visibility. Sports, craft projects, birthday parties, classroom squabbles, wardrobe choices and anything that comes up on the spot. I am can handle spontaneous too! In about a hundred years I will be micro managing her dates and boyfriend troubles too.

Talking about relationships, I must point out that my daughter isn't the one to care for protocols or netiquettes. When we walk to school every morning, she smiles and says hello to most kids known to her and who reach the door at the same time. What she does not seem to be discouraged by are the ones who don’t smile back or even acknowledge her greeting. But when I see her saying hello to the same person third day in a row without as much as a smile back, I know I must do something. So the next day while we walk towards the school, I put it across gently that if friends are in a hurry to get to their classrooms it is ok not to call them out in the mornings (the ones who aren't interested in answering back, I say to myself). She looks at me like she doesn't know what I am talking about. It is so annoying; your kids being oblivious to what is so obvious to us.

And the irony is, I was so not raised in this manner. Except for the number of toys and too much of the parents’ attention, I had more of everything than her. More freedom of choice, more privacy, more independence, more chores and more space from the grown-ups. My folks did not hover around me all the time and they certainly didn't tell me what to wear, but then, they didn't take me shopping for my clothes either so that kind of solved half the problems right there!

So getting to what I want to actually say to myself and those out there like me is; yes, the world today entails more supervision and more awareness but sometimes I wonder if we are trying to pass off interference in the name of involvement? By figuring out things for them we are taking away their chance of learning some important life skills.

It is hard not to be protective and it is even harder not to get ‘involved’. Letting your kids make mistakes or do things that you can do for them much better is like watching your life’s experiences go down the drain. But if you do it once, you will have the courage to do it again. After all, they need you to be around, they also need your direction, just not too much of it.

From a perfectly executed class project to an amicable play date, teaching reciprocal behavior to pairing those pair of blue jeans with the nicest t-shirt, I want to make everything as good as can be for my little girl. But I am missing a point here isn't it? There is a beauty in imperfection, a joy in doing your own thing and a lesson to be learnt from every mistake made.